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Monday, August 20, 2012

Islam and the Western Media

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.

Adding to the fact that the media creates inaccurate ideas about Islam, the Western media is also very influential to its audiences in making negative Islamic stereotypes, such as the assertion that all Muslims are fundamentalists. The term "fundamentalist" is actually a term that is interpreted by the media. A fundamentalist, in fact, only represents a normal Muslim who follows his or her religion. Fundamentalism means an attitude, an effort, or a movement that an ideology, group, or religion tries to promote in its fundamental beliefs. The "fundamental" beliefs of a Muslim is to believe in only one God (Allah) and the Prophet Mohammed is His messenger (PBUH), pray five times a day, fast the month of Ramadan, give alms to the poor, and make a pilgrimage to Mecca. This means that all Muslims are fundamentalists if they believe in their own religion’s fundamentals. Although the media is uncomfortable with religious groups, it focuses heavily on "Islamic fundamentalism". A majority of the media’s reports that talk about Islamic fundamentalism usually describes most Muslims as extremists. This shows how the media is ignorant, because Islam specifically prohibits any forms of extremism. The Prophet Mohammed said, "Those persons who go to extremes (in practicing their religion) were cursed (by God)". The media most often portrays Muslim "fundamentalists" prostrating themselves before God in prayer. For example, in the October 4 issue of Time, Muslims soldiers were shown performing prayers with guns. The caption on the bottom of the picture said, "Guns and prayer go together in the fundamentalist battle". The part that the reporters omitted or failed to state was that the Muslim soldiers were praying on a battlefield in Afghanistan. Common sense of the situation meant that the soldiers had to remain armed at all times in case of an ambush at any time. This is a clear example of the media’s biased and inaccurate reporting.
With regard to the soldiers, another great misconception that exists is the truth about Jihad or "holy war" in Islam. The ideas of war and violence have become related to the Islamic religion from the media. Jihad is so often apparent in the news because the media thinks it is Islam’s justification for war and violence. The Quran (Muslim Holy Book) says "Fight for the sake of Allah those that fight against you, but do not attack them first. Allah (God) does not love aggression". A Muslim is permitted to take up arms only as an act of self-defense. A Muslim has the right to defend his life, and his property .

Jihad literally means "The struggle in the path of God", or "holy war". However, the Western media often abuses the meaning of jihad by referring to it as a holy war where Muslims unreasonably kill non-believers. But the fact is, is that jihad can mean a numbers of things that a Muslim does for the sake of God. Rarely has the Western media used this kind of a definition in their reports. The way the media represents jihad is wrong. The media often takes the word "jihad" out of context to propagate negative views on Islam. A student striving for top grades, individuals pursuing for equality and justice for all people, honoring your parents, a mother giving birth to a child, eating, and even simply sleeping can all be considered jihad.
The association of Islam and violence is a common misconception that the general Western public has developed about Islam. An example of this kind of misconception is that the Western media and some historians often say that Islam was a religion spread by the sword, meaning that Muslims went from one end of the world to the other forcing people to either convert or die. Islam spread by people learning about it and some by holy wars, but they did not force people to convert or die. Since a majority of the American public only get their information about Islam through the media, they believe this wrong idea. The media’s reports about Arab or "Islamic" events, such as the Gulf War, are often misunderstood. The media usually fails to give background information about these Islamic events that it reports on. The media infrequently distinguishes between the religion Islam and the political affairs that occur in most Islamic countries. For instance, what Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq, did in the Gulf War was not Islamic and totally wrong (to attack other people for no reason, especially Muslims). But the media still makes reports about Islam and how Islam is made of war-crazed people. For example, to help put things into perspective, Hitler was a person of the Christian faith. This does not mean that all of his actions were consistent with the Christian beliefs. Likewise, Saddam Hussein is of the Islamic faith, but all of his actions do not necessarily represent Islam. So you can see that the media’s reports about "war-crazed Muslims" are incorrect. The notion of associating of Islam and Muslims with the terms Arabs and Middle East are in fact misleading. Arabs only account for 18% of the Muslim population across the world.

A negative image of Islam is becoming more inherent in the Western culture from inaccurate media coverage. The media helps to make an image of Islam to unsuspecting audiences. The Western public often is misinformed about Muslims through the images on television, motion picture screens, magazines, radios, and comic strips in newspapers, which promote strong messages among their audiences. Western reporters often say that Muslims are terrorists. This becomes a common image to the general person that all Muslims are terrorists.

Edward Said’s book, Covering Islam, talks about how the media and experts determine how we see the rest of the world. He says that:


The term Islam as it is used today seems to mean one simple thing, but in fact is part fiction, part ideological label, part minimal designation of a religion called Islam . Today Islam is peculiarly traumatic news in the West. During the past few years, especially since events in Iran caught European and American attention so strongly, the media have therefore covered Islam: they have portrayed it, characterized it, analyzed it, given instant courses on it, and consequently they have made it known . But this coverage is misleadingly full, and a great deal in this energetic coverage is based on far from objective material. In many instances Islam has licensed not only patent inaccuracy, but also expressions of unrestrained ethnocentrism, cultural, and even racial hatred, deep yet paradoxically free-floating hostility .


As well as creating inaccurate images about Islam, the Western media usually identifies Islam in Muslim conflicts. The media hardly points other religions out in their conflicts. For example, the news would say, "five Israelis may have been shot, but they were shot by five Muslims", instead of saying "Five Israelis were shot by five Palestinians". The media often reverses this action when a conflict is against Muslims, for example the news would usually say "Bosnians are being killed by Serbians", but instead rarely says, "Muslims are being killed by Christians".
i agree with fethulla gulen a turkish muslim scholer " MUSLIM cannot be a terrorist and a TERRORIST cannot be a muslim.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your grateful informations, am working in, Islamic news magazine
    so it will be a better information’s for me. Try to post best informations like this always

    ReplyDelete