The ‘Muslim Guy’ discusses Islam and America

Arsalan Iftikhar, international human rights lawyer and founder of

September 18, 2012

By Frank Radosevich II

America marks the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. A U.S. ambassador and three other Americans are killed during an assault on a Libyan consulate. A video denigrating the Prophet Muhammad sparks anti-Western protests in the Muslim world.

In other words, Arsalan Iftikhar had plenty to talk about.

International human rights lawyer and founder of, Iftikhar came to Bradley to discuss American-Muslim relations in a post 9/11 world. He also commented on the news of the day—the consulate attack and inflammatory video—that brought the issue again to the forefront.

Iftikhar, who called the events “heartbreaking,” said a lack of thorough communication and understanding of other people are what often spark such incidences. He said working to de-polarize the conversation can help lessen the us-versus-them mentality that lingers.

“My job is to help bring people together; to bring context to the conversation,” he told students.

The author of the book "Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era," Iftikhar is a regular commentator for National Public Radio and a contributing writer with several national news outlets on domestic and international issues.

His visit was sponsored by the International Affairs Organization, the Muslim Student Association, the Institute for Principled Leadership, the Institute of International Studies and the Peoria Area World Affairs Council.

Aaron Hoover, a junior in international studies and religious studies, said he enjoyed Iftikhar’s talk and noted that, as an ordinary citizen, Iftikhar was able to engage the audience and connect with members of his generation.

“The global world is smaller so being able to hear opinions that are different from our own is very useful,” said Hoover, president of the student-run International Affairs Organization.

Iftikhar, an Illinois native, said he enjoys his visits to college campuses like Bradley since the student audience is typically an eager and inviting one.

“You have students that want to learn about the world and what’s going on. They haven’t made hardened ideological views and are more open to different points of views and backgrounds,” he said.

He added he hoped students would take away the point that world events are rarely as cut-and-dry as they appear to be in the media.

“The only thing that I hope people take away from my talk is that nothing in the world is black and white. We live in a world with perpetual shades of gray,” he said. “As long as we continue an open, honest conversation we’ll be about to humanize each other and foster a more peaceful world.”