What it's like to be a Muslim in America | Dalia Mogahed | Summary and Q&A

March 15, 2016
YouTube video player
What it's like to be a Muslim in America | Dalia Mogahed


Dalia Mogahed challenges negative stereotypes of Muslims and discusses the impact of Islamophobia in her TED Talk.

Install to Summarize YouTube Videos and Get Transcripts

Key Insights

  • 💼 Despite negative media portrayals, Muslims are regular people who want the same things as everyone else: prosperity, jobs, and to live in peace.
  • 📰 80% of news coverage about Islam and Muslims is negative.
  • 🛡️ Consuming fear can lead to being more accepting of authoritarianism, conformity, and prejudice, eroding the foundation of a free society.
  • 🕌 Going to the mosque regularly is linked to having more tolerant views of people of other faiths and greater civic engagement.
  • 📚 Radicalization does not typically start at mosques. It begins online, with individuals being cut off from their communities and brainwashed by extremists.
  • 🙏 Islamophobia is harmful to both Muslims and the larger society, eroding free thought and rationality.
  • ⚖️ Bigotry is not just immoral, but can be lethal.
  • 💪 Courage and compassion are needed to overcome fear and prejudice and build a better society.


What do you think when you look at me? A woman of faith? An expert? Maybe even a sister. Or oppressed, brainwashed, a terrorist. Or just an airport security line delay. That one's actually true. (Laughter) If some of your perceptions were negative, I don't really blame you. That's just how the media has been portraying people who look like me. One ... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How does the negative portrayal of Muslims in the media affect public perception?

The negative portrayal of Muslims in the media, with 80 percent of news coverage being negative, contributes to negative perceptions of Muslims. This can lead to stereotypes, prejudice, and even fear towards the Muslim community.

Q: How does Islamophobia impact the health of democracy and free thought?

Islamophobia affects the health of democracy and free thought by promoting authoritarianism, conformity, and prejudice. Studies show that fear leads to a greater acceptance of these ideas. Islamophobia can be used as a tool of public manipulation, eroding the foundation of a free society which relies on rational and well-informed citizens.

Q: How does consuming fear impact the general public?

Consuming fear leads to more accepting attitudes towards authoritarianism, conformity, and prejudice. In the case of negative news about Muslims, it has been shown that people become more accepting of military attacks on Muslim countries and policies that curtail the rights of American Muslims. Fear can be used as a tool to manipulate public opinion and hinder rational thinking.

Q: How does Islamophobia affect the safety and well-being of Muslims?

Islamophobia not only leads to negative public perceptions but can also have severe consequences for the safety and well-being of Muslims. Hate crimes, discrimination, and violence against Muslims have been prevalent, causing harm and even death. Islamophobia threatens the fundamental rights and existence of Muslims in society.


In this TED Talk, Dalia Mogahed challenges the negative stereotypes and perceptions of Muslims that are perpetuated by the media. She shares her personal experiences, including the impact of 9/11 on her sense of identity and belonging. Mogahed emphasizes the need for understanding, compassion, and solidarity in combating Islamophobia, and asserts that Muslims are an essential part of American society.

Questions & Answers

Q: How does the media's portrayal of Islam and Muslims contribute to negative perceptions?

The media plays a significant role in shaping public opinion, and unfortunately, the coverage of Islam and Muslims has been overwhelmingly negative. Studies have shown that 80 percent of news coverage about Islam and Muslims is negative, leading to a skewed and distorted view of the religion and its followers. These portrayals fuel stereotypes and reinforce bias against Muslims.

Q: Why is it important to challenge these negative perceptions?

Challenging negative perceptions is crucial because they can lead to harmful consequences for individuals and communities. When people are constantly exposed to fear and prejudice, they become more accepting of authoritarianism, conformity, and prejudice themselves. This not only erodes the foundation of a free society but also threatens the well-being and safety of Muslims and other marginalized groups.

Q: How does Islamophobia impact Muslims and non-Muslims alike?

