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. Society is forced to see theevils that are actually prohibited in the religion and rarely highlights thepositives Islam has to offer. It is safe to say the media has a small focus onthe upper-hand of what Muslims do within the Western society.
This allows amajority 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 by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda on the United States.The war on terrorism put Islam front and center in the media, and not in a goodlight. The portrayal of Islamic ideologies in Western media for the most partvillainizes all Muslims as terrorist. What the media fails to mention is thatMuslims do not support any of these known terrorist groups, considering thekilling of innocent lives is prohibited in their religion. Islam being known asa violent religion in actuality causes more chaos and begins to lead people to Islamophobia.
The media’s portrayal of the religion 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”). The New York Times following with city officials labeledthe incident 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. Two Journalistsfrom the New York Times got the chance to interview two Muslim Americans ontheir opinions regarding the matter and how it was portrayed by the media.
Dalia Mogahed, the research director at theInstitute for Social Policy, was highly concerned about the media nothighlighting what truly mattered to society and biasing towards an entirecommunity. 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.
Sadly, all the pinpointingand media influence eventually leads to hate crimes also known as “Islamophobia”.Acts of Islamophobia can include physical attacks, verbal abuses, anti-Islamicremarks in speeches and statements and discrimination or bias in varioussectors such as workplace, school, and public places. Violence against Muslimsor verbal abuses are the core consequences of Islamophobia. Muslims areprecluded from taking part in everyday social interaction which for most otherpeople is largely or entirely unproblematic.
A recent poll that was taken byUSA Today Gallup had asked a group of people whether it would bother themhaving Muslims as neighbors or not. The polls showed that 22% of people wouldnot like living next to a Muslim. What people fail to realize is that Muslimsare everyday people just like them, there are approximately 3.3million Muslims living in the U.S. today. If the religion really was a violentone, 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 “typicallystereotypical and negative.” The report claims, “In the past 30 years of thousandsof TV show series, there have been less than 10 characters who have been Arab-Americans.”It is not fair for Muslims to be considered a part of society and not betreated as a part of it. When they are included in media such as movies and TVshows, the roles are usually offensive to the Muslim community. An examplewould be one of my favorite movies, AmericanSniper.
This movie was full of anti-Muslim sentiment and the content made peoplewant to grow strong hatred for Muslims. American Sniper is a film about a soldier who considered Iraqi’sas savages and demonized the entire Iraqi population including the children. Themedia would go a long way just for entertainment purposes, not considering howit would affect the group of people being victimized. Within the Islamiccommunity, Muslim women are also a big target in media.
There are three commonways the media portrays Muslim women; appearance overload, always the victim,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 Muslim women are not held against their will, but volunteer tofollow Allah’s laws. It is not just Islam women who practice wearing a headscarf, there are many other religions too. Victimizing Muslim women is seen allaround the U.
S. Most of the population that does not know much about theculture believe Islam is a male-dominated culture/religion because of womenhaving to cover up. It is true Muslim women do not have the same rights as theMuslim men, they actually have more. Islam led the world with women’s rights andironically gave women their basics rights centuries before the West did. The religionin no way wants to belittle the women of their community, the media fails tobelieve that and puts out false information about Muslim women being treatedunfairly. The media has led many people to believe women are often beaten ifconsidered “indecent” and very often involved with domestic violence. Any typeof violence is prohibited in the religion, therefore it is sin for a man toeven think about hurting a women.