Muslims in the Media: Extremists vs. Extreme Views

Posted on December 16, 2014 by

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Since 9/11 an alarming number of American’s have been wary, even afraid of anything Muslim. Whether it be passing a Muslim woman on the street wearing a traditional Burka, to meeting a nicely dressed company representative, if someone or something is known to be tied to anything Muslim, then it causes a general discomfort for most American’s. With 9/11 occurring more than 13 years ago, however, one would expect the general opinions of Muslims to be improving, but a poll taken in 2009 (1) shows that this is not the case. Eight years after the tragedy of 9/11, forty-six percent of people still have an unfavorable view of Muslims. This number, astonishingly, is five percent higher than the percentage of another poll taken in 2002, just one year after 9/11. Two years later, in 2011, Americans are still nervous around Muslims, stating that they would be uncomfortable if an elementary school teacher in their community was a Muslim (3). Now, in 2014, it is frightening to see that this irrational fear of Muslims is continuing to grow. People find every reason to be angry at or fearful of Muslims; they are either stealing our jobs, taking our homes, or creating fronts for their terrorist acts. Take a look at the Omaha ‘Tri-Faith’ Project (4) for example. Something that should be seen as a big step toward tolerance and acceptance arching between religions has been turned into a secret terrorist operation by many. But it is not only America who is uncomfortable with those who practice Islam, this uneducated, irrational fear of Muslims can be found in many countries throughout the world. For example, one article written by Imran Awan (2), details the growing fear and anger toward the Islamic faith in England. So, with 9/11 years behind us, one must ask the question: what is the driving factor behind this growing Islamophobia? The cause of the fear and discomfort is not only the event, but also the means by which we heard of this event: the media.

In his article, Awan highlights many instances where the media has not done a good job of representing Muslims. News stories that are biased and sensationalized do nothing to represent Muslims the way they should be represented, it only creates an “anti-Muslim narrative”. More unjust representation can be seen in stories and news reports centered around 9/11. In fact, a majority of anti-Muslim sentiment stems from the media’s inability to differentiate from Muslim extremists and your everyday typical Muslim. Awan reveals that a study found that “two-thirds of newspaper articles” covering 9/11 were focused on terrorism, and these papers used terms such as “radical” and “fanatical” to describe all Muslims when, for the large majority of Muslims, these terms are furthest from the truth. Lauren Booth was a Christian broadcaster before traveling to do stories on Islam and Muslims. In her article Muslims and Extremists: We’re not the Same! (5) she recounts some of the events and conversations that took place while she was working in these Islamic environments, sharing stories about the kindness and “Oneness of God” that caused her to adopt the religion as her own. She goes on to elaborate on the title of her article, sharing that more than eighty percent of the casualties due to Muslim extremist groups are other Muslims. An article (6) written by the CNN Wire Staff also discusses the Muslim population’s view of extremist groups such as al Qaeda, revealing that 71-98 percent of all Muslims interviewed had a poor view of extremist groups, while many others had a neutral view. In fact, an article written by Thomas Freidman (7) talks about how the extremist group ISIS is driving many young adult Muslims away from the Islamic religion. These extremist groups paint an ugly picture of the Islamic faith for Muslims all over the world, and many young people are being discouraged and pushed away from what they once held onto: their belief in the Muslim lifestyle. So, when it comes to the media reporting on Muslim extremism, Awan makes a good point when he states that, “whether it’s getting stories factually incorrect or describing Muslims as a security threat, there is clearly a backlash against Muslims online and offline with threatening comments that are both extremely inflammatory and promote Islamophobia”.

So with all of these stories and reports that promote Islamophobia, what is the outcome? The media, whether intentionally or inadvertently, has been adding fuel to the inferno that is Islamophobia, causing people all around the world to have a negative view of the Muslim world. But those fearful of Muslims are not the only people reached by the media. Muslims themselves are deeply affected by the anti-Muslim narrative that has taken hold of most of the world. In one article she wrote, Muslim author Sumbul Ali-Karamali (8) describes what it is like being part of a Muslim American community 11 years after 9/11. It is sad and frightening to know that, all over America, hate crimes against Muslims happen every day, that Anti-mosque incidents are rising, and that most American Muslims are more afraid of the non-Muslim community now than they were right after 9/11. The fear that has been instilled in many Americans due to how Muslims are represented in the media has led many of these people to fabricate “myths and tall tales” about what it is to be Muslim. As these myths grow more and more outlandish, the fear of anything Islam grows with it. Muslim Americans, as well as Muslims around the world, now live their lives trying to defend both their religion and themselves, but until something changes, whether it be how Muslims are represented in the media or how the Islamic faith is approached by the general public, I fear that we will never see an end to this Islamophobic age.

Written By Daniel Hangman

1)
Paul Stenhaser “Few Americans have Favorable View of Muslim World”
http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/06/02/us.muslims.poll/index.html?iref=allsearch
2)
Imran Awan, “‘The Muslims are coming!’ Why Islamophobia is so Dangerous”
http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/03/opinion/islamophobia-opinion/index.html?iref=allsearch
3)
Eric Marrapodi “Many Americans Uncomfortable with Muslims”
http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/06/poll-many-americans-uncomfortable-with-muslims/?iref=allsearch
4)
Joe Herring “Omaha ‘Tri-Faith’ Project has Links to Muslim Brotherhood”
http://dailycaller.com/2014/04/10/omaha-tri-faith-project-has-links-to-muslim-brotherhood/
5)
Lauren Booth “Muslims and Extremists – We’re not the Same!”
http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/08/opinion/booth-muslims-extremists/index.html?iref=allsearch
6)
CNN Wire Staff “Many Muslims in Mideast, Pakistan Have Poor View of Al Qaeda.”
http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/01/poll-many-muslims-in-mideast-pakistan-have-poor-view-of-al-qaeda/?iref=allsearch
7)
Thomas Freidman “”How ISIS Drives Muslims From Islam.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/07/opinion/sunday/thomas-l-friedman-how-isis-drives-muslims-from-islam.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3As%2C%7B%222%22%3A%22RI%3A15%22%7D&_r=2
8)
Sumbul Ali-Karamali ” American Muslims Live in Fear 11 Years after 9/11.”
http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/11/opinion-american-muslims-live-in-fear-11-years-after-911/?iref=allsearch

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