In today’s society, there are many ways Islam is portrayed by themedia. Being a religion of peace, it sure is not taken as one. The media onlycovers the news that has an overall emotional impact, such as fear, which ismostly and coincidentally caused by small extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda andIsis.
When the Muslim community tries to do something good to counteract thenegative image of the religion and its followers, the media does not seempassionate about the coverage and thus Islam is portrayed negatively. Theinfluence of media has increased Islamophobia (fear or hatred ofIslam/Muslims), racial profiling, and increased hate crimes towards innocentMuslims, all because of a small extremist group. The media’s negative portrayal of Muslim women in the middleeast also has an effect to the public’s view of Islam as a misogynisticreligion.
Societyis forced to see the evils that are actually prohibited in the religion andrarely highlights the positives Islam has to offer. It is safe to say the mediahas a small focus on the upper-hand of what Muslims do within the Westernsociety. This allows a majority of our society to assume Muslims are all terrorist. Islam has alwaysbeen seen in the West as violent, barbaric, anti-democratic, anti-human, andanti-rational. In recent years studies have repeatedly found media coverage ofIslam and Muslims to be biased. Coverage increased after September 11, the timeof the attacks on The World Trade Center by the Islamic terrorist groupal-Qaeda on the United States. The war on terrorism put Islam front and centerin the media, and not in a good light. The portrayal of Islamic ideologies inWestern media for the most part villainizes all Muslims as terrorist.
What themedia fails to mention is that Muslims do not support any of these knownterrorist groups, considering the killing of innocent lives is prohibited in thereligion. Islam being known as a violent religion in actuality causes morechaos and begins to lead people to Islamophobia. The media’s portrayal of thereligion is no solution to the nation-wade attacks.
Recently therewas an incident that occurred in lower Manhattan where a driver plowed a pickuptruck down a crowded sidewalk, killing eight people. After had doing this, thedriver crashed into a school bus jumping out and yelling “Allahu Akbar” (Arabicfor “God is great”), according to a 12-year-old student who had just left anearby school. The New York Times following with city officials labeled theincident as a “terror attack”.
The terrorist by the name of Mr. Saipov wasimmigrating to the United States from Uzbekistan and although he was already onthe radar of federal authorities this was his first official terror act. Bothhis actions and racial background led people to believe his acts were acts ofterror by the religion of Islam. This type of action to people unaware of thetrue meaning would be labeled as “jihad”. Jihad is an Arabic word that meansstruggling or striving, often misinterpreted as a violent concept. The actionsof those who commit horrible crimes to innocent people are not consideredMuslims, the Quran bans any type of harm.
Two Journalistsfrom the New York Times got the chance to interview two Muslim Americanson their opinions regarding the matter and how it was portrayed by the media. Dalia Mogahed, the researchdirector at the Institute for Social Policy, was highly concerned about themedia not highlighting what truly mattered to society and biasing towards anentire community. She states, “my concern isn’t that this gets called a terrorist attack I thinkit probably was if he was making claims of being inspired by Isis, but it’s thefact that we want to blame the wrong thing rather than looking at whatundercuts all mask violence, what undercuts all ideological motivated violenceno matter what kind of ideology it is. What we’re looking at is things likealienation, we’re looking at things like mental illness, poor control of havingpeople have access to weapons, etc. When we aren’t looking at the factors, weinstead jump into scapegoating a community, we aren’t going to solve theproblem.
” Dalia makes a really good point about the media not focusing on theproblem and how to fix it but rather trying to pinpoint who is at fault for it.As Muslim, it really hurts to think society is out to get a religion because ofa few incidents committed by incredibly sick people. Sadly, all thepinpointing and media influence eventually leads to hate crimes also known as”Islamophobia”. Acts of Islamophobia can include physical attacks, verbalabuses, anti-Islamic remarks in speeches and statements, and discrimination orbias in various sectors such as workplace, school, and public places. Violenceagainst Muslims or verbal abuses are the core consequences of Islamophobia.
Muslims are precluded from taking part in everyday social interaction which formost other people is largely or entirely unproblematic. A recent poll that wastaken by USA Today Gallup had asked a group of people whether it would botherthem having Muslims as neighbors or not. The polls showed that 22% of peoplewould not like living next to a Muslim. What people fail to realize is thatMuslims are everyday people just like them, there are approximately3.
3 million Muslims living in the U.S. today. If the religion really was aviolent one, it could have taken out the whole nation without any difficulty. Therehave been many hate crimes committed over the years due to the media’sinfluence.
A Hindu man by the name of Sunando Sen, age 46, was pushed onto aNew York City subway and killed by an oncoming train. The women, ErikaMenendez, a 31-year-old women had selected her victim knowing he was either aMuslim or Hindu. In her statement to the police she had said, “I pushed aMuslim off the tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims.” Mr. Sen’s family hadgone through a terrible tragedy that day because of Mr. Sen being who he was.The media’s portrayal of the whole Muslim community has gone out of hand and itseems as if they want the followers of the religion to be attacked. There is nojustice coming from the killing of innocent people who have done nothing wrong,nor is it a solution to the terror attacks.
Anotherhate crime that had done a significant amount of damage was in Toledo, Ohio. RandolphLinn was convicted of lighting a prayer room on fire at an Islamic Center. Hisreasoning was, “They (Muslims) would kill us if they got the chance.” Later onLynn went on to tell the judge that he committed his crime because Fox news andConservation talk radio had “riled him up” and had convinced him to believethat “Muslims are terrorist.” Later the same day he drank 45 beers in sevenhours before heading to the Mosque. When Linn was asked whether he thoughtMuslims are terrorists, he reportedly responded, “I’d say most of them are.
