Attitudes of Ignorance

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Journalists Views: 8297

A Consequence of Media Portrayal of Islam and Muslims

A well functioning democracy requires an effective media that in the words of critic Eric Alterman focuses on the 'spinach' of hard news and not the 'candy' of sensationalism. From reluctance to critically question WMD assertions prior to Iraq War to obsession over covering celebrity trials, all points to a media that has discarded its traditional role of a watchdog in favor of an ill defined goal of infotainment. 

This apparent change in philosophy has not resulted in any major gains. Despite growth in US population, newspaper circulation remains flat and audiences for news dwindling. A study by Harvard University reports 58 percent of people perceive news as sensational, 84 percent as depressing, 42 percent as misleading, and 47 percent as biased. 

Perhaps the most egregious of these failures is the media's coverage of Islam or Muslims. A search of past newspaper articles shows that terrorism, militancy or extremism by a Muslim is frequently linked to his faith. The association is 1000 to 1 times more likely for Muslims than any other faith group. This lopsided association is troubling given the fact that that all religions, not just Islam, have in the recent past fallen prey to misinterpretation by a radical fringe. Certainly the ills of a misguided minority do not justify the victimization of the peaceful majority. The consequences of such imprudent associations are often overlooked. 

In 1999 Wall Street Journal ran a story on the ongoing struggle for democratic reform in Iran. The article suggested that the struggle in Iran is between, 'Islamic clerics and secular reformers.' The struggle for reform was and is still being lead by a cleric, current Iranian President Khatami. A reader later pointed out that a Muslim does not have to be 'secular' to believe in the universal values of social justice and human dignity. 

The 9/11 Commission reported with alarming alacrity that 'Islamist terrorism' is the greatest threat posed to the United States. A University of Washington professor of Islamic studies Brannon Wheeler now questions why the commission did not use any Islamic scholar to 'explain Islam, Muslim religious activism or bin Laden.' Journalists in expected their watchdog role should have been more diligent, asking the commission to explain 'Islamist' instead of leaving its meaning open to the imagination of uninformed readers. 

Another recent headline stated, 'Saudi security forces kill Islamic militants.' Perhaps a better choice would have been 'Islamic forces kill Saudi militants.' After all Saudi Arabia is a self-described Islamic country whose security forces are 'Islamic' and the militants unmistakably Saudi. 

On August 5 three stories came across AP news wires - the arrest in a sting operation of two Muslims, the arrest of a man who allegedly had plans to bomb a federal building, and FBI raid on a home investigating anthrax. Guess which story made your headline news? 

Such repetitive slant in media coverage builds an environment in which bigotry fosters. It is thus not surprising that radio and television talk shows are resplendent with both caller and host assertions that Muslims have either not condemned terrorism or have only six degrees of separation from it. A Pew Forum survey shows that 44 percent of Americans believe Islam encourages violence and 49 percent believe one in two Muslims to be anti-American. Neither public opinion reflects reality. 

Anouar Majid of University of New England in his book 'Unveiling Traditions' writes that such bias is reflective of an intrinsic Eurocentric worldview that needs change as 'a progressive multicultural world of linked, but irreducible cultural singularities, has become a historic necessity.' 

Media organizations will have to reawaken to the principle of unlimited interrogation, which begins by understanding the limitations of the prevailing Eurocentrism and its consequent Orientalism - understood as attitude that views non-western ideas and culture as inferior. Mainstream Muslim scholars and activists must be given airtime and print space to dispel the stereotypes that dog them. Not doing so imperils our liberal democracy where journalists have the sacred duty to improve civic dialogue. 

Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiment pointed out that human communities be bound together by agreeable bonds of affection and be drawn to one common center of mutual good. Today technology necessitates that we view the human community as extending beyond our national boundaries. Islam and West are not two exclusive poles but are part of an integrated whole in a polycentric world.

Parvez Ahmed, Ph.D. ([email protected]), is a board member for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, (CAIR). CAIR is headquartered in Washington D.C., has 28 offices nationwide and is America's largest Muslim civil liberties advocacy group.

Source: CommonDreams

  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Journalists
Views: 8297

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Older Comments:

I would love to get a look at your source data. What study or sample do you get your "Over 80% of Saudis believe Osama Bin Laden is justified and a good man." or "The fact is the vast majority of Muslims either aid terrorism, condone terrorism, excuse terrorism, or fundementally agree to it's value but do not pro-actively get involved in it." Where did you get these facts? Is this another example of "everybody knows" statistics.
How 'bout this: "Everybody knows" that Islam was spread at the point of the sword...Just ask King Phillip of Spain. You remember King Phillip, he was the author of the spanish inquisition that burned, tortured and executed large numbers of non-catholics, and exiled the survivors to refugee camps in northern africa. "everybody knows" that muslims are bloodthirsty savages...Just ask Pope Urbane, the author of the Crusades. He was the guy that formally absolved knights of the violation of the commandments in exchange for conquering the Holy Land.
The historical facts don't support your hypothisis. I realize that won't bother you much, as you are probably deeply ingrossed in the Fox News (?) channel and have coalesed your black vs white, us vs them, good vs evil mindset into concrete.
I feel sorry for you.

