In negative portrayal of Muslim women in the

In today’s society, there are many ways Islam is portrayed by the
media. Being a religion of peace, it sure is not taken as one. The media only
covers the news that has an overall emotional impact, such as fear, which is
mostly and coincidentally caused by small extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda and
Isis. When the Muslim community tries to do something good to counteract the
negative image of the religion and its followers, the media does not seem
passionate about the coverage and thus Islam is portrayed negatively. The
influence of media has increased Islamophobia (fear or hatred of
Islam/Muslims), racial profiling, and increased hate crimes towards innocent
Muslims, all because of a small extremist group. The media’s negative portrayal of Muslim women in the middle
east also has an effect to the public’s view of Islam as a misogynistic
religion. Society
is forced to see the evils that are actually prohibited in the religion and
rarely highlights the positives Islam has to offer. It is safe to say the media
has a small focus on the upper-hand of what Muslims do within the Western
society. This allows a majority of our society to assume Muslims are all terrorist.

            Islam has always
been seen in the West as violent, barbaric, anti-democratic, anti-human, and
anti-rational. In recent years studies have repeatedly found media coverage of
Islam and Muslims to be biased. Coverage increased after September 11, the time
of the attacks on The World Trade Center 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 good light. The portrayal of Islamic ideologies in
Western media for the most part villainizes all Muslims as terrorist. What the
media fails to mention is that Muslims do not support any of these known
terrorist groups, considering the killing of innocent lives is prohibited in the
religion. Islam being known as a 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.

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            Recently there
was an incident that occurred in lower Manhattan where a driver plowed a pickup
truck down a crowded sidewalk, killing eight people. After had doing this, the
driver crashed into a school bus jumping out and yelling “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic
for “God is great”), according to a 12-year-old student who had just left a
nearby school. The New York Times following with city officials labeled the
incident as a “terror attack”. The terrorist by the name of Mr. Saipov was
immigrating to the United States from Uzbekistan and although he was already on
the radar of federal authorities this was his first official terror act. Both
his actions and racial background led people to believe his acts were acts of
terror by the religion of Islam. This type of action to people unaware of the
true meaning would be labeled as “jihad”. Jihad is an Arabic word that means
struggling or striving, often misinterpreted as a violent concept. The actions
of those who commit horrible crimes to innocent people are not considered
Muslims, the Quran bans any type of harm.

            Two Journalists
from the New York Times got the chance to interview two Muslim Americans
on their opinions regarding the matter and how it was portrayed by the media. Dalia Mogahed, the research
director at the Institute for Social Policy, was highly concerned about the
media not highlighting what truly mattered to society and biasing towards an
entire community. She states, “my concern isn’t that this gets called a terrorist attack I think
it probably was if he was making claims of being inspired by Isis, but it’s the
fact that we want to blame the wrong thing rather than looking at what
undercuts all mask violence, what undercuts all ideological motivated violence
no matter what kind of ideology it is. What we’re looking at is things like
alienation, we’re looking at things like mental illness, poor control of having
people have access to weapons, etc. When we aren’t looking at the factors, we
instead jump into scapegoating a community, we aren’t going to solve the
problem.” Dalia makes a really good point about the media not focusing on the
problem and how to fix it but rather trying to pinpoint who is at fault for it.
As Muslim, it really hurts to think society is out to get a religion because of
a few incidents committed by incredibly sick people.

            Sadly, all the
pinpointing and media influence eventually leads to hate crimes also known as
“Islamophobia”. Acts of Islamophobia can include physical attacks, verbal
abuses, anti-Islamic remarks in speeches and statements, and discrimination or
bias in various sectors such as workplace, school, and public places. Violence
against Muslims or verbal abuses are the core consequences of Islamophobia.
Muslims are precluded from taking part in everyday social interaction which for
most other people is largely or entirely unproblematic. A recent poll that was
taken by USA Today Gallup had asked a group of people whether it would bother
them having Muslims as neighbors or not. The polls showed that 22% of people
would not like living next to a Muslim. What people fail to realize is that
Muslims are everyday people just like them, there are approximately
3.3 million Muslims living in the U.S. today. If the religion really was a
violent one, it could have taken out the whole nation without any difficulty.

            There
have been many hate crimes committed over the years due to the media’s
influence. A Hindu man by the name of Sunando Sen, age 46, was pushed onto a
New York City subway and killed by an oncoming train. The women, Erika
Menendez, a 31-year-old women had selected her victim knowing he was either a
Muslim or Hindu. In her statement to the police she had said, “I pushed a
Muslim off the tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims.” Mr. Sen’s family had
gone 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 it
seems as if they want the followers of the religion to be attacked. There is no
justice coming from the killing of innocent people who have done nothing wrong,
nor is it a solution to the terror attacks.

            Another
hate crime that had done a significant amount of damage was in Toledo, Ohio. Randolph
Linn was convicted of lighting a prayer room on fire at an Islamic Center. His
reasoning was, “They (Muslims) would kill us if they got the chance.” Later on
Lynn went on to tell the judge that he committed his crime because Fox news and
Conservation talk radio had “riled him up” and had convinced him to believe
that “Muslims are terrorist.” Later the same day he drank 45 beers in seven
hours before heading to the Mosque. When Linn was asked whether he thought
Muslims 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 had
asked him if he knew any Muslims or even knew what Islam was he uttered no and
told him he only knew what he heard on Fox news and the radio. It is really sad
to think about how much the media has against a whole religion and does not
care about the consequences from what they make public.

