Five Questions with Dr. John L Esposito

October 20, 2022

For many non-Muslims in the U.S., their first engagement with Islam was through the media’s coverage of the Iranian revolution in the late 1970s. While some may have known an Egyptian or Lebanese, the coverage of the revolution was framed through a religious lens, as it was described as an “Islamic revolution,” where Islam took center stage. Throughout history, the role of western media has played a significant role in promoting stereotypes and harmful tropes about Islam and Muslims.

Over the past two decades, the global community has witnessed the attacks of 9/11, the ensuing and ongoing Global War on Terror, the growth of far-right ethno-nationalism, and the mainstreaming of Islamophobia.

In our first episode of “Unpacking Islamophobia,” host Arsalan Iftikhar sits down with Dr. John L. Esposito who discusses the roots of Islamophobia, its impacts on Muslims and non-Muslims, the role of the media in promoting anti-Muslim racism, and what the future looks like if things go unchanged.


Arsalan Iftikhar is Senior Researcher for the Bridge Initiative at the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University. He is a prominent human rights lawyer, an internationally recognized researcher on the topic of Islamophobia, and a global media commentator. He is the author of several books including FEAR OF A MUSLIM PLANET: Global Islamophobia in the New World Order and Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms which President Jimmy Carter called “an important book that shows Islamophobia must be addressed urgently”. Throughout his career, Arsalan has been a regular on-air commentator for National Public Radio (NPR) and his interviews have appeared on prominent global media outlets like CNN, Al-Jazeera English, BBC World News, The EconomistNew York TimesRolling Stone, NBC News “Meet The Press” & many more. A native of Chicago, Arsalan was awarded the 2013 Distinguished Young Alumni Award from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis; where he received both his undergraduate and law degrees.

Dr. John L. Esposito is University Professor as well as Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. John L. Esposito is Founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in the Walsh School of Foreign Service as well as The Bridge Initiative, a multi-year research project on Islamophobia housed in Georgetown University. Dr. Esposito has served as consultant to the U.S. Department of State and other agencies, European and Asian governments and corporations, universities, and the media worldwide. His more than 55 books and monographs include: The Future of Islam, Islamophobia and the Challenge of Pluralism in the 21st CenturyWhat Everyone Needs to Know About IslamWho Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (with Dalia Mogahed), Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?Islam and Politics, World Religions Today and Religion and Globalization (with D. Fasching & T. Lewis), Asian Islam in the 21st CenturyGeography of Religion: Where God Lives, Where Pilgrims Walk (with S. Hitchcock); Islam: The Straight Path; Islam and Democracy; and Makers of Contemporary Islam (with J. Voll); Modernizing Islam (with F. Burgat) Political Islam: Revolution, Radicalism or Reform?, Religion and Global Order (with M. Watson), Islam and Secularism in the Middle East (with A. Tamimi); Iran at the Crossroads (with R.K. Ramazani); Islam, Gender, and Social Change and Muslims on the Americanization Path and Daughters of Abraham (with Y. Haddad); and Women in Muslim Family Law.