Taking the Negative: Islam and terrorism


When people think of Muslims many things come to mind: there are fanatical Muslims, Jihadist, Islamist, fundamentalist. We are lost in the  many shades of grey that each term applies. Muslims are often depicted as warlike barbaric, anti-democratic and socially backward. The image above will generally evoke negative  reactions. It will bring up terrorism and cowardly acts that hurt a nation and peaceful loving people around the world. But is that really the case

Edward Said and the 1980’s

Edward Said wrote an incredible book in the 80’s called Orientalism. While much work has done since its publication it still has many interesting messages.  But before I get into that I would like to  mention a quote from Said:

Despite the variety and the differences, and however much we proclaim the contrary, what the media produce is neither spontaneous nor completely “free:” “news” does not just happen, pictures and ideas do not merely spring from reality into our eyes and minds, truth is not directly available, we do not have unrestrained variety at our disposal. 

For like all modes of communication, television, radio, and newspapers observe certain rules and conventions to get things across intelligibly, and it is these, often more than the reality being conveyed, that shape the material delivered by the media. ”

Taking the Negative

So far as the United States seems to be concerned, it is only a slight overstatement to say that Moslems and Arabs are essentially seen as either oil suppliers or potential terrorists. Very little of the detail, the human density, the passion of Arab-Moslem life has entered the awareness of even those people whose profession it is to report the Arab world. What we have instead is a series of crude, essentialized caricatures of the Islamic world presented in such a way as to make that world vulnerable to military aggression.

-Edward Said

What Would happened if the News media used these pictures to depict muslims:

American Muslim Soldier
YouTube Co-Foudner Jawed Karim

A Misconception: All Muslims are Arabs

The common image of a Muslim is a turbaned dark Arab man with a long beard. However this image is part of the minority of Muslims. Arabs make only 15% of the world’s Muslim population. As a matter of fact the Middle East comes in third with East Asia coming in at first (69%) and Africa (27%) coming in at second. Another common misconception is that all Arabs are Muslims. While the vast majority of Arabs are Muslims (75%), there are many other religions that Arabs practice including Christianity and Judaism.

This is not a terrorist Rally

Pictured above is a conference of Muslims against Terrorism.

My question is to what extent is the media responsible for domestic crimes against minority group when they are a significant source of  the stereotypical image many Americans receive? Look at these words from the son of a Sikh murdered by the supremacist gun a few weeks back:

My 65-year-old father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, was shot five times, knife in hand, as he wrestled with a domestic terrorist in the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. The coward fled, leaving my father to pass away in a murmur of meditation. My father lived the American dream. Starting with only a couple bucks in his pocket, he worked hard and long to make a life for his family and his community, helping to build the Sikh temple where he was attacked.

….

On Aug. 5, the American dream was attacked. Immigrants, whether naturalized — like my father — or not, have been treated as a second class for far too long. Mexican-American and Muslim immigrants shoulder the brunt of this sentiment. Yet all people who are not Caucasian and Christian most likely have felt this disregard, including African-Americans, brought to this country against their own free will. Conservatives who are anti-immigration add to the poison by denigrating foreigners more and more often.

It is a sad and backward situation because immigrants are the lifeblood of this country, as John F. Kennedy wrote so eloquently in his book, “A Nation of Immigrants.”

One thing that was heart breaking for me about this tragedy was that to say it plainly:

Sikhs are not Muslims but apparently have been targeted because the men wear turbans.

That’s like shooting a kid wearing a hoodie and eating skittles because thugs who had committed crime before wore similar …… oh excuse me.  I think it is easy to incite a people towards violence and bigotry with irresponsible sensationalistic  reporting that does really give a a complete story. There are many decent American Muslims and peace loving Muslims around the world. But we are not shown them, instead we meditate on the violent ones on that percentage of radicals who  many a time American foreign policy and European Imperialistic propensities helped create.

Anyways just some thoughts leave your own thoughts and comments below

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2 comments

  1. There’s a very huge Muslim base in my country which follows that Muslims are scattered everywhere here. The truth is most of them, especially those living in the city capital, are just like us, sans the costume.
    But the mere fact that they are a bunch here makes it difficult for us filipino citizens to easily go anywhere in the world without having to go through a lot of red tape. As if all of us are always on the move to secretly plant bombs throughout the planet.

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  2. As much as I agree with everything you posted, it is unrealistic to expect the news will concentrate on the average, or the pleasant. Hence anything extreme gets most attention.

    Added to that, we just *love* being in a slight state of panic – so any trends that media can pick up on – or manufacture – will naturally play into those tendencies.

    Wish it was different, but.

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