Host to international students concerned anti-Islamic mail was targeted to her household

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- A woman who's spent years hosting international students from different religious backgrounds is concerned her household may have been targeted by someone spreading religious propaganda.

Emerald Johnson is a coordinator for Iowa Resource for International Service, helping to support exchange students and host families working with the Youth Exchange and Study program.  Since 2012 she's hosted nine students at her home.

"I do it because it's really important for people to know people as individuals, instead of an assumption or stereotype you have of a country," she said.

So she became concerned when she anonymously got two comics in the mail Wednesday, May 9.  Johnson said one of them seemed to be lecturing moderate Christians to be more passionate about their beliefs.  But it was the other comic that was the most troubling.

"It's propaganda that has a serious misunderstanding about Islam," she said.

The comic was called "Men of Peace?" and depicted a family talking about what the religion is about. But she said they booklet pulled pieces of history in an attempt to undermine the religion.

"These people are putting effort into learning about these things and then twisting and turning them to encourage people to hate and be more intolerant of each other and that is a big problem," she said.

And as for the rest of the neighborhood, she said she checked with some neighbors, but nobody else received anything.

"I hope they're just trying to help me see the light or something, but I have no idea," said Johnson. "Its impossible to know a person's intent from an envelope with two totally impersonal booklets."

But instead of dwelling on the messages, she turned it into a learning moment.

"I usually try to make it a conversation topic and I ask about, you know, does this kind of thing happen in your country," she said. "I want to understand, because there is propaganda against the U.S. everywhere, there is propaganda against other people in the U.S."

She said the students she hosts did some research about the booklets in an attempt to understand the roots.

"We had a good talk about it and I think everything's fine."

Johnson said opening up conversation was the best way to lead to understanding each other and to prevent things from escalating.