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Rhetoric Criticism of Alaa El Dajani’s ‘the Art of Jihad’

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                                    Rhetoric Criticism of Alaa El Dajani’s ‘The Art of Jihad’

        Whenever someone from the west hears the word Islam the first thing that would probably come to mind is terrorism along with other common misconceptions about Islam. But who are they to blame when the media which is where they get most of their knowledge about Islam has a strong bias in the way terrorism is covered. According to a research done by Betus, Lemieux and Kearns(2017) attacks carried out by Muslim perpetuators, which were only 12% of the total attacks in USA between 2011 and 2015, receive more media coverage than those done by non-Muslim perpetuators. “The Art of Jihad” is a short documentary video produced and directed by an Egyptian citizen, called Alaa El Dajani in 2010. The video features three different American artists who address the widespread and common stereotypes about Islam in America. It also includes how each of them tries to combat the stereotypes through their artistic work. Sandow Birk is a painter who uses his art skills to paint out the Qur’anic words along with pictures that relate the texts to the life of American people now. Mohja Kahf is a poet who uses her literature skills to explain how the stereotypes are incorrect through impressive pieces of poetry. Finally, Kamran Pasha is a screenwriter who conveys the message through interesting films. Although all three artists were very convincing, the poet, Mohja Kahf, was able to serve the video’s purpose, which is to address and combat stereotypes about Islam in the US, the most; she was able to do this through appealing to the audience’s ethos, pathos and logos, specifically logos.


        Throughout the video all three artists use many sources that strengthen their credibility and appeal to ethos. Sandow Birk introduces himself as an American painter who used to be a surfer and has visited multiple countries including Muslim countries. He also states that he has worked with both the Quran and the bible. This shows his credibility and makes him a role model that the American audience should follow since he has deferred from listening to what people from both ends of the conflict have to say about Islam and decided to find out for himself. However he did not mention any of the similarities and differences. Therefore, the audience can not be sure if that is true or not. The poet, Mohja Kahf identifies as a Muslim American woman who wears a headscarf. This will make her points seem credible for the American audience since she has to deal with the stereotypes in her daily life. Being a poet in itself actually breaks one of the stereotypes as she mentions in the video she has received emails saying how some people say that they have never seen ‘people like her reflected in literature’. She has written a book called ‘Western Representation of The Muslim Woman from Termagant to Odalisque’. The book also discusses stereotypes about Muslim women and focuses on odalisque which translates to the room girl. According Macfarquhar(2007) a lot of Muslim women look at Kahf as their role model because of how relatable her books are and how well she can represent Muslim women living in the United States of America. This clearly makes her a dependable source in view of the fact that she is a very good representative for muslim women. Kahf has also earned a PhD in comparative literature from Rutgers University and is the author of the poetry collection Emails from Scheherazad (2003) and the novel The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf (2006). This also strengthens her ethos seeing as it combats one of the most common misconceptions about Muslim women which is that  Kamran Pasha is a hollywood screenwriter, director and novelist. He is well known for his screen writings: Sleeper Cell(which was nominated for a golden globe and an Emmy), Kings and Bionic Woman. He is also a Muslim and has lived in the united states ever since he was three after immigrating from Pakistan. The fact that he is such a successful human being will make the audience feel that he is a trustworthy source of information and are likely to believe what he has to say about the media. All artists were able to achieve a well constructed ethos however Mohja is the most credible source out of the three since she is the only one who actually experiences most of those stereotypes being thrown at her in her daily life because of her headscarf.

        The appeal to pathos was the least effective in this rhetorical situation.The painter, Sandow Birk, uses his words and works of art to provoke curiosity and familiarity in the American people. He makes them curious about his art work ‘American Quran’ which would lead to them reading it and finding out about Islam for themselves which is the whole point of the video. The American audience also feels familiar with Birk since he used to be an ordinary American citizen just like them. Furthermore, the illustrations in his book also makes them feel familiar since he made sure to make them so that they relate to an American citizen’s contemporary life. Kahf’s constant addressing and negating of the common stereotypes makes the audience feel guilty if they have had thought those stereotypes were actually true. Her tone throughout the whole video is very strong and confident. Furthermore the way her words flow will make the citizens of America have compassion for her therefore making the audience want to listen to what she has to say. Kamran Pasha does not appeal to the audience’s emotions a lot; most of his statements are factual and do not exactly provoke any kind of emotion. Although mainly using logos appeals to support her claim, Mohja was able to appeal to the audience’s emotions the most out of the three artists.



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