New Media Project: The Portrayals of Violence and the Encouragement of Negative Stereotypes of Muslims in the Media

Posted on December 14, 2013 by


For hundreds of years, the West has viewed Islamic tradition as being violent and irrational. The stereotype of Islam has gone on for too long. As a child I grew up watching the news with my parents and hearing about our country’s presence in the Middle East. I remember hearing one story in particular where a news reporter commented on the living conditions of Iraqi families, and I thought to myself: there are families living in Iraq? There are indeed families living in Iraq, yet all I had ever heard from the media was of bombings and the deaths of soldiers. The Western population often times focuses on “homeland” news outlet material, presenting followers of Muhammad to be irrational while wrongfully associating radical actions with Islam.

Western news outlets are disinclined to post educational stories about the true nature of Islam due to lack of interest by the general public. To sell magazine subscriptions and make televised news interesting, the media reports on the more violent events happening in the Middle East. Death tolls are a common statistic among reports from the Middle East. Many of the stories which make their way from Middle Eastern countries into the homes of Westerners do not accurately portray all Muslims. Suicide bombings and other reports of violence in countries with high concentrations of Muslims have littered the headlines through different forms of Western media for over a decade. This breeds false opinions of Muslims and their religious views. Stereotyping by the West is caused by interpretation of Islam as a religion of war. This is what we come to know as Jihad, but jihad is more than an outer struggle to spread Islam. The more important side is that of inner jihad, the spiritual struggle within oneself.

Violence by Muslims is caused by interpretation of scripture and rhetoric by certain interpreters. In turn, the violence is fueled by the projection of extremist actions and beliefs onto the entire Muslim population by the misinterpretations of media sources. The majority of Muslims nowadays take the context of the Qur’an’s verses into account and believe that the meaning behind Muhammad’s words are subject to change. There are other, traditional Muslims, however, who take the verses literally and believe that the lessons which Muhammad spoke of apply to all times and situations. The latter of the two take the passage known as the sword verses at face value. Muhammad’s return to Mecca was influenced by these verses which told him to march on the city and kill the non-believers. Today, the non-believers are said to have been the polytheists who worshiped pagan gods within the Kaaba according to fundamentalist Muslims. Ignoring the meaning behind the Qur’an’s verses and stringently following the words of Muhammad which were given under a different context over a millennium ago are viewed by the majority of Muslims as an outdated form of interpretation.  

Islamophobia is bred by Western media’s portrayal of radical Muslims’ actions. Many westerners have bought into the misinterpretations of Muslims reported by news anchors and journalists alike. The West’s fetish for dark, macabre stories has influenced what gets published in the news. By aiming to make a pay check, Western media has poisoned many citizens’ opinions of Islam and its followers.

Article analyzed in first video:

Mitchell Prothero, In Syria, suicide bombings hold tactical role in rebel assaults, McClatchy DC, 11/09/13

Article analyzed in second video:

Mohammed Tawfeeq, Suicide bombing at outdoor market in Iraq; many casualties, CNN, 11/21/13

Article analyzed in third video:

Laila Bassam and Erika Solomon, Suicide bombings kill 23 near Iran embassy in Beirut, Reuters, 11/19/13

Connor Smith

Posted in: Islam