Misconceptions about Islamic Religion in America

Mehwish Elahi


English 1A

Danielle Stokes

13 February 2020

Is Media Responsible for Rise of Islamophobia in America?

America is home to one of the most diverse Muslim inhabitants in the world. This includes people of nearly every cultural groups, country and school of thought. A significant proportion of Americans are of the opinion that Islam as a religion is incomparable with American values. Nathan Lean has stated that media plays a major role in the promotion of Islamophobia throughout the world. Reports have been observed where seven charitable foundations have spent 43 million dollars between 2001 to 2009 in order to support the spread of anti-Muslim rhetoric. Another factor was revealed which included 2010 Gallup poll win, which 43% of the Americans were, reported to feel a sense of prejudice against Muslims. Fox news has also been identified as the small component of Islamophobia in US media. Fox news has been found to retract false claims about Muslims. Various empirical evidences have been found to provide possible interactions between the latent Muslim feelings and media coverage.

However, since 2011, Muslims in the United States have been showing significant concern regarding extremism in the name of Islam across the world. Concurrently, majority are of the opinion that there is minimal support of extremism with Muslim community even though the general public differs (Spring 1,5). This has led to a rise in discernment and fear against Muslims in America. Such a social aversion and prejudice against Muslims in America has been gradually facilitating and continuing by vehement and uncivilized stereotypes exhibited in diverse forms of American media organization and political domains which instigate high level of prejudice, discrimination and exclusion of the Muslims. While some Americans believe Islamic religion promotes terrorism, this misconception is due to ignorance caused by media, but this could be solved by mandatory education about Islam in colleges.

The effect of media, chiefly mass news media as well as technology, in influencing Islamophobia has been increasing concern from the time of the 9/11 attacks. Several standpoints tend to problematize the way the media through numerous avenues related to news and film as well as nonfiction destructively depict, racialize and demonize Muslim-American identities. The impression of these edifices of Arabs and Muslims on unconstructive typecasts as well as events of marginalization amongst Muslim-American communities are apprehended in many academic domains. Considine in his study of Muslim portrayal in the United States during late 1980s and early 1990s have found that Muslims have been depicted negatively in news reporting since then. Moreover, majority of the narrations which mentioned Muslims to be intrinsically related to terrorism and war did not find sufficient evidence of more generalized negative prejudice. However, after 9/11 the negative media representation of Muslims has been compounded by reporting on Islamic religion and Muslims who depended on by Huntington’s idea of a ‘clash of civilisation’. Furthermore, Pew research on religion-related news in the United States media showed reluctance in analysing whether news during 2009 showed positive or negative bias, but shed light on main stories of the year.

Islamophobia has also been exacerbated by the companies that are benefiting from islamophobia. At present, anti-Muslim associations and administrations have liked the rights of using no less than $ 205 million in order to blow-out terror as well as antagonism towards Muslims. According to Considine in 2011, the Centre for American Progress (CAP) which has been identified as a public strategy investigation as well as advocacy group located in Washington DC found that around seven liberal foundations have paid around $42.6 million between 2001 and 2009 in order to support the blowout of hatred towards Muslims in America. Apart from the acts taken up by anti-Muslim groups, media depictions of Islam as well as Muslims have been considered as key dynamics for the intensification of Islamophobia amongst the non-Muslim Americans. By drawing insights from previous research, Considine has mentioned that media agencies such as Fox, NBC and CBS have characterized Islam chiefly as foundation of vehemence between 2007 and 2013. Furthermore, it has been noted that the entertainment industry has been adding to the prejudice and fear towards Muslims and Islamic religion which worsens anti-Islam as well as anti-Muslim attitudes. Addition to this, it has been mentioned that news coverage conducted by LexisNexis Academic as well as CNN showing all terrorist assaults in America between 2011 and 2015 depicted that news agencies provided severely more exposure to the anti-social attacks by Muslims chiefly foreign-born Muslim people, while these acts have been far less common as compared to other types of terrorist attacks (Burke).

