Throughout the semester and during the past year, the rise of ISIS, and the way westerners are beginning to view Islam have been anywhere from blaming the religion for such a brutal regime, to claiming Islam is the answer for their downfall. Taking a look at numerous articles, blogs, and news stories on the subject, one can see a variety of ideas, and thoughts on the subject. In a report titled, Islamophobia in America on the Rise, Poll Shows, by Taylor Wofford, written in Newsweek, it is clear that public opinion in America towards those from the Middle East as well as Muslims in general has dropped over the past five years. People are increasingly viewing the religion and those who follow it as bad news. Wofford writes, “Since we first began our polling on American attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims in 2010, there has been continued erosion in the favorable ratings given to both communities, posing a threat to the rights of Arab Americans and American Muslims. Favorable attitudes have continued to decline – from 43% in 2010 to 32% in 2014 for Arabs; and from 35% in 2010 to 27% in 2014 for Muslims” (n.p.). This leads one to ask why these attitudes may be shifting. Obviously, in a Christian dominated society it is a little hard to understand the teachings, and the meaning of Islam. In the Middle East, it is the norm to grow up, socialize with, and be a part of Muslim tradition. Here in the west, we often times go through life without coming even remotely close to a true understanding of this religion or its people because they are a minority within our society. This leads us to look to other sources in order to form opinions on the religion and people who follow it, which can be both good and bad. With the war in the Middle East, Islamic extremism, and news reporting that has been continuously anti-Middle East, and anti-Muslim, it is no surprise that public opinion has gone down.
Mohammad Fadel wrote a piece in The Islamic Monthly titled, ISIS, Islamophobia and the End of Sunnism, where he denounces a couple famous Americans for making anti-Islamic remarks publicly. He wrote, “…the position advocated by Harris and Maher is dangerous insofar as it threatens to stereotype, marginalize and even dehumanize almost a fifth of humanity” (n.p.). What he is saying doesn’t just pertain to what Sam Harris and Bill Maher have said about the subject, it applies to all the sources of media that have continuously bashed the religion as a whole. A lot of the time articles written in newspapers, and headlines you see on a show such as FOX NEWS can lead one to believe that Islam is the culprit for this extremism. We often times associate the bad apples with the tree itself. Cinnamon Stilwell, an author for Frontpage Mag, wrote an article called, Profs Blame ISIS on ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘Grievances’, in which he says, “Disregarding ISIS’s adherance to Quranic literalism, Esposito declared: I do not think that this is a very Islamic vision at all. . . . Theirs is a kind of religion that is extraordinarily full of violence and abuse that is not in accordance with the Quran, the traditions of the Prophet or even with Islamic Law” (n.p.). It is easy to tell in this article that the author is disagreeing with the idea that Islamophobia exists, saying things like ISIS adheres to Quranic literalism, and it is self-defeating to deny the Islamic basis for its behavior. This author is basically blaming the religion itself for the rise of ISIS and claims that Islam is to blame for the atrocities they are committing.
In light of all the views showing up in the media condemning Islam, and placing indirect, if not direct, blame for ISIS on the religion itself, there are plenty of views out there that claim Islam is the answer for defeating ISIS. In a blog written by Salam Al Marayati titled, The Key to Defeating ISIS Is Islam, Marayati writes, “This is the message we as American Muslims can convey to Muslims worldwide in isolating ISIS: it is based on the Islamic theology of life against cults of death. It is also founded in the Quranic tradition of advancing civilization, not destroying it” (n.p.). It is in his opinion that ISIS does not follow the teachings of the Qur’an. However, it is all too often that opinion such as this are ignored in mainstream media. This has lead to a sizable shift in public opinion concerning Muslims, and must be addressed in order to keep peace, and understanding between two different types of people.
In every article cited for this paper the same word seems to come up. This word is Islamophobia, which is a phenomenon that is taking place in America today. Too often do we tend to distrust things we do not understand, and too often do we use the media in order to form our own opinions on a subject. When it comes to the religion of Islam, we have deeply done a disservice to the religion as a whole and all those who follow it by blaming them for the rise in extremism. It is clear that only a small portion of people who follow this religion agree with the principles ISIS has established, but the average American may not know this basing their ideas off of media that is increasingly biased against the religion. This can have increasingly negative effects on Muslims living in the US, as well as our relations with Muslim nations worldwide.
It is within a field of misinformation and misunderstanding that American media has handled its coverage of ISIS, and extremism in general. The media has created fear, and with it, public opinion of Muslims has dropped. Fortunately, it is still not too late to turn things around. With understanding comes less fear, and with less fear the American people can begin to accept people who follow beliefs different than their own. The Muslim world is against ISIS just as much as we are, but the media tends to portray a different story.
Fadel, M. (2015, Jan 10). ISIS, Islamophobia and the End of Sunnism. The Islamic Monthly, 5. Retrieved from http://theislamicmonthly.com/isis-islamophobia-and-the-end-of-sunnism.
Marayati, S. (2014, Sep 18). The Key to Defeating ISIS is Islam. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from
Stillwell, C. (2014, Nov 25). Profs Blame ISIS on ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘Grievances’. Retrieved from http://www.frontpagemag.com.
Wofford, T. (2014, July 31). Islamophobia in America on the Rise, Poll Shows. Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/islamophobia-america-rise-poll-shows-262478