Islam Vs Media: Unraveling the U.S. Narrative

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Kasar and Habib are two Bangladeshi men who follow Islamic culture and also live in the U.S. On their YouTube channel, Duo HK, they conduct numerous social experiments that involve comparing reactions to regular American attire versus Islamic attire. These experiments often demonstrate that people in the U.S. do, indeed, discriminate against Muslims. This discrimination is primarily due to the media’s role in disseminating biased information; for instance, presenting Muslims as the instigators of most terrorist attacks and casting them as prime candidates for terrorism and villainy in the entertainment industry.

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The media plays a pivotal role in communicating international news. Following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, there has been an increased focus on Muslim-led terrorist attacks. Furthermore, the media often do not provide all the necessary information, which creates panic in communities and leads to discrimination towards Muslims. In this essay, I will argue that all Muslims face discrimination in the U.S. due to the role of mass media in shaping societal perception.

Today’s society interacts with entertainment in many ways; media is ubiquitous—it’s on the radio, billboards, cellphones, and, importantly, television. The quick access to movies, shows, and media in our daily lives makes it easy for them to influence our society. Entertainment and media impact our behavior and thought processes. While the media can sometimes influence us positively, there are also many instances where it has a negative impact. These negatives often stem from biased information, lack of explanation, and absence of facts. Numerous articles link media to the propagation of modern racism. David Croteau, in his novel “Media/ Society,” gives several examples of the media’s influence on discrimination in the United States. One example he gives is:

“The civil rights struggle for racial equality influenced Hollywood, and discrimination against blacks became the theme of a number of prominent movies in the late 1950s and 1960s, including ‘The Defiant Ones’, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, and ‘Black Like Me’.” (Croteau 199)

This piece of evidence shows that media does, in fact, play a role in discrimination. During the early civil rights movements, many Hollywood movies were made that allowed for discrimination against people of color. This proves that the media indeed plays a role in shaping our perceptions. If Hollywood were making movies about various topics, people would be concerned about those same topics. People are more inclined to follow the entertainment industry than their own thoughts. Evidence from the U.S. Extremist Crime Database shows many statistics, such as people being more likely to die in a car accident than in a Muslim-based terrorist attack. In fact, there is a 74% chance for people to die from other causes than due to Muslim terrorism. Yet, why do we easily forget about the 74% and only worry about the remaining 26%? According to the U.S. Extremist Crime Database, “the availability heuristic causes our tendency to focus on and remember the vivid, attention-grabbing examples.” This informs us that people are drawn to things that grab our attention and that we are likely to remember. However, why does Muslim-based terrorism grab our attention more than a robbery or a kidnapping does? The answer is, it is because of the entertainment and media industry. They influence society through the movies and news that are produced, ensuring that stories about Muslim terrorists capture the audience’s attention and are remembered. This contributes to the availability heuristic. Yet, this evidence proves that the media and entertainment industry has influenced perceptions of Muslim terrorism, causing societal discrimination against Muslims.

Muslim terrorism, as portrayed in the entertainment and media industry, causes people to discriminate against Muslims because it depicts them as violent, harmful, unsafe, or plain terrorists. This is primarily due to the media’s tendency to depict acts of terrorism as having a connection with being Muslim. According to “Media/Society,”

“Many films depicting an epidemic of Arab terrorism in New York City, and Rules of Engagement, a film about the killing of demonstrators outside the U.S. embassy in Yemen, sparked protest from Arab-American groups, such as the Council on American-Islamic relations, who believed both films perpetuated stereotypes of violent, fanatical Arabs” (Croteau 199).

This chapter of “Modern/Society” reveals many forms of modern racism. As seen in this example of discrimination against Muslims, the entertainment industry has produced many movies that distort the values of Muslim culture. By stereotyping Muslims as “violent” and harmful, the entertainment industry has reinforced the perception that Muslims are violent and unsafe. This evidence shows that the U.S. discriminates against Muslims because of the way the entertainment and media industry portray them. Many media and news reports about terrorism usually feature the Middle East. According to “Clashes Among Past, Present, and Future in Contemporary Afghan Visual Stories,” the media tends to target Muslim terrorism without providing all the details.