The impact of media attention in framing acts of violence as Muslims targeting non-Muslims serves critical role in the rise of Islamophobia. Since media has been focusing on covering acts of terrorism, the consequence shows continual exposure after an event that instigates a fearful ambiance (Oded). At this juncture, Powell has stated that media has been used as a tool by terrorists for disseminating their views and messages to the public. In the view of Terman, terrorist attacks committed by Muslims have attained 105 headlines in the national media agencies in comparison to common 15 headlines exposing anti-social acts of non-Muslims. The inconsistent and disparate media coverage of anti-social acts by Muslims has been in contradiction to the reality that most of terror acts in the United States has been spread by right-wing extremists especially the non-Muslim supremacists. According to Powell, the differences in news exposure of terror acts exacerbates an extensive fear of Islam in the United States which subsequently influences the public opinion on the basis of misconceptions and misleading facts and legitimising discriminatory regulations by the Trump regime related to dishonourable Muslim ban. Moreover, by failing to provide evidence on anti-social acts instigated by the right wing extremists and anti-government terrorists, the media proactively gives the latter an authorization to commit ruthless acts of violence with almost no proper investigation (Pratt and Woodlock 4), But when it comes to non-Muslims committing mass shooting who are depicted as lonely and mentally unstable. Furthermore, the press may evoke empathetic responses toward non –Muslim terrorists and inappropriately justifying their actions as if this doesn’t make them any less of a killer. Media is showing double standards in recent years presenting Muslim perpetrators of violence and terrorism and the non-Muslim are being overlooked and ignored. The 2016 Orlando and 2017 Las Vegas shootings were the deadliest taken out by two different people but the major difference was one was Muslim and the other Non Muslim. Omar Mateen killed 50 people at gay night club in Orlando on 1 June 2016, similarly Stephen Paddock killed 59 people in concert that was happening in Las Vegas on 1 October 2017. He is white non-Muslim American and Mateen was of Afghani descent who had received more coverage by media than Stephen Paddock. There was a discrepancy in the newspapers’ labelling of the two perpetrators. While Mateen was labelled as a “terrorist” in approximately 38 percent of the articles about Orlando, Paddock was described as a “terrorist” in only five percent of articles about Las Vegas. What is even more striking, though, is that Paddock was labelled a “gunman” in over 80 percent of Las Vegas articles, compared to just over 55 percent of the articles for Mateen (Elmasry and el-Nawawy).

Consequently, it adds to spread of Islamophobia across the country. Therefore, we have to take major steps to find the solution for these problems because it is affecting Muslims on daily basis. Why is the Muslim immigrant getting attacked and not liked by Americans there is diverse population in America that are Muslims. It is vital for the non-Muslim US citizens to gather awareness of the actual statistics related to local terror acts. For example, the Marshall project known as the non-profit journal on criminal justice has been viewed as the likely source which US citizens can consult while investigating on the issue as it retains a reorganised list of all anti-social acts committed by right wing activists as well as white xenophobes (civil rights report 2017). Moreover, offering education on intolerance and prejudice against Muslims requires to be incorporated in educational curriculum. It can further be organized as part of comprehensive lessons on citizenship, human rights and intolerance. These can underline anti-Muslim stereotypes and rise of Islamophobia particularly and can confront them in uniform and dignified ways. In the view of Spring, a human rights-based approach towards education can offer students as well as educators a comprehensive framework within which in order to analyse behavioural patterns and approaches in educational setting. Human rights based approach essentially will shed light on shared values and ideologies instead of divergences. It further underlines the equal privileges and position of every individual irrespective of individualistic religion, cultural origin, gender and additional factors.

