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Representation of Muslims in the Media in a Post 9/11 Era

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Representation of Muslims in the Media in a Post 9/11 Era

Despite the fact that the world is entering a globalized and technological

era, difficulties in cross-cultural communication are present, and many cultures,

traditions, and religions remain to be misunderstood, and perceived as posing

a threat to global security. A clear case of this issue is found in the changing

perceptions of the Western World towards Arabs and Muslims, especially following

the tragic events of September 11th that were considered the worst attacks in

modern American history. Tensions between the Western World and the Arab and

Muslim World have been evident for hundreds of years.

"As 9/11 events in the US were followed by bombings in Madrid and London,

Muslim and Arab communities in Europe became a target of suspicion, specifically

because the perpetrators of such bombings were home-grown fanatics." 1

A clear distinction however, must be made between being Arab and being

Muslim. Although various groups identified as being terrorist organizations have

bases in various Muslim majority countries in Asia and the Arab World, their

justifications behind their acts of violence towards the West are justified through

extremist and fundamentalist interpretations of Islam. The primary

misinterpretation is in the definition of Jihad. The Qur'anic definition of the term

does not frequently reference to the usage of armed conflict, but to intellectual

Mustafa, Ahmad, "Western Perceptions of Muslims and Arabs," Gulf News, 9/10/08

effort through struggles and goals achieved via non-violent means. Peace is the

most-preferred state for individuals, and military Jihad is strictly to be used as a

"But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou also incline towards peace, and

trust in God: for He is One that heareth and knoweth all things." (Qur'an 8:61)

Although Muslim and Arab extremists make up a very small minority of the

general population in the Arab World, stereotypes against all Arabs have spread,

and reached exceedingly high limits following the September 11 th attacks. Various

studies have been carried out in an attempt to identify the primary reasons behind

Western antagonistic views of Arabs.

"Indeed, more people in the West have shown hostility to Islam, Muslim, and Arabs

post 9/11. The campaigns run by politicians and certain powerful sectors of the

media have contributed to the Western public's increasingly negative perception of

the Muslims, and particularly of Arabs." 2

In a study published in the Washington Post3, and conducted by the

University of Michigan, it was found that:

15% of Arab Americans in the Detroit area said they experienced harassment

or intimidation since the September 11th attacks

60% stated that they were worried about their families' futures than before

the attacks.

Mustafa, Ahmad, "Western Perceptions of Muslims and Arabs," Gulf News, 9/10/08

Slevin, Peter, "Arab-Americans Report Abuse," The Washington Post, 07/29/2004

42% of Arab-American students feared that their religion of Islam will

continue to be disrespected by mainstream society

1016 Arab American respondents reported harassment at shopping malls or

job supervisors turning cold

33% of respondents

...

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