Islamophobia affects everyone in society, not just Muslims. Studies in neuroscience have shown that fear leads to increased acceptance of discriminatory policies and attitudes. It creates an environment where rational and well-informed citizens are less likely to exist. Muslim communities become the target of collective guilt, leading to discrimination and violence. Ultimately, Islamophobia harms the social fabric of society and undermines its democratic values.

Q: Are Muslims a threat to America's safety?

No, Muslims are not a threat to America's safety. The idea that closing down mosques or banning Muslims will make the country safer is misguided. In fact, studies have shown that regular mosque attendance is linked to greater tolerance and civic engagement. Radicalization does not typically happen in mosques but rather in isolated settings where individuals are vulnerable to extremist ideologies. Muslims, like any other group, contribute positively to American society and play vital roles as inventors, teachers, first responders, and Olympic athletes.

Q: How does Dalia Mogahed address the association of ISIS with Islam?

Mogahed argues that it is inaccurate and unfair to associate ISIS with Islam as a whole. Just as the Ku Klux Klan does not represent Christianity, ISIS does not represent Islam. Both groups may claim to derive their beliefs from religious scriptures, but their actions and brutality are not motivated by those beliefs. It is important not to fall into the trap of casting all Muslims as terrorists based on the actions of a few fringe individuals.

Q: What can be done to prevent radicalization?

To prevent radicalization, it is essential to keep individuals connected to their communities, including the mosque. Radicalization often starts online, where vulnerable individuals are cut off from their families and communities. Promoting inclusivity, understanding, and constructive ways to address anger and injustice can help counter the appeal of extremist ideologies. Mosques can play a vital role in providing guidance, support, and a sense of belonging.

Q: How does Islamophobia have a lethal impact?

Islamophobia is not just immoral; it can also have lethal consequences. Bigotry and prejudice can lead to acts of violence against individuals and communities. Mogahed shares the tragic story of Deah, Yusor, and Razan, who were brutally murdered by a neighbor because of their Muslim identity. These acts of violence highlight the importance of challenging Islamophobia and promoting a society where diversity and acceptance are valued.

Q: What choices did Dalia Mogahed and her family make after 9/11?

After 9/11, Dalia Mogahed and her family made the choice to continue going to the mosque, despite the fear and prejudice they faced. They saw it as an opportunity to assert their right to practice their religion freely and to leave a positive legacy for their children. Their decision to stand up against fear and bigotry demonstrated the importance of courage, compassion, and solidarity in the face of adversity.

Q: How does Dalia Mogahed respond to the perception that she is an exception rather than the rule?

Mogahed asserts that she is an ordinary Muslim and not an exception. She emphasizes that Muslims around the world share similar aspirations for peace, prosperity, and happiness. The idea that she is exceptional is a result of a broken rule, where the vast diversity and normality of Muslims are overlooked. Mogahed's story is a reminder that Muslims are not homogenous, and their experiences should be valued and understood.

Q: What is the call to action in Dalia Mogahed's talk?

Mogahed's call to action is for individuals to choose courage and compassion over panic and prejudice. It is about standing up against fear and bigotry, particularly in times when negative perceptions of Muslims are pervasive. She urges people to question and challenge their own biases and to recognize that Muslims are not a threat but rather an integral part of society. By choosing understanding and solidarity, we can build a more inclusive and harmonious world.


Dalia Mogahed's TED Talk highlights the harmful impact of Islamophobia on Muslims and society as a whole. Challenging negative perceptions and stereotypes is crucial for promoting understanding, compassion, and unity. By combatting fear and prejudice, we can create a society where everyone is valued and respected, regardless of their religious or cultural background. It is our collective responsibility to choose courage and compassion over panic and prejudice, striving for a world that celebrates diversity and fosters inclusivity.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The media has negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims, leading to misconceptions and prejudice among the general public.

  • Islamophobia has real-life consequences, with Muslims experiencing discrimination and violence.

  • Combating Islamophobia requires standing in solidarity with Muslims, challenging stereotypes, and promoting understanding and compassion.

Share This Summary 📚

Summarize YouTube Videos and Get Video Transcripts with 1-Click

Download browser extensions on:

Explore More Summaries from TED 📚

Summarize YouTube Videos and Get Video Transcripts with 1-Click

Download browser extensions on: