Victoria (Texas, USA): Three
University of Houston-Victoria students recently won the British
Council’s “100 Questions About Islam” blogging contest.
The council invited university students from around the world to
share their reflections on Muslim and non-Muslim relations.
“We were extremely impressed by the quality of the winning entries
in our blogging contest from three students enrolled at the
University of Houston-Victoria,” said Emmanuel Kattan, project
manager of the Our Shared Future initiative at the British Council
– a registered charity and the United Kingdom’s international
organization for educational opportunities and cultural relations.
“The 100 Questions About Islam video series aims to improve the
public conversation about Muslims and non-Muslims in the U.S. and
Europe, and the students’ thoughtful voices make a wonderful
contribution,” he said.
The UHV students are Chelcie Oliver, of Rockport, Olivia Grace
Newman, of Katy, and Adam Mills, of Cypress. They learned about
the contest in UHV’s “Intercultural Communications” course taught
by Victoria Advocate Endowed Professor of the Humanities Macarena
Hernández, who requires students to blog as part of the course.
The contest was part of a larger British Council video-based study
on what scholars and opinion leaders think about issues relating
to Muslim and non-Muslim relations.
The winning entries of the three UHV students are featured on the
In her blog entry “Is Islam so Different After All?” Oliver raises
the question of why some people continue to view Islam as a
foreign and radical culture.
“Rather than donning blinders of hatred and stereotypes, there are
never reasons to fear something that you know nothing about,”
Oliver wrote. “It’s not a difficult thing in this modern age to
fire up the virtual world at your fingertips and vanquish the
darkness of ignorance.”
Newman’s blog, “An Intercultural Perspective,” also emphasized the
importance of education while cautioning about misinformation:
“Muslim to non-Muslim communication taking place across today’s
society occurs in a technologically advanced arena, in which many
sources exist unchecked for validity. .With this in mind, mending
relations between Muslims and non-Muslims appears to depend on
people from both sides not only educating themselves on the issues
at hand, but also making a point to be aware of the fact that not
all the information available to the public is reliable.”
In his blog, “Understanding Islam,” Mills likewise commented on
the problem of misinformation. “In a perfect world, it would be
fantastic if media would report on the positive aspects of the
world as much as it does on the negative aspects. Unfortunately,
news media sources tend to select the most extremist stories to
report, because these hyped-up stories will get more
attention…than a quaint story about the everyday life of a regular
Muslim family going about their lives like most people from other
Several students from Hernández’s class competed in the contest.
“I’m so proud of all of the students who took me up on the
challenge,” she said. “And as a teacher, I’m grateful for these
kinds of opportunities because they allow me to help my students
connect our class discussion and, in this case, their blog work,
to conversations taking place all over the world. I hope it will
encourage all of them to join in on those conversations even after
this course is over.”