“His viewpoints had upset many in attendance at the court. When the judge hadasked him if he knew any Muslims or even knew what Islam was he uttered no andtold him he only knew what he heard on Fox news and the radio. It is really sadto think about how much the media has against a whole religion and does notcare about the consequences from what they make public. Themedia can reach their audience from talk shows, newspapers/magazines, movies,and cartoons. Fox News has had to retract many false claims about Muslims.
Theyare known for collecting information and creating a twisted ideological dialoguewith its audience about how to relate and interpret the Islamic world. Thereare many other well-known sources that portray a poor image of Islam. Althoughit is rare, there is some good the media sometimes have to offer. An examplecould be the positive portrayal of the protagonist of the TV show “Homeland”called Nicholas Brody. In the film, we learn that Nicholas Brody is a Muslimwho prays five times a day and throughout a day and throughout the film welearn he is a kind-hearted man despite him being a Muslim.
None the less,majority of the media has negative views on the religion. Ina recent report, based on surveys and interviews with media experts it wasclaimed the portrayal of Arab and Muslim people in the Western media is”typically stereotypical and negative.” The report claims, “In the past 30 yearsof thousands of TV show series, there have been less than 10 characters whohave been Arab-Americans.” It is not fair for Muslims to be considered a partof society and not be treated as a part of it. When they are included in mediasuch as movies and TV shows, the roles are usually offensive to the Muslimcommunity. An example would be one of my favorite movies, American Sniper. This movie was full of anti-Muslim sentiment andthe content made people want to grow strong hatred for Muslims.
AmericanSniper is a film about a soldier whoconsidered Iraqi’s as savages and demonized the entire Iraqi populationincluding the children. The media would go a long way just for entertainmentpurposes, not considering how it would affect the group of people beingvictimized. Within theIslamic community, Muslim women are also a big target in media. There are threecommon ways the media portrays Muslim women; appearance overload, always thevictim, and them being all the same. In the Quran it is noted, “And tell the believing women to reduce someof their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornmentexcept that which necessarily appears thereof and to wrap a portion oftheir head-covers over their chests and not expose their adornment except totheir husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, theirhusbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons,their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendantshaving no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the privateaspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what theyconceal of their adornment.
And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, Obelievers, that you might succeed.” (The Qur’an, 23:21) In simpler terms,women are expected to cover because in Islam the righteous women knows that Godis always watching her, for that reason she would therefore dress modestly andin line with God’s requirements for decency and morality. It is also to keepthem protected from the dangers and inappropriate thoughts of those who seek tohurt women or think dirty about them. People fail to interpret the true meaningof women having to cover up and begin to victimize them. They fail tounderstand Muslimwomen are not held against their will, but volunteer to follow Allah’s laws.
Itis not just Islam women who practice wearing a head scarf, there are many otherreligions too. VictimizingMuslim women is seen all around the U.S. Most of the population that does notknow much about the culture believe Islam is a male-dominated culture/religionbecause of women having to cover up. Western Muslim women are often presentedas either passive victims of male power imposed upon them.
It is trueMuslim women do not have the same rights as the Muslim men, they actually havemore. Islam led the world with women’s rights and ironically gave women theirbasics rights centuries before the West did. The religion in no way wants tobelittle the women of their community, the media fails to believe that and putsout false information about Muslim women being treated unfairly.
The media hasled many people to believe women are often beaten if considered “indecent” andvery often involved with domestic violence. Any type of violence is prohibitedin the religion, therefore it is sin for a man to even think about hurting awomen. The most common words that are used to describe Muslim women byjournalists and politicians are segregated, beaten, insults, veil, freedom, andreligion. The media’s intentions are also quite clear. Thereare disturbing implications for the way Americans perceive Muslims thanks tothe media. A new research from Erin Kearns and some colleagues at George StateUniversity studied the impact of the media and how much influence it has onsociety to believe what they believe about Muslims. Kearns says, “When the perpetrator is Muslim, you can expectthat attack to receive about four and a half times more media coverage than ifthe perpetrator was not Muslim.” Which is true! The media does not give as muchattention to crime committed by non-Muslims as much and even when they do theperpetrator would have had to done something unspeakable.
Usually in the newsyou would hear of someone who committed a crime because they were eithermentally ill or unstable but when it comes to Muslims that is not even an assumption.TV news continue to bedominated by coverage of terrorist attacks and hostage images that appeal tosociety wanting justice, creating more of a hatred for Muslims.In another report it wasclaimed, “In many cases, the press talks and writes about Muslims in waysthat would not be acceptable if the reference were to Jewish, black orfundamentalist Christians.” The Western media fails to realize how bad ofan image their material creates for the normal Muslims in everyday life. Thereare doctors, educators, parents, including community leaders and participantsjust like everyone else. The ones that are out to get people are not like themin any way. The media fails to mention that and instead labels all Muslimsterrorist. The report had interviewed around 2,420 people in the U.
S. and thefeedback was disappointing. Nearly half the people said the TV documentariesand news had a very strong influence on their views on Arab Americans or justMuslims in general. The true image of Islam has been hijacked by people whothink false exposure is a solution to all their problems when in reality theyare the reason behind many of the issues our society is facing today.In conclusion, it is obvious mediarepresentation of Islam has changed drastically throughout the years. It isreally important to see how much media depiction has changed the public opinionof Islam. A majority of our society has mixed signals about Muslims andperceive them as “foreign” and “alienated”, when in reality they are justeveryday people.
The media puts out a message that makes Islam seem like athreat to Western culture, from exploiting the many crimes that are committedby distraught “Muslims” to victimizing the Muslim women. There is a systematicbias in the way terrorism is covered.