            The
media can reach their audience from talk shows, newspapers/magazines, movies,
and cartoons. Fox News has had to retract many false claims about Muslims. They
are known for collecting information and creating a twisted ideological dialogue
with its audience about how to relate and interpret the Islamic world. There
are many other well-known sources that portray a poor image of Islam. Although
it is rare, there is some good the media sometimes have to offer. An example
could 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 Muslim
who prays five times a day and throughout a day and throughout the film we
learn he is a kind-hearted man despite him being a Muslim. None the less,
majority of the media has negative views on the religion.

            In
a recent report, based on surveys and interviews with media experts it was
claimed the portrayal of Arab and Muslim people in the Western media is
“typically stereotypical and negative.” The report claims, “In the past 30 years
of thousands of 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 be treated as a part of it. When they are included in media
such as movies and TV shows, the roles are usually offensive to the Muslim
community. An example would be one of my favorite movies, American Sniper. This movie was full of anti-Muslim sentiment and
the content made people want to grow strong hatred for Muslims. American
Sniper is a film about a soldier who
considered Iraqi’s as savages and demonized the entire Iraqi population
including the children. The media would go a long way just for entertainment
purposes, not considering how it would affect the group of people being
victimized.

            Within the
Islamic community, Muslim women are also a big target in media. There are three
common ways 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 some
of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment
except that which necessarily appears thereof and to wrap a portion of
their head-covers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to
their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their
husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons,
their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants
having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private
aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they
conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O
believers, 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 God
is always watching her, for that reason she would therefore dress modestly and
in line with God’s requirements for decency and morality. It is also to keep
them protected from the dangers and inappropriate thoughts of those who seek to
hurt women or think dirty about them. People fail to interpret the true meaning
of women having to cover up and begin to victimize them. They fail to
understand Muslim
women are not held against their will, but volunteer to follow Allah’s laws. It
is not just Islam women who practice wearing a head scarf, there are many other
religions too.

            Victimizing
Muslim women is seen all around the U.S. Most of the population that does not
know much about the culture believe Islam is a male-dominated culture/religion
because of women having to cover up. Western Muslim women are often presented
as either passive victims of male power imposed upon them. It is true
Muslim women do not have the same rights as the Muslim men, they actually have
more. Islam led the world with women’s rights and ironically gave women their
basics rights centuries before the West did. The religion in no way wants to
belittle the women of their community, the media fails to believe that and puts
out false information about Muslim women being treated unfairly. The media has
led many people to believe women are often beaten if considered “indecent” and
very often involved with domestic violence. Any type of violence is prohibited
in the religion, therefore it is sin for a man to even think about hurting a
women. The most common words that are used to describe Muslim women by
journalists and politicians are segregated, beaten, insults, veil, freedom, and
religion.

            The media’s intentions are also quite clear. There
are disturbing implications for the way Americans perceive Muslims thanks to
the media. A new research from Erin Kearns and some colleagues at George State
University studied the impact of the media and how much influence it has on
society to believe what they believe about Muslims. Kearns says, “When the perpetrator is Muslim, you can expect
that attack to receive about four and a half times more media coverage than if
the perpetrator was not Muslim.” Which is true! The media does not give as much
attention to crime committed by non-Muslims as much and even when they do the
perpetrator would have had to done something unspeakable. Usually in the news
you would hear of someone who committed a crime because they were either
mentally ill or unstable but when it comes to Muslims that is not even an assumption.
TV news continue to be
dominated by coverage of terrorist attacks and hostage images that appeal to
society wanting justice, creating more of a hatred for Muslims.

In another report it was
claimed, “In many cases, the press talks and writes about Muslims in ways
that would not be acceptable if the reference were to Jewish, black or
fundamentalist Christians.” The Western media fails to realize how bad of
an image their material creates for the normal Muslims in everyday life. There
are doctors, educators, parents, including community leaders and participants
just like everyone else. The ones that are out to get people are not like them
in any way. The media fails to mention that and instead labels all Muslims
terrorist. The report had interviewed around 2,420 people in the U.S. and the
feedback was disappointing. Nearly half the people said the TV documentaries
and news had a very strong influence on their views on Arab Americans or just
Muslims in general. The true image of Islam has been hijacked by people who
think false exposure is a solution to all their problems when in reality they
are the reason behind many of the issues our society is facing today.

In conclusion, it is obvious media
representation of Islam has changed drastically throughout the years. It is
really important to see how much media depiction has changed the public opinion
of Islam. A majority of our society has mixed signals about Muslims and
perceive them as “foreign” and “alienated”, when in reality they are just
everyday people. The media puts out a message that makes Islam seem like a
threat to Western culture, from exploiting the many crimes that are committed
by distraught “Muslims” to victimizing the Muslim women. There is a systematic
bias in the way terrorism is covered. 

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