Why Do Media Commentators Get It So Wrong on Islam?

Category: Americas, Life & Society Topics: Islam, Media Channel: Opinion Views: 4280

A few days ago, controversial radio/TV host Glenn Beck, in a stunning display of ignorance (if not bigotry), picked a number out of his imagination and declared, without offering any proof, that ten percent of all Muslims (which means 150 million) are terrorists who want to overthrow the U.S. government. Beck is too smart to be that stupid! But, of course, he's smart enough to know he'll get lots of attention from his media and internet following. Beck's comments earlier this week are not the first time he and other major TV commentators have spun a tale that Muslims, as a group, want to destroy America. The cumulative effect of the confrontational rhetoric of Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Bill Maher, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and many others who hammer away at portraying Islam and Muslims as fundamentally different contributes to a popular culture in which seeing 1.5 billion Muslims as potential enemies has become embedded. Recent polls that show that as many as 45% of Americans believe that the state of conflict with Muslim societies is identity-based (specifically, rooted in either their religion or culture). But real verifiable data shows that this is dead wrong! A massive amount of polling data by Gallup, PEW, Zogby and others and research demonstrate that the primary drivers of violence and terrorism are political grievances -- not religion and culture. Why is this fact important? Because the recent Gallup study, "Measuring the State of Muslim-West Relations: 'Assessing the New Beginning,'" confirmed those that think the root cause of Muslim-West tensions is political are more likely to see it as avoidable. Those who see it as religious are more likely to believe it as unavoidable. Therefore, if the conflict is framed as "political," people are more likely to work to find a solution.

Based on survey research from 2006 to early 2010 in some 55 countries, the study also found that more than 6 in 10 Muslims said that the Muslim world respects the West, but about one-half said the West does not respect them. And they are right. In the U.S., 53 percent of the American public said the West does not respect the Muslim world. Does this mean an inevitable clash or is a solution? Majorities of Muslims expressed their deep concerns about this lack of respect but they also offered positive solutions: stop desecrating the Quran and religious symbols, treat Muslims fairly in the politics that affect them and portray Muslim characters accurately in popular media.

Although commentators contend that Muslims are driven by irrational hatred of Americans, in fact, majorities in Muslim countries both want better relations and say bad relations result from political -- and therefore solvable -- realities (presence of US forces in Muslim countries, unconditional US support for the Israeli occupation, etc.). Thanks to the persistent efforts of the likes of Beck and O'Reilly, too many Americans are developing an intolerant, irrational fear and hatred of Muslims. We see it most graphically in the Park 51 debate. It creates an identity-based conflict when mainstream politicians like Newt Gingrich equate Muslims with Nazis. Those who participate or support anti-mosque protests, Quran-burning, and violence against innocent Muslim men, women and children justify their hatred by believing in an irresolvable identity-based conflict, a clash of cultures or Christianity and Islam.

Wouldn't it be a tragic irony if we -- Americans -- made violent conflict with Muslim societies and the compromising of Muslim American citizens civil liberties unavoidable all the while seeing ourselves as the innocent victims or irrational hatred? Whether they realize it or not, that's what the likes of Beck and O'Reilly, like some preachers of hate in the Muslim world, are working very hard at making it happen.

Source: The Huffington Post - John L. Esposito is University Professor and Founding Director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. He is co-author with Dalia Mogahed of Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, and author of the newly released book The Future of Islam (2010). Sheila B. Lalwani is a Research Fellow at the Center.


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  5 Comments   Comment

  1. Abu from UK

    Romesh:

    Are you talking about the new American run aljazeera that has been set up to mimic and propagate a watered down version of the original news channel which the bush administration bombed? reason: they were showing the uncut news as it happened which was bad PR for the so called "war on terror".

    As for your source of translation for palestinian news Youtube, you need to check there track record, there have been numerous video and in particular a documentory series called the Arrivals that had been been repeatedly been closed and blocked and even the uploaders accounts shut down. why you may ask? because they were showing stuff that the gov/media dont want us to know.

    You call me ignorrant, ans I would be ingnorant if I believed anything without due scrutiny, especially if its to do with propagating hate. you need to open your eyes and see things from every angle, only then it would make sense.

    Take care

    Abu

  2. Roger Burr from USA

    I wouldn't pay any attention to this joker, he may be trying to please his fan base, those lower middle class white americans who are anti governament & who can't find elbow from their wrist.Americans living in metropolitian cities donn't know & don't care who glen beck is.Many american believe he is a product of genetic misfire, & they'r right

  3. Romesh Chander from USA

    Abu:

    As ususal, you are showing your ignorance. On Utube, there are traslations of Arabic in English on select subjects from Palestinian TV and AlJazeera. Oh, of course, you won't believe in those translations by infidels. But then what do you believe in? and who do you believe in?

    By the way, there is also Aljazeera English, which you probably never heard of.

  4. Abu from UK

    Romesh, your hypocrisy is evedent in your comment and proves that you'r no different than Glen Beck who would make up lies to create hate.

    You said "He is just like the Mullahs who appear on AlJazeera and Palestinian TV, they make up things about their enemy" firstly what do you know of arabic to be able to interpret what the mullahs are saying, and then you relate to the palestinians, they do not have to lie to prove the brutality they are facing, the pictures speak for themselves.

  5. Romesh Chander from USA

    Don't blame Glen Beck. He is just like the Mullahs who appear on AlJazeera and Palestinian TV; they make up things about their enemy; and so does Glen Beck. What is good for the gander is good for the goose.