L Alahem

Some western countries have crossed way beyond the limits of ignorance,tolerance,arrogance. GOD the superpower and Almighty can only take care of this.Aameen.

There cannot be a radical/fanatic/moderate religion whether it is Islam, christianity, or judaism. Religion is Religion,Islam is Islam, God is GOD. period. There is no fanatic-moderate radical GOD. GOD is only one and the same one GOD was worshipped by ADAM to MUHAMMAD including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus( prophets and messengers-pbut).

There is no DOUBT, this is a clear crusade or war against Islam and muslims.

how can the west claim to fight a war on terror, when they themselves committed acts that can be consider terror, a criminal cant say he is going to go and fight crime.. such hypocrites to say least. history has shown the west involvement in colonisim, aggrissive actions by cia and now these neocrusaders want defame the religion of allah swt.. mike you will see the reality of everything on day of judgement

I certainly agree that a well functioning democracy needs a free press and a questioning citizenry. I also agree that the media has a Eurocentric view, just as Aljazeera may necessarily have a Mid-eastern view. I disagree, however, that the root of the misunderstanding between what is Islamist, what is Muslim, what is terrorist, what is secularist, and what is fundamentalist is primarily a problem of the media. The root of the confusion is the diversity within the Muslim world and the fact that statements made in the media may be true for one branch may not apply at all for another.

The problem also stems from the confusion of all parties as to what is religion and what is politics. It was not the media that forced young Muslims to strap bombs to their chests and blow themselves to Allah. It was not the media (Western that is) that brought extremists from all over the Muslim world to create the havoc in Iraq that is so frequently on this website is blamed on the US. When the Muslim world can't figure out whether their leaders are asking them to be devout Muslims or whether they are being used as pawns in politics, then how is a US public going to figure it out, whether through CNN or Aljazeera?

The fact that the Muslim community, the Christian right, the Bush administration, the liberal left, and yes the Zionists all believe they are misrepresented in the press is probably indicative that we have a free and balanced press. We as citizens need to seek and demand the truth from as many sources as possible. That is why I am here. I appreciate the need for Dr. Ahmed's work for Islamic civil liberties, although I suspect he would be more successful if his efforts were directed toward the fundamentalists who profess his religion and who also vow destruction to the country he lives. I look forward to the day I can look at my Muslim neighbor as a fellow American and not harbor the fleeting thought that he might be part of a sleeper cell.


I'm sorry, sisters and brothers. But if IslamiCity posts a link to another "point of view" insisting that what many perceive to be colonialist, economic beach-heads (for example, Radisson, Hyatt, Days Inn and KFC franchises) were attacked by Anglo-American-Zionist conspirators then in my view Mike was practically invited to provoke "vitriolic responses" at Considering how touchy Zionists are about divestment, why would they try to frighten off the sponsors of economic colonialism? How could such attacks be expected to do otherwise? No offense but I thought the Muslim was encouraged to reflect upon the circumstances of this or that community's misfortune.

For whatever my view might be worth, I personally don't view Islam as being exclusively a religion of peace. Rather, in my view, an honest-to-goodness state of peace is one of the most important objectives, for those who would embrace Islam. Thanks for listening, and I'll get off my high horse now (insha'Allah).


In a July 18, 2005 issue of the American Conservative, Scott McConnell interview
Associate Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, whose book on suicide terrorism: Dying to Win, is beginning to receive wide notice. The excerpts may dispel some of the myths:

Pape has "found that the most common American perceptions about who the terrorists are and what motivates them are off by a wide margin. The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion but by a clear strategic objective: to compel occupiers to withdraw military forces from the territory that they view as their homeland. In other words: IT'S THE OCCUPATION AND NOT THE SO-CALLED RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM that is the driving force that propel such acts.

From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank and Iraq (including forces in Saudi Arabia) - every major insurgency or the suicide-terrorist campaign--over 95 percent of all the incidents--has had as its central objective to compel an occupier to withdraw".


TYPICAL: I don't see any Muslims sitting next to white house to protest against violence in name of Islam.
NOT TYPICAL: Yeah! Right if one thousand Muslim try to get together for protest they will be arrested as "common sense implies" or tagged for next wave of deportations for causing unrest. Will this make it to the media and people like Mike and Tom. I don't think so. The news will be that one thousand Muslims with potential ties with Al-Qeada try to take over white house with anti violence slogans. In everyone mind "Al-Qeada" and "take over white house" as well as "Muslims" will just get stick not that it was against violence in their name.
If all Muslims are one way or another terrorist then same ratio in whites west are Nazi as well. This will definitely upset a lot of people in west as media will do that for them but Muslims should take all the smack out their without saying anything. If you will say it should be only to ask for forgiveness from your masters not to complain.
What a nice world we are living in

Islam still refuses to do anything about the militants. They number in the thousands killing innocent people all over the earth in the name of Allah. The Sudan is the most recent with tens of thousand non-Muslim and Christians murdered and made homeless while so called moderate Muslimns did nothing. No other relion the last thirty years has this much death and misery attirbuted to it. If there is a peace loving majority Muslim population it is past time to act. Stop protecting,educating,funding these global killers.


