Critical Thinking in the Face of Propaganda

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

The elections this year turned ugly as presidential candidate Barack Obama was continuously portrayed as a Muslim, with a hidden negative inference that being Muslim means that Obama supports terrorism, and that being Muslim means bad and ugly.

While such attacks came mainly from the Republican party, the Democratic party did not show a strong backbone to repudiate these attacks.  Even Obama showed weakness in not fighting these attacks against Muslims and Islam by proclaiming he is not Muslim, he is a Christian.  He lacked the ability to affect a change in the pscyhe of Americans by challenging them to not define their Muslim neighbors by negative stereotypes.

To add to the wave of insults, in many US swing states an extremist group has mailed a copy of the movie Obsession to 28 million homes via mainstream newspapers, including the New York Times.  The DVD is a hateful piece of propaganda that is meant to influence Americans to vote for John McCain via its fear-mongering and hate-mongering. The alarming part is not that there are extremists promoting such propaganda, but that credible and mainstream newspapers would allow such hate-filled propaganda to be mailed to Americans via their newspapers.

Americans—both Muslim and non-Muslim—value the freedom of press, speech and expression, but what value are these freedoms if we embrace them without critical thinking?  Wouldn’t these freedoms be harmful to society if they are devoid of critical thinking?  Taken from the “Practical Guide to Critical Thinking,” by Greg R. Haskins, let us ask regarding the movie Obsession:

“Is there any ambiguity, vagueness, or obscurity that hinders my full understanding of the argument?  Is the language excessively emotional or manipulative? Have I separated the reasoning (evidence) and relevant assumptions/facts from background information, examples, and irrelevant information? Have I determined which assumptions are warranted versus unwarranted? Can I list the reasons (evidence) for the argument and any sub-arguments? Have I evaluated the truth, relevance, fairness, completeness, significance, and sufficiency of the reasons (evidence) to support the conclusion? Do I need further information to make a reasonable judgment on the argument, because of omissions or other reasons? ”

The Islamic Resource Group has reached out to the University of Minnesota and University of St. Thomas to bring more reliable sources for information on Islam and Muslims to challenge the propaganda and the Islamophobia that makes Obama afraid to associate himself with Muslims.

Events are sponsored by the Islamic Resource Group with support from the Meeting Minnesota’s Muslims Project, the Institute for Global Studies in the College of Liberal Arts, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Freeman Center for International Economic Policy at the University of Minnesota, and the Muslim Christian Dialogue Center at the University of St Thomas.

Dalia Moghahed is a senior analyst and executive director of the Gallup Organization’s Center for Islam Studies.  In the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton commissioned his company to research the views and attitudes of Muslims around the world. The result of this research is the book Who Speaks for Islam? written by Mogahed and co-authored with Georgetown University Professor John Esposito.

The book, based on six years of research, challenges conventional wisdom about what motivates Muslims worldwide. Gallup researchers conducted the largest poll of Muslims to date by interviewing tens of thousands of individuals residing in more than 35 countries.

Mogahed will discuss her new book, Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think, twice on Nov 5th: in the afternoon, at the 3M Auditorium located in the Carlson School of Management on the University of Minnesota campus, and in the evening at University of St Thomas.

Mogahed’s work has appeared in a number of publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy magazine, Harvard International Review and the Middle East Policy journal. Her audiences have included the High-Level Group of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, the Community of West and Islam Dialogue (C-100) group of the World Economic Forum, British parliamentarians, U.S. senators, and religious leaders from every faith.

This event will be one day after the elections.  We encourage people, particularly those who value the freedoms of press, speech to attend and critically evaluate the arguments and facts. We further encourage Minnesotans to embrace these valuable freedoms with critical thinking and facts so they do not become sponges for emotional and manipulative propaganda.

Dalia Mogahed: Who Speaks for Muslims?  What A Billion Muslims Really Think.
Wednesday, Nov. 5th
2:00 p.m.: at 3M Auditorium,
Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, West Bank Campus
7:00 PM: at 3M Auditorium, Owens Science Hall, University of St Thomas

Read more:

This guide should be used in evaluating the movie Obsession: “A Practical Guide To Critical Thinking” by Gary Haskins:

Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American freelance writer who lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

Posted on November 4, 2008, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Have you read the history of how Islam started? I gave Islam a fair chance and studied it with an open mind. I cannot get over the the mass beheadings and child brides. I cannot get over the perception that Islam is a political dictatorship system. I look at history as an academic and September 11, 1683- the muslim seige of Vienna was halted. A thousand years of conquest and murder was undeniably the history of Islam to this point. If you had a 9 year old child and a prophet said I wish to consumate marriage with your child, how would you feel?


    • Joe t. Plumber,

      I have read and am still studying the history of how Islam started. I think you claim you were reading with an open mind but in reality you were reading selective, and choosing sources that were totally lies. I cannot compel to read accurate information but it is good for you as you seem very intoxicated with anger against Islam based on emotions that are based on false claims.

      Child brides is a social ill that exists in some Muslim countries as well as Christian ones. Go check on PBS, the documentary on child brides in Ethiopia, where many Ethiopian christians are forcing their daughters as young as 8 to get married. obviously you cannot relate to this.

      In peace,


  1. Pingback: both Muslim and non-Muslim—value the freedom of press, speech and expression, but what value are these freedoms if we embrace them without critical thinking? « Muslim786malaysia’s Blog

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