“Beyond the veil of the globalized discourses on Afghanistan, framed by media events such as bombings, terrorist attacks, and various episodes of violence, students’ reportages narrate a vibrant and dynamic daily life in which the clash is not among insurgents, Muslim members, and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), but rather among different ways of seeing the past, the present, and the future of the country. The reportages cover different aspects of contemporary Afghan cultural production: from the reinvention of traditional tools and professions to contemporary challenges like urbanization and the media’s impact on society.” (Vergani1)

This is an excerpt from a news report not long after 9/11. This report is strictly talking about terrorism in Afghanistan, and how Afghans are rebuilding their life and urbanization. However, the media fails to provide all the information about the terrorist attacks. All they are clear about in this excerpt is that there are Muslim members in their terrorist group. They are not identifying why these people are terrorizing others; they are not specifying who or what type of Muslim is doing this. Their failure to provide the correct information causes panic, which leads to the misconception that all Muslims are violent and dangerous. Delaram Takyar’s article, “Engagement without Participation: Post-9/11 Discrimination and Muslim Political Engagement,” also explains how post-9/11 discrimination led to more targets against Muslims than anyone else. “Analyze a nationally representative survey of the American Muslim population from 2004, allowing for insight into the effects of discrimination in the years immediately following 9/11” (Takyar 35). This reveals the subsequent prejudice against Muslims, and the terror attacks of 9/11 have kept this prejudice alive since the media continuously brings it to the forefront, indirectly leading people to believe that all Muslims are bad.

In addition to the media’s lack of specifics, Nader Ghotibi’s article “Violence and Terrorism in the Middle East” discusses the Islamic religion and culture and sheds light on cultural aspects many people are unaware of, aspects the media frequently overlooks.

“Islam as a religion may not incite violence and/or terrorism any more than other mainstream religions and refer to the fact that most Muslims are peaceful. Others suggest that recent terrorist attacks are committed by certain groups of Islamic fundamentalists, known as ‘Salafi Jihadists,’ and violent aggression, including terrorist attacks, is more common in parts of the world where ‘Salafi’ Muslims live, such as in the Middle East.”

This highlights that Islamic beliefs and people of Muslim backgrounds are usually peaceful, who want to live a calm life. There are some groups of people with Islamic backgrounds who, deviating from typical Muslim rules, become violent and harmful, usually the ones involved in terrorist attacks. Yet, the media neglects this information, which could lessen panic in our communities. Overall, the media fails to offer accurate insights when discussing Muslim terrorism, leading people to stereotype all Muslims, fostering discrimination.

The U.S. is one of the most diverse places, full of people from all walks of life, spanning religions, cultures, and races. However, because of the media’s misrepresentation of Muslim terrorism, there has been a rise in discrimination and fear towards Muslims who embrace their culture. The YouTube channel “DuoHK” showcases a variety of social experiments that reveal differences in treatment when the subjects don traditional Muslim attire versus American clothing. These experiments typically involve two Bangladeshi men, Kasar and Habib. Kasar usually sports American attire, while Habib is often dressed in traditional Muslim clothing.

In one experiment titled the “smiling experiment,” they sit on a bench and casually smile at passersby, offer greetings, and engage in conversation. They each approached 11 strangers. Kasar received responses from all 11 people he greeted, initiating lively conversations with them. In contrast, Habib received only 1/11 responses. During his approaches, several people got up and left the bench he was sitting on, and one person even ran away in fear. One encounter resulted in a white man explicitly expressing his dislike for Habib’s “type” and the feeling of unease they stirred in him after the 9/11 attacks. Habib attempted to reason with the man, stating that he too lost family in 9/11, and it was unfair to judge all Muslims based on the violent acts of a few.

In another instance, Habib was sitting alone on the bench when a young Caucasian boy asked him to inflate his balloon. While Habib happily obliged and found the boy adorable, the mother accused Habib of attempting to kidnap her son, stating her son would never interact with a Muslim. The only sympathetic response Habib received was from a black man in his 50s, who empathized with Habib’s struggle, relating it to the discrimination he often faces while traveling due to his race. This social experiment confirmed that Muslims are quite often discriminated against, evidently making people feel threatened by their mere presence. Nevertheless, the “smiling experiment” showcases the widespread discrimination against individuals donning Muslim attire and the pervasive feeling of insecurity their presence prompts.

