(THROUGH THE EYES OF WESTERN MEDIA)
The worldwide Islamic revival of the 1970s and the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States have prompted many to predict that the two cultures are on a major collision course. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the West. Nevertheless, the West
has many stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam that are due to the media, prejudice, and ignorance. Islam is often looked upon as a "extremist", "terrorist", or "fundamental" religion. Many people hate Islam and do not want to acknowledge its true teachings. In many cases, the media's reports about Islam are incorrect due to ignorance. This is one of the reasons why the West often hates Islam. In contrast to what many Westerners think of Islam, Islam is a peaceful religion, which does not promote any forms of uncalled for fighting or "terrorist" actions. Today, the West, with little or no understanding of Islamic history, has identified
a new enemy, "a new demon that has replaced the Red menace of the Cold war, i.e., radical Islam" (Agha 6). This "radical Islam", a stereotype common to Western thought, portrays Muslims as fundamentalists or potential terrorists. Some of these ideas that the Western people have about Islam are due to the mass media of the West. Reporters who cover the Muslim world often know very little details about it. The media then develops a distorted image of Islam that Western culture adopts (Agha 2).
A major factor which contributes to Islamic stereotyping in the West is due to the media's ignorance of selecting their words that describe Muslims. Some common names heard or seen in the news about Muslims are "extremist" or "terrorist". These words are misleading and are mainly anti-Islamic. The media rarely uses more neutral terms such as "revivalist" or "progressives" (Hassan 2).
Just for political reasons, the US officials repeatedly claim that the issue is terrorism, not Islam. On the contrary, it's media, academia and political analysts never stop presenting Islam as the next "ism" and a replacement of the "Red Menace." Due to their untiring efforts, every time a terror strikes, non-Muslims and Muslims alike suspect an Islamic connection. According to Judith Miller, and Emory Bogle, the disclaimers abound, but a lingering suspicion about Muslims is getting permanently engraved in the general views of terrorism, even if other groups are identified as the main culprits for any particular incident. All we need is to settle the issue whether it is a systematic, pre-determined effort to somehow undermine Islam by presenting its followers as stubborn, insensitive, and terrorists, or such views expressed by Western specialists, and anti-Islam policies framed by the government officials, are just unlinked coincidences. The West views Islam as "fundamental" "extremist" or "discriminatory", but all of these terms have be manipulated, purposely because of biased feelings and accidentally because of ignorance, by the media to present a negative image about Islam. Islam is actually a peaceful and fair religion that most often does not correspond to the media's reports.
The vast majority of the American people are religiously ignorant and they feel they have no need to find out about the other countries and other religions. They rely on the selective information that is provided by the media. The fact that the American media feeds selective information to society is one of the biggest factors that have contributed to Americans' prejudices against Islam. The American media likes to tell us about the negative aspects of Islam. They portray the countries that embrace this religion in a negative way. For example, when the late Ayatollah Khomeini gave a fatwa against the British author, Salman Rushdie, more coverage was given on the fact that he placed a "hit" on this man than when the majority of Muslims and Muslim countries opposed...
Cited: Emerson, Steven. "The Other Fundamentalist". New Republic. June 12, 1995.
Greenblatt, A. (2003). Race in America. The CQ Researcher, 13, 593
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