Stereotyping of Muslims in America after 9/11
Imagine this perfectly normal scenario. You are taking a trip to fly abroad or within your home country. What does it entail for you? Packing, reaching the airport on time, getting through the regular security lines and boarding your flight of destination. For me, it’s quite different. I arrive at the airport earlier than most others so that I can avoid the extra screening security checks I get. They call it random security checks but I am always chosen at every screening. I make sure I have no jewelry or metal on me so the buzzer at the security post doesn’t go off but nevertheless I get pulled aside to be screened personally. In one instance I was detained at the airport for over 10 hours because I flew in from a Middle Eastern country. I have lost count of the number of times airport officials carry name checks on me when I hand them my travel documents, just because I have a common Muslim last name. Neither can I recall how many times my luggage has been scrutinized both via machines and manually. I feel that being a Muslim in the United States is a liability. My paper discusses the common stereotype of Muslims and people with a Middle Eastern background in the US, the role media plays in developing this stereotype and what its consequences are, how stereotyping and racial profiling lead to racial prejudice.
The common stereotype of Muslims and people with a Middle Eastern background in America is that of oil exporters and/or potential terrorists. Muslim men are usually viewed as violent and their women as submissive. The media which is at the forefront of creating such negative stereotypes often uses the word Arab (an individual from the Middle East) interchangeably with the word Muslim so much so that Arabs and Muslim Americans are both victims of prejudice and racial profiling in America. An internet source (http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/sfischo/Arabs.html) describes how such interchangeability in the two words neglects the fact that these Arab individuals are from different countries with different cultures, beliefs and even a variety of religions besides Islam (the religion of Muslims). The usage of the two words interchangeably “reduces the individuals and countries to a distinct target, open to stereotypes and bias." (http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/sfischo/Arabs.html)
The first question to be asked then is, why media should be recognized as the reason why people stereotype? News channels, newspapers and magazines are usually the source of information about events occurring within the United States and abroad. People make irrational judgments on a person or groups of people especially when they can be identified in one common way as depicted by media. After 9/11 media did not hold back in narrowing their focus on all Arabs and anyone with a Middle Eastern background especially since they were also considered as Muslims. Media used words such as “extremists, terrorists and fanatics” to describe all Muslims.
According to “Fueling our Fears” (pg 39), “Visuals tend to trigger the strongest effects in news consumers.” Visuals make things reality even if they are just half the truth. Most of us believe things we see especially in the news whether in text or pictorially and make irrational judgments and build incorrect stereotypes. The Second question in context to this paper is: What images do media portray about American Muslims, Arabs and others of Middle Eastern descent and how does that translate into creating negative stereotypes? The word terrorist has almost become synonymous with the words Arab or Muslim. Anyone who seems to be of Middle Eastern or Arab background is shamefully categorized as a terrorist. For example a news article in washingtonpost.com quotes a statement by Frederick Cole, a welder In Roosevelt, Utah about Muslim Americans. He said, “If I was to go through an airport and I saw one out of the corner of my...