You are proof of what the writer is trying to convey. Arrogant. I want to know following:

Who drops bombs enmasse on innocent civilians? Muslims or USA?

Who has more than 100 military camps in the world? if you have such a wonderful system, why is the need to promote it thro the burrel of a gun?

Who bullies and terrorises weaker nations? Who interferes in other countries' internal affairs, who forces their ways into other cultures? Who does not give a tuppence for World Organisations/Human Rights/World Criminal Court?

Tell me how did Najaf harm you? What did you know about Sadr? How did Iraqis have a hand in 911? Why did the US warned civilians in Najaf to evacuate their homes? what right do you have over these people? You are just an invading butcher of an army. A terrorist. And when anyone stands up to you, in their own way, you just don't like it mate. You think you have the right to slap others in the face and they just shud take it lying down or be grateful for your democracy? Such is your logic of pure arrogance.

How come you help pay for butcher Sharon whilst knowing full well that he steals Palestinian lands, shoots their youth in the head and heart, bombs their homes with your F6's and razes their homes with your bulldozers whilst people are still sleep there? Who gives Israel all the money to carry out its atrocious acts against innocent and helpless civilians.

A reasonable person looking in would agree that all above all vile acts of terrorism in the extreme? Yet, funny how you don't see it that way. If 1.3 billion Muslims were terrorists, your whole country would be in a blaze by now, but your media plays to the Zionist's tune. In fact your whole system of governance is Zionist infested. Scratch any surface and you will find Israel involved. Take it as a challenge - go do your homework, instead of blidnly relying on lies your media tells you. Don't add ignorance to your arrogance.

the media is blamed for not including "moderate" muslims who denounce violence, yet i hear no muslims lining up to protest the "jewish media" and demand their chance to denounce the militants. guys like mike are convinced all muslims are pro-violence. why? why, as
mr. harrington said, are all of Islams borders bloody? the "western" press is accused of being "sensationalist", what would be more sensational than the whole rainbow of religions standing together to denounce violent
solutions to the worlds problems.
there is one God, but his house has many doors,
how many dead will it take until we realize it?
we break God's heart every day. may He have mercy on us.

It's true that media uses specific words and ideas about islam. The worst thing is that it makes people more and more confuse and bias. The media introduces islam by some scholar of their's who just knows that meaning of islam is "jihad". Why dosen't the media bring a genuine person on a highly-rated channel who can explain what is really going on and bring them frequently. But in reality it is the oposite. "Osama pledges to kill millions of americans (God forbid) but millions of muslims are dying (funny isn't it).

Islam is a peacefull religion and in order to keep peace muslims have to defend themselves and stop getting mingled in this eurocentric views of the media.This is a religious war hiding behind a burner of the so called "westerdom" .If the west was a true christian nation they would be no confusion about Islam and Muslims.If muslims don't fight in the countries they are Terrorised by the west then they will suffer,killed,raped and damped.

Hey Mikey...More than 80 percent of Muslims in the world are not Saudi Arabian nationals, stop talking garbage's people like you who cause problems between religions. You don't even know the definition of terrorism. You call everything terrorism if it doesn't fit the mould you have made out of your life. That is quite obvious to anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, who reads the arrogant, unjustified, unqualified comments of yours Mike.

Sorry Dr Parvez Ahmed, but do you expect the giant western media corporations held by the "jews" to understand the principle of fairness in reporting or informing for that matter, the world population? No Sir. They had their plans well nortured and about to yield fruits now( so they see) there is no amount of appeal to their concience that will change the status quo. I learnt that Al-jazeera has been sent out of Iraq, even so what is happening in Najaf now is only going to be seen/heard as the occupiers deem.

Two things to do;
-Let the muslim world stop subscribing or patronising thes media.

-We continue to stop or disrupt oil supply to to the so called "oil market" by all means.

The most rediculous comment in this article is calling Islam a peaceful majority. Peaceful minority maybe. Over 80% of Saudis believe Osama Bin Laden is justified and a good man. Someone who pledges to kill millions of American civilians a good Muslim. The fact is the vast majority of Muslims either aid terrorism, condone terrorism, excuse terrorism, or fundementally agree to it's value but do not pro-actively get involved in it. That is not a peaceful majority, you're diluting yourselves. I can't wait t hear all f the vitriolic responses that will just prove my point, if they publish this that is.