Elbih has claimed that educational institutes report an improvement in behavioural pattern once students comprehend that they have the right to be safeguarded from prejudice, abuse and violence in addition to the accountability of according this right to others. Furthermore, report has mentioned that in response to rising Islamophobia, colleges, panels and regions have reported robust assertions and undertaken steps to oppose prejudice and discrimination against Islamic religion. The US Department of Education has generated a written documentation mentioning range of actions it would carry out in order to confront prejudice and discrimination against Muslims and form inclusive college environment (Mir and Sarroub 5). This incorporated the establishment of new website on ethnic discernment on Islamic religion which would subsequently offer evidence and facts on federal regulations safeguarding Muslim students along with a restructured civil rights grievance form along with an expanded survey of US educational institutes on religious-based marginalization and outreach on challenging ethnic aggravation in educational domain. According to Berglund, professional training for those who teach about Islam in non-confessional contexts is also important.

As comparative study of religions has been considered as a well-structured discipline in colleges of the United States, curriculum based on Islam can be easily incorporated in teacher training programs. One of the studies identified the fact that Fox news viewers have been exposed to anti-Muslim feelings at a very high rate. Thus, it can be stated that there is an impact of media promotes islamophobia throughout America. This incorporation will facilitate not only the prospective non-confessional religious education educators, but also the ones which might be providing knowledge on religions within the context of history, art as well as nonfiction.

To conclude, education in the U.S has been oppressed with challenged and inconsistent procedures and practices for several students, teachers as well as educational institutions at all levels. Thus, educational institutes must diligently seek in offering provide prospects for argument on stereotypes and representations of Islamic religion. Media has been concentrating on casing acts of violence the significance shows repeated experience after an event that prompts a terrible atmosphere. Since media coverage associated with Islam and Muslim has been found to shape the feelings of people, it has been important to analyse the association between media portrayals, which the people have towards Islam. These facts were claimed by several researchers while performing their research studies on this topic. Various other countries have been found to report different data about the impact of media on Islamophobia. Furthermore, discussions might occur in the classroom or in external settings or might reflect on other experts or visitors. Students in the United States must be provided with appropriate prospects to investigate and discuss the foundations of negative stereotypes on Islamic religions. Hence, it is significant to comprehend the power of descriptions and the hazard of familiarizing with new categorises that might have significance in the awareness of youths in the nation.

Work Cited

Berglund, Jenny. Publicly funded Islamic education in Europe and the United States. 2015.

Burke, Daniel. “Anti-Muslims Hate Crimes: Ignorance in Action?” CNN, Cable News Network, 30 Jan. 2017.

Considine, Craig. “The Racialization of Islam in the United States: Islamophobia, Hate Crimes, and ‘Flying While Brown.’” Religious, Vol. 8, 9, 2017, p. 165., doi:10.3390/rel8090165.

“Civil Rights Report 2017: Islamophobia in Educational Institutions.” Islamophobia, 21 Oct. 2017,

Elbih, Randa. “Teaching about Islam and Muslims While Countering Cultural Misrepresentations.” The Scoail Studies, Vol. 106, no. 3, 2015, pp. 112-116., doi:10.1080/00377996.2015.1015712.

Elmasry, Mohamad Hamas, and Mohammed el-Nawawy. “Can a Non-Muslim Mass Shooter Be a ‘Terrorist’? A Comparative content Analysis of the Las Vegas and Orlando Shootings.” Taylor & Francis.

Oded, Yair. “Islamophobia Permeates Mainstream U.S. Media: FairPlanet.” Fair Planet.

Powell, Kimberly. “Framing Islam/Creating Fear: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of Terrorism from 2011-2016.” Religouse, Vol. 9, 2018, p. 257., doi:10.3390/rel9090257.

Pratt, Douglas, and Rachel Woodlock. Fear of Muslims? International Perspectives on Isamophobia. Springer International Publishing, 2018.

Terman, Rochelle. “Islamophobia and Media Portrayls of Muslim Women: A Computational Text Analysis of US News Coverage.” International Studies Quaterly, Vol. 61, jan. 2017, pp. 489-502., doi:10.1093/isq/sqx051.

The Routledge International Handbook of Islamophobia. Routledge, 2019.

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