Before Muslim followers have a fit with this one, I should quickly clarify. What I am talking about is ownership. A key principle I have learned regarding reputation is that when you have a major problem with the way others perceive you, the public will not accept an explanation, as it comes off as defensive. They will not accept rejection of the notions they hold either, because the reality is that perception is truth. Meaning, denying or rejecting what they perceive to be “facts” will merely add “liar” to their list of opinions, while you are still stuck in the same spot you started in: extremist.
The main idea is acknowledging to the audience that you hear them loud and clear and that you share the same concern. And trust me, Muslims do have the same concerns regarding those followers who claim to share their faith. It just gets blurred behind their concern that extremists take up way too much space in the media, even though they are considered to be only a handful when compared to the 1 billion adherents in the world.
This is why Islam’s reputation management is a critical and pressing concept for the Muslim world to understand, and equally important to care about. They should not be preoccupied with and distracted by the T word (the word terrorist is extremely offensive to Muslims, as it should be, mostly because it is accepted as a hate-filled label with no basis for its use).
Rather than busying themselves with such distractions, they should try to understand what it is specifically that pushes people to place Islam into certain categories. They should understand what myths, if any, people are attracted to. They should research what types of people are more likely to hold adverse views against Muslims. It is after taking such steps that the managing of reputation can begin. A long journey awaits to actually calculate appropriate strategies – ones that cannot be misinterpreted or misused by detractors – and then to implement these strategies.