Dr. Kreydatus American media impact on Arabs and Muslims



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Fahad Alzahrani

FI 112


Dr. Kreydatus
American media impact on Arabs and Muslims





Narmeen El-Farra

Evelyn Alsultany

Musarat Khan and Kathryn Ecklund

Mohammed Abid Amiri

Stephanie Pappas

Stereotyping

A stereotype is the creation of a biased opinion or view -- an individual will take the behavior of one person and state that all people belonging to that particular group, be it an ethnic, religious or social group, behave in the same manner.  The establishment of stereotypes encourages people to react and behave in a manner that is both judgmental and biased. 

“Given that Arabs and Muslims have been stereotyped for over a century,

given that 9/11 was such an opportune moment for further stereotyping,

given that the US government passed domestic and foreign policies that

compromised the civil and human rights of Arabs and Muslims and given



that demonizing the enemy during times of war has been commonplace

Despite negative stereotypes of Muslims reported in the media, little psychological research has been conducted to characterize non-Muslim attitudes toward Muslim Americans. One study was published exploring negative attitudes toward Arabs, whereas none has been conducted regarding Muslims (Sergent, Woods, & Sedlacek, 1992). Research focusing on Islamophobia, a dread or hatred of Islam, has been conducted in Europe where a survey in the United Kingdom indicated that discrimination against Muslims has increased in recent years (Sheridan, 2006)..”

In another study, Nurrullah (2010) - a sociology professor at University of Alberta - uses Edward Said’s understanding of Orientalism to analyze the Hollywood television serial “24”. The show portrays stereotypical images of Arabs and Muslims which exacerbates the ‘Othering process’ of Muslim Americans. The paper claims that cultural clash between the West and the Muslim world is not a new phenomenon. Islam and Muslims are historically looked down upon by the West. 

This pattern is despite the fact that fear- and anger-based messages were on the fringe between 2001 and 2008, the scientists add. However, the media's intense focus on organizations putting out negative messages seems to have strengthened those group's positions.

Media crating a negative image

“ In a study that measured American perceptions of Arabs, it was found that "Arabs were so dehumanized that Americans were inured against the miseries and concerns of the Arabs or any segment of the Arab world;  it is as if the fear of Islam and Muslims were justification for the negative Arab image in the West" (Gahreeb, 1983). 

The representational mode that has become standard since 9/11 seeks to balance a negative representation with a positive one, what I refer to as “simplified complex representations”. These are the strategies used by the television producers, writers, and directors to give the impression that the representations they are producing are complex, yet they do so in a simplified way.

“ …It is important to identify the particular situational contexts in which Muslim Americans are most vulnerable to experiences of expressed negative attitudes toward their self or their cultural group. Such information may help Muslim Americans process and understand negative experiences through the lens of racism and racism inoculation (Comas-Diaz & Jacobsen, 2001). The present study explores situational attitudes toward Muslim Americans. We examine negative attitudes that may be present toward Muslim Americans which may have detrimental effects on the Muslim American’s experiences in specific contexts.

The paper claims that cultural clash between the West and the Muslim world is not a new phenomenon. Islam and Muslims are historically looked down upon by the West. The negative portrayal of Muslims in the media began after the World War II with the development of sophisticated media technology. 

There is also frustration in the Muslim community that reporters only come around when they want a comment on something negative, such as terrorism or war.

General public attitudes

Such fears led the majority of the American public to view an air raid against Libya in 1986 as justified.  "It was judged an appropriate response to terrorism by 71% of the population despite the recognition by many that the bombing might lead to more terrorism." (Dobkin, 1992)  These types of views allow the general public and public officials to dehumanize Arabs.  And those negative stereotypes of Arab nations, societies, cultures and institutions regulate foreign policy and attitude.