In another experiment, called the Hold my Bag experiment was to pretend that they had an urgent call, and then ask the stranger next to them to hold their bag because they must go help their friend and they will be back in a minute. Kasar was once again the male that was dressed in regular American apparel while Habib was the male dressed in Muslim attire. They once again approached 11 people each. Kasar got 7/11 people to help him while Habib got only 2/11 people to help him. People that refused Kasar simply denied because they wouldn’t babysit a bag for anyone, same as I. Muslim or not I personally would not babysit someone’s bag. Habib was also denied partially for these reasons but there were about 4 candidates that refused him because he was Muslim. One person refused him and made him open his bag to see if there was anything inside. She then continued to say, can’t trust anything with you Muslims. Another person refused him and then took the bag and threw it at him and said, go back to the middle east, we don’t do terrorist over here. One person refused and when Habib left, she made the holy Jesus cross and looked in the sky. The fourth person refused him and simply laughed in his face and said, I would never hold a Muslims bag, do I look stupid? The first person to hold Habib’s bag was someone that was white, but as soon as she took the bag from him, she looked at the bag and looked at the man sitting next to her, got up and left, leaving the bag behind. The second person to hold Habib’s bag was a white male, but he was also a muslim. He genuinely said yes, and after Habib left and came back, he was still there with the bag. Kasar and Habib continued to tell the man that he was a part of a social experiment and he was the first person that held Habib’s bag without having an issue. The homeless man responded by telling Habib that he was also Muslim, and it is cruel to see that people discriminate against you because of the traditional clothing. He also says that it is so shameful so see people act this way in the face of Allah, and as a homeless person in Times Square, he’s had his share of cruel treatment, but never expected to see people be so demeaning to another religion. As you can see from this social experiment Kasar and Habib are clearly seeing different results due to the things they wear. Just looking like a Muslim, and wearing the traditional attire, it led people to automatically think that they are terrorist, and they are not safe around them. Thus, the hold my bag experiment is another successful social experiment that shows the discriminatory side of people, and the way that people truly think of traditional Muslims.

This treatment is due to the way that media portrays things and the way people interpret them. Without providing all the facts, the media tends to create an unstable and prejudiced environment for Muslims, like Kasar and Habib, to live in. Not only does the media play a role in society, but it also impacts our daily lives. It is the one thing that keeps us updated with the rest of the world. If people hear the words Muslim and terrorism every day, they will inevitably start associating Muslims with terrorism. Psychology defines this as the unconditional stimulus and response. At first, when people hear that a Muslim was a part of terrorism (unconditional stimulus), it triggers a new response, something that the body finds unfamiliar (unconditional response). However, if the two are constantly paired, particularly by the media which has a daily influence on society, people will begin to develop a conditioned stimulus and response. Essentially, when two things are constantly paired, the response to those elements becomes considered normal. In hearing one element, people will associate the other that is paired with it. In this situation, it translates into people associating the Muslim religion with terrorism and vice versa, because they are repeatedly hearing the two paired by the media. Overall, the social experiment that Kasar and Habib conducted shows that society trusts and treats Muslims differently from everyone else, and this is due to the role the media plays in brainwashing society with biased information, linking both Muslim tradition and religion to acts of terrorism and harm.

In conclusion, this essay argues about the connection between media and Muslim discrimination in the United States. It posits that media plays a significant role in informing society, and this ultimately affects the people living within it. The media disseminates information but only provides snippets instead of the complete picture that people deserve. Despite the wide array of global issues, the media is primarily fixated on Muslim terrorism instead of broadening their story coverage. This leads to daily narratives spun around Muslims being terrorists and deflects focus away from deeper topics, including acts of terrorism committed by non-Muslims. Overall, people are repeatedly exposed to stories of Muslims committing acts of terrorism, leading them to associate the Muslim religion with terrorism or terrorist acts whenever they encounter Muslim traditions or customs.

Works Sited

DuoHK, Kasar Habib. Muslim SMILING Experiment (Social Experiment). YouTube, YouTube, 16 Oct. 2016,

Ghotibi, Nader. Violence and Terrorism in the Middle East. Nader Ghotibi, 2016.

Vergani, Matteo. Loyola Journal of Social Sciences, Vol. 25, 0 AD.

Croteau, David and Hoynes, William. Media/Society: Industries, Images, and Audiences. 5th ed., Vol. 5 1, Ser. 1, 2014.

Takyar, Delaram. Engagement without Participation: Post-9/11 Discrimination and Muslim Political Engagement. 1st ed., Vol. 1 1, Ser. 1, 2016.

DuoHK, Kasar, Habib. HUG Muslim Vs Non-Muslim Experiment (Social Experiment). YouTube, YouTube, 25 Feb. 2017,

“Introducing the United States Extremist Crime Database (ECDB).” Ideological Motivations of Terrorism in the United States, 1970-2016 |,

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Islam vs Media: Unraveling the U.S. Narrative. (2020, Mar 02). Retrieved from