ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
We're going to hear now about a group of Muslim-American millennials who are trying to battle radical Islamist propaganda. It's a fight that requires them to reflect on the way they're perceived, even by their families. From member station WNIN in Evansville, Ind., Paola Marizan reports.
PAOLA MARIZAN, BYLINE: Many younger U.S. Muslims say their parents and grandparents have long been reluctant to speak out and risk drawing attention to themselves. Some like Ranny Badreddine want to take a different approach. Tired of being called a terrorist, he joined millennials and other young teens to help create World Changers, an initiative that uses cyberspace to combat misperceptions about Islam.
RANNY BADREDDINE: Kids have to be worried about it - like, going outside and being scared that someone's going to beat them up because they're Muslim. As a 13-year-old kid, I don't want to live my life being scared of Americans trying to hurt me because of what I am and my religion.
MARIZAN: Other members like Romaze Akhram say this battle for the hearts and minds of Americans is not just about religion. For him, its far more personal.
ROMAZE AKHRAM: The problem is, when they talk about Islamic terrorism, people aren't necessarily seeing, like, ISIS and al-Qaida. Like, they're seeing me, and they're seeing, like, the kids that are with us today, you know? And we're working towards positive things, but they're going to see us as Islamic terrorists.
MARIZAN: While some antiterrorist experts support the idea of deploying online strategies against ISIS, Muslim activist Humera Khan says religion is not the only or even the main reason driving the atrocities around the world.
HUMERA KHAN: I don't think what ISIS is doing is at all Islam. They use some of the language, but their objectives are extremely political.
MARIZAN: While that may be true, many American Muslims say they constantly have to deal with a perception that Islam is behind the atrocities. Mohammed Hussain is a pediatrician here in Evansville, and he says this tech-savvy generation is smart enough to use the same online strategies as the radicals. He supports their effort to call out what they see as false Islam.
MOHAMMED HUSSAIN: We have all realized ISIS has people who are adept at using the media, and so they have been using it very effectively. So we have to convey the right message in the same matter so that it can get across.
MARIZAN: These young American Muslims are joining an ages-old battle over the message of Islam. Seventeen-year-old Hani Yousef says he's often asked if the fight over messaging is a fair one.
HANI YOUSEF: I think it might be beyond the point if it's fair or not. The situation is that people are taking the name Islam and using it in a derogatory way, and what's really the problem that we need to focus on is not if it's fair or not but how to combat it in a way that obviously is nonviolent and aligns with the ways of our religion.
MARIZAN: The group not only engages by answering questions about Islam online but also works with other nonprofits to organize public forums, and it is committed to countering mistruth about Islam while defending their religion. For NPR News, I'm Paola Marizan.
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