The stories they

tell are about Islam as a system of tyranny that defeats human liberty and the

subsequent need to either renounce or drastically reform Islam to be more like

Christianity, Judaism, or even atheism.22 These female native informants are

a version of the “good Muslim” who confirms to Western viewers that Islam

poses a threat to women and to the West. Sunaina Maira writes, “By definition,

‘good’ Muslims are public Muslims who can offer first-person testimonials, in

the mode of the native informant, about the oppression of women in Islam, . . .

and the hatred, racism, and anti-Semitism of Arabs and Muslims.


As many Muslim Americans are visibly culturally distinct, it would be of value to explore whether attitudes of non-Muslims toward Muslim Americans resemble attitudes expressed by European non-Muslims toward members of these minority groups. In the aftermath of September 11, because of the higher occurrences of discriminating incidents directed toward Muslims and those perceived to be Muslims (Sheridan, 2006)

American public in general viewed Muslim Americans more favorably after September 11 than before. Fewer people responded to the survey saying that they had never heard of Muslim Americans or could not judge their attitude towards their Muslim fellows. Everyone had something to say about Islam and the people who belonged to this religion in the first six months after 9/11. As a result, the public attitude towards Muslims shifted positively in the immediate period after 9/11. Pew Research Center survey shows that there was an increase of 5 percent in Americans favorable attitude and a decline of 3 percent in unfavorable attitude towards Muslims in November of 2011 

There's likely no single answer to getting more representative coverage of pro- and anti-Islamic attitudes, Bail said. Muslim groups could inject more emotion into their condemnations of terrorism in hope of getting more attention, he said. There is also frustration in the Muslim community that reporters only come around when they want a comment on something negative, such as terrorism or war.

The final impact

Establishing foreign policy which eradicates the similarity between nations gives us the notion that Arab nations are "politically, culturally and economically unlike the rest of the developing world" (Boyd, 1987).  This type of political stand reduces the image of Arab people to that of religious fanatics set on destroying the world.  This stereotype is so well enforced that one can not conceive the notion of Arabs coexisting peacefully with Israel or other nations.  According to David Shipler (1986), the perception of fueding Arabs has created a system in which "prejudices and stereotypes worked their way so thoroughly into literature, education, history, language and social mores that they seem to govern the conflict as much as they are created by it, disease and systems intertwine."

Arab and Muslim victims emerge as particularly important to simplified

complex representations because they allow viewers to feel for “the enemy.”

The growth of this affect in turn comes to symbolize multicultural progress. Rather than demonize all Arabs and Muslims, having sympathy for some of

them reflects an enlightened culture that can distinguish between the “good”

and “bad” ones. The continued support of US empire after 9/11 has been

made possible partly through the use of disclaimers, native informants, and

other simplified complex representations that signal that the United States has

achieved a postrace society that no longer discriminates.



Raising awareness of these biases in people with high social desirability tendencies will likely produce motivation to combat their internal biases. Relying on the findings that perception of threat to safety impacts salience of negative attitudes toward out-group members (Persson & Musher-Eizenman, 2005), anti-bias programs may consider including data based educational content. Specifically educating non-Muslims with information and objective data regarding safety and low probability of harm. Anti-bias programs may then coach non-Muslims to utilize the data for cognitive mediation of anxiety. Lowered anxiety, in turn, may assist in decreasing bias.

hese trends tell us that media coverage of certain group of people or issues has an impact on public’s perception about these people and problems. The period right after September 11, 2001 was a period of understanding this unknown religion and people who perpetrated the attacks which forced the media to cover Muslims more frequently. The press started to paint a comprehensive picture of Muslims by giving them more access on air. The limited news about Muslims and the more episodic framing patterns before 9/11 that added to negative stereotypes suddenly changed to more thematic news framing patterns in the six-month period post- 9/11.

Perhaps most importantly, consumers of news can keep a healthy skepticism when reading articles or watching reports about Islam.

"When we look at the media we have the tendency to assume these groups have been thoroughly vetted and that they are representative of what is going on," Bail said. "Often, I think my study shows, it's actually the opposite. It's groups that are very unrepresentative."





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