The Unfortunate Portrayal of Islam in the Western Media

by HoudRank on April 2, 2015 - 4:30pm

      Let us take a minute to dream and fantasize about an ideal world where problems of race and religion simply do not exist. A world where neither holy books define us, nor skin color integrates or disintegrates us. We are just humans and only our actions define us. However, this dream cannot possibly last long, we live in the real world. Where religion and race are notions that many people experience conflict over. Mocking someone’s racial background never ends well. This is something sensitive, it is a connection deeply embedded with the idea of our own existence. One cannot simply ignore a racist comment; it hurts so bad that it often turns in court rooms or into physical fights. Same thing applies for religion; one cannot simply tolerate being discriminated because of their religion. These automatic factors that we are born with should not situate us and put us at neither an advantage nor a disadvantage.

      This post will be focusing on the representation of Islam in the western media. It will answer the question of whether the way Islam is portrayed in the media is ethical or not.

      To answer that question, I would like to start with a comparison between the Charlie Hebdo shooting and the Chapel Hill shooting. Both were devastating acts that saddened the communities of the victims and pained their friends and families. However, as much as the acts were similar, both cases were treated in completely different manners by the western and European media. The Charlie Hebdo shooting received enormous media coverage. Whereas for the Chapel Hill shootings, “Ten, twelve, and even fourteen hours after the attack, still no mention had been made of the shooting on some of the nation’s biggest news platforms.” (Harvardpolitics.com)

      To give a snippet of perspective, as a Middle Eastern living in North America, with friends from both Middle Eastern countries and from Canada, I opened my Facebook and saw the devastating posts about the Chapel Hill Shooting. Friends and families were mourning the victims and expressing their frustration about the incident. However, the part that dazed me is that not one friend from Canada had anything posted about the incident. Do not get me wrong for I am not blaming them or trying to point fingers at anyone. What I am saying is, where is the media? Why won’t they let the people know? Probably because the murderer is not a Muslim, therefore not a terrorist (according to mainstream media). Additionally, the man shot three bright, giving, and loved young souls who were obviously Muslims (the two women had the 'Hijab' on) in the head. And what did the media try to sell us? that it was a dispute over a parking spot. That act has even been classified as a hate crime yet. 

      Back to Charlie Hebdo and the amount of coverage it got from the media. Charlie Hebdo shootings was the highlight of the American news. Yes, Charlie Hebdo is located in Paris, France and yes, Chapel Hill is located in North Carolina, United States of America. Yet who got most attention from American news? the Paris incident simply because it deserves more attention since the shooters were Muslims. Additionally, looking at Instagram posts and checking which of the events got more attention, there were 1,214,131 posts with the hashtag #Jesuischarlie. Whereas for the Chapel Hill incident two hashtags were used, there were 37,415 under #Muslimlivesmatter and 72,975 under # Chapelhillshooting both combined they make up 110,390 that is almost 10% of the #Jesuischarlie. Again, I am not saying one act is worth more attention than the other, both make me sick to the stomach. I am just showing that when the villain is a Muslim, media lenses get magnified. 

      If the news media continues the same pattern that it practices right now, and Islam remains being presented as “the evil and oppressing religion”, then it is much feared that the average American will absorb subliminal prejudices and fears toward followers of Islam. Because ever since the 9/11 attacks, “this is the portrait of Islam that Americans have constantly been fed—Islam versus the West, barbarism versus civility, evil versus good.” (Harvardpolitics.com) But that is not Islam, the word Islam comes from the Arabic root word “salam” which means peace, purity, and submission to God. The media should not relate the actions that people do with their religion. For example, when a person of the Christian faith commits any type of criminal act, news media would not report it as: An American “Christian” man commits xyz. The act does not reflect the faith. “When Christians, Jews and other non-Muslims are killed by Muslims, Islam is identified as playing a direct role. When Muslims are killed by Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims, however, the religious identity of the violent perpetrators is downplayed or ignored.” (Aljazeera.com)

      To clarify, the first script that was revealed from the holy book of Islam, the Quran, was “Iqraa” meaning “Read”. Therefore, a huge focus of this religion is learning, experimenting, speaking and discussing matters of importance. Thus, why are we always bombarded with all the violent occasions that ignorant Muslims commit? It represents them, not their religion.

      To sum up, if you still have not noticed that the writer of this post is a Muslim and trying to separate people’s actions from their religion, then here it is, I am a Muslim. And I am truly disappointed with the way we are being presented in the media. If you want to learn more about this religion and what is really going on, talk to your neighbors, they might be of that faith. Ask a friend; they might also be of that faith. But do not allow the media to shape an image in your mind that does not represent the truth. It is everyone’s responsibility to demand the media outlets for more honest and neutral filtration because what is going on right now is undoubtedly unethical. Finally, the media should start leaning towards a more deontological way in presenting the news in order to fulfill its “true” purpose.

 

Works cited

http://harvardpolitics.com/world/portrayals-violence-abroad-dehumanization-home/

 

Comments

As someone who is not Muslim, the portrayal the western media has on the religion, frustrates me either way. I don't get offended often by things in the media, jokes or inappropriate comments towards my own religion or culture, usually does not phase me. However, when my media exploration class looked into the Charlie Hebdo incident, it was hard for me to completely defend the newspapers honour.

The media has played a huge roll in creating this public hatred and fear towards muslim extremists and the people of the religion in general, depicting them as violent and radical. However, if you actually look up some of Hebdo's cartoons, they are incredibly offensive.

I am obviously not making excuses for the men, murder is obviously never justified. I just think that the media needs to make a better effort at expressing both sides other than depicting the muslims as the irrational killers. The media and the public in general, is always quick to defend western victims of muslim extremists, but I think a more neutral approach needs to be enforced into our news outlets and over our mindsets as well. Maybe this will help to eradicate the stereotypes we have on muslims, and vice versa.

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