The media plays a significant role in manufacturing Islamophobia within western societies
February 5, 2010 Leave a comment
The media plays a significant role in manufacturing Islamophobia within western societies by manipulating and shaping an individuals opinion on anything and everything. It presents us with distorted images of Islam and that in turn conjures stereotypes and prejudice.
For people who are sceptical about the notion of ‘Islamophobia’, a study was conducted in the US where the public were asked to write down, with as little thought and as much honesty as possible, all the words that come to mind when you think of the words “Islam” or Muslim”.
Most people gave an almost routine set of answers. The names and events they thought of tended to be associated with violence, e.g., Osama Bin Laden, 9/11, Palestinian suicide bombers. The ideas and practices were associated with oppression, e.g., Jihad, veiling, Islamic law. And the places were limited to the Middle East, e.g., Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran. Of course some answers escaped the pattern, e.g., the Qur’an, pilgrimage to Mecca, Muhammad Ali, but these were relatively few. When asked about their answers, many responded unfortunate as such associations may be, Muslims and Islam feature prominently in many of the world’s conflicts and injustices, and this they conclude says something about their religion. Judging from the portrayals of Muslims and Islam in Western media, it’s hard to argue with them.
In September 2005, the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Postem, published 12 depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. Awareness of the cartoons became widespread and a global protest soon grew, typified by peaceful gatherings of thousands of protestors in many places. Unfortunately some Muslim’s reacted violently.
Islamophobia is even presented in popular films such as Hollywood blockbusters and children’s cartoons. A report by the Islamic Human Rights Commission argues that films such as Aladdin and East is East have contributed to demonizing Muslims as dangerous and violent. For example, in Aladdin, rather than presenting the Arab culture and Islamic religion in a positive way, it is associated with harsh punishments and oppressive practices. In the British film East is East, a mixed raced Anglo-Pakistani family is presented struggling with their traditional background forced upon them by their father. The representation of the Muslim husband is of a polygamous wife beater.
Sadly, media outlets consistently overlook the voices of moderation that come from the majority of Muslims. When violence flared in 2006 over the controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, very few of America’s frontline newspapers reported the condemnation of the violence issued immediately by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), one of the most important Islamic organisations In the US and only one of many that decried the attacks. In another instance the year before, a Connecticut newspaper ran an editorial decrying the lack of public statements by Muslim leaders against the then recent terrorist attacks in London. The state chapter of CAIR wrote back asking why the newspaper had not mentioned its own denunciation of the violence, which the group had sent the newspaper. In fact, since this event, a great variety and number of Muslim leaders in the US and abroad condemned the attacks but received little coverage by the American media.
The media is always quick to stereotype Muslims as terrorists by linking the news to religion when Muslims have done something wrong. But does the media link crimes carried out by Westerners to religion?
The answer is no. The Columbine High School shooters religions were not disclosed, nor are the religions of any Western perpetrators. The media believes that any Muslim who commits a crime is doing so in the name of Islam and therefore feels the need to disclose his religious views.
Because Muslims seldom appear in news reports or other media sources except as perpetrators of violence, supposedly in the name of Islam, many Westerners understandably conclude that all Muslim’s act from inherently religious motivations and that Islam is dangerous. Muslims become two-dimensional, existing only as Muslims, seemingly never sharing identities or interests with non-Muslims. However, Westerners engage with Muslims in thousands of ways every day: a student and her classmates, a banker and his customer, a homeowner and her neighbours. The globalised world we inhabit makes possible increasingly intimate connections between distant individuals with increasing speed. So why, despite all this contact, do domestic news and entertainment sources seldom mention the terms “Muslim” or “Islam” except in the context of conflict, violence and bloodshed?? By: Ismail Farooki. Cambridge –England