This work was written by the student for Siena Collge and was published in the School Journal.
The attacks of September 11, 2001 resulted in the destruction of the World Trade Center, the loss of countless innocent lives, and a war that has affected countries all over the world. What many overlook is that the attacks also gave the opportunity for the reputation of Islam and Muslims in America, and all over the globe, to be tarnished and destroyed. The aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001 includes a rise in what some sociologists call “Islamophobia,” which has been defined by some as “the fear or prejudiced viewpoint towards Islam, Muslims and matters pertaining to them.”1 Numerous cases of Islamophobia have been seen after the attacks of September 11, 2001, including the stereotyping of Muslims at airports and the prejudicial behavior against men and women wearing religious attire. A recent example is in the controversy over the building of the mosque at ground zero. Arguably, this psychological mindset existed even before 2001, but the rise of this issue in the last ten years can be attributed to two major causes:
the portrayal of Islam and Muslims in the media and the religious illiteracy of most Americans.
The General Effect of Media
It can be argued that with the lifestyle most Americans live today, the phrase “time is money” holds true for many. The advances in technology, including the creation of smart phones, wireless internet, and various other gadgets, have answered the demands for convenience and efficiency. These advancements, while being praised for allowing more accessibility to news and media, can at the same time be condemned for it due to the effects on public perception on topics such as Islam. The coverage and references of Islam and Muslims in the media post-September 11, 2001 has increased, as well as the amount of hate crimes.2 Through the use of powerful images, words, and a lack of context and background, the media has successfully tarnished the image of Islam. When most Americans watch news stories about Islam, they see images of bearded men carrying guns, bombs exploding in the streets of the Middle East, and headlines such as “radical Islam” or “Islamic militants.” Sheikh et al’s research on the Islamic image conducted even before September 11, 2001 showed that the articles on Islam “were mostly centered on crisis, conflicts and wars. Coverage of Islam was for the most part, international not domestic, and a clear majority of stories did not distinguish between the various branches of Islam.”3
Some experts believe that it is not just how and what the media presents, but who presents the information. Divya Sharma notes that “though Islam has been part of American society for over two hundred years, its analysis is built around violent acts by terrorism experts.”4 In other words, whether intentionally or not, many news channels have been picking experts who already have a negative view of Islam to provide analysis on the religion to the public, which has a profound effect on perception, whether the public knows it or not. Khalema and Wanna-Jones “found that media representations are frequently taken as facts, and since 9/11 attacks these representations have influenced public perception of Muslims in general.”5 This idea is directly supported by a survey conducted by Cornell University in 2004, which showed among other things “that people who paid more attention to television news were more likely to fear terrorist attacks and support limiting the rights of Muslim-Americans.”6 When citizens of a country are ready to limit the rights of their fellow citizens based on their religious status, one knows that a serious issue exists.
“In the next part, we will look into Islamic terminology and Media portrayal of Women in Islam”
- 1 Gema Martin-Munoz, “Unconscious Islamophobia,” Human Architecture 8, no. 2 (2010): 21.
- 2 Divya Sharma, “Why Do They Hate U.S.? Exploring the Role of Media in Cultural Communication,” Journal of the Institute of Justice and International studies no. 8 (2008): 246. 3.K. Sheikh, V. Price and H. Oshagan, “Press Treatment of Islam: What Kind of Picture do the Media Paint?,” Gazette 56, (1995): 139-54, quoted in Dina Ibrahim, “The Framing of Islam on Network News Following the September 11th Attacks,” The International Communication Gazette 72, no. 1 (2010): 113