Islamophobia in American Media, Cause or Result?
How it works
There is no universal agreement about the definition of Islamophobia. Some scholars define it as anti-Muslimism, while others define it as rejection and discrimination against Muslims and Islam; some define it as a form of religious and cultural racism (Bravo López, 2011). At the end of the twentieth century, the term Islamophobia was refined by some political and international organizations to draw the world’s attention to the treatment of Islam and Muslims in Western societies (citation needed).
The importance of studying the phenomenon of Islamophobia comes from its wide-reaching effect on Muslim communities in Western countries, and Muslims in general.
Among these effects are the difficulties that Muslims in Western countries face due to Islamophobia. This impedes their integration into these societies. However, there are other social, economic, and political consequences associated with the phenomenon.
Many scholars have noted a strong correlation between media coverage of the Middle East and Muslim countries in general. Some have proposed that Islamophobia in the media is one of the causes of Islamophobia, while others argue that media coverage is a result of Islamophobia that inherently exists in Western societies.
Therefore, Islamophobia is an attractive subject in contemporary studies. It is an interdisciplinary topic that combines several fields into one research endeavor, such as social sciences and mass communication. This research will attempt to answer the research question: is Islamophobia in American media a cause or result?
Throughout my research at the University of Bridgeport, I found that studying the subject of Islamophobia requires collaboration with some scholars from the College of Public and International Affairs.
Islamophobia and history
The history of anti-Muslim sentiments is as old as the history of the United States. From the inception of the country, Islam has been identified by a part of American society as the religion of “tyranny, intolerance, misogyny, violence, sexual promiscuity, and heathenism” (GhaneaBassiri, 2013). Islam since 9/11 has remained in focus.
Indeed, the best candidate for this research is Robert J. Riggs. As an Assistant Professor in the M.A. program in Global Development and Peace, he leads the team that might be interested in this field of research. He teaches courses on Islamic History and Introduction to Islam, therefore he has a broad background in the issues of Islam.
Islamophobia and religion
Religion plays a significant role in shaping public opinion, especially in Western countries like the United States. Religion has a considerable effect on people’s attitudes towards foreign policy. For example, it influences the American foreign policy towards Middle East issues, specifically between Palestine and Israel. Consequently, Israel is supported by Jewish Americans. Another instance is when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein, who was viewed as a violent person due to his religious beliefs (Smidt, 2005).
The candidate for this subject is Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein, President Emeritus of the University of Bridgeport. As a Distinguished Professor of Religion at the University and a Life Member of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Rubenstein also serves as Director of the University’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
Internationally recognized as a historian of religion, his writings form the foundation of Holocaust studies. His works have been the subject of more than a dozen doctoral dissertations.
Islamophobia and media coverage
Another team member is Mohammad Alazdee. As a communication scholar, Dr. Al-Azdee’s research focus is the intersection among media, politics, and religion.
Islamophobia and media coverage:
An analytical study found that media plays a significant role related to western communities’ attitudes toward Islam and Muslims (Ogan et al., 2014). Another important topic is the portrayal of Muslim women in US media. US news coverage of women is biased, where journalists are more likely to report on women living in Muslim and Middle Eastern countries if their rights are violated. However, they will report on women in other societies when their rights are respected. Moreover, stories about Muslim women emphasize the theme of women’s rights violations and gender inequality, even for countries with relatively good records of women’s rights. In contrast, stories about non-Muslim women emphasize other topics (Terman, 2017). Linda Hasunuma is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science in the College of Public and International Affairs. She is interested in the area of gender and politics. For individuals like these, the term not only identifies anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim sentiments, but also provides a language for denouncing them.
Similar to media coverage of over-policing in the United States, many Muslims, including Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Los Angeles East Chapter President Ahsan Mahmood Khan, say news of Islamic extremists in the Middle East and around the world does not reflect who they are.
The type of language these newspapers employ to describe Muslims and Islam; whether or not this language changes in response to major events; the frequency of coverage in relation to major events; if journalists explore the diversity of Islam and Muslim cultures by highlighting nationality, ethnicity, cultural practice, and theological differences; and the typology used to categorize certain groups, practices or modes of Islam are all factors to consider. The aim is to gain an understanding of the ways in which the media plays a role in shaping perceptions of Muslims and Islam in the broader community; and how they do so in response to particular events either at home or abroad.
The following questions have provided the framework for this report: “What images of Muslims and Islam are most frequently propagated in the media? Are certain misrepresentations recurrent? Is the press media in Victoria Islamophobic?”
Cartoons do not just illustrate the news. They are graphic editorials, and like all editorials, they analyze and interpret a situation, they pass judgment. They tell readers what to think and how to feel about it.
In fact, no one knows whether, or how much, media cartoons affect popular opinion. There is a vast and largely inconclusive literature on the general relation between media, public opinion, and policy formation. It is still challenging to gauge the influence of political cartoons (Michelmore, 2000).
Our study examines the factors that lead to the holding of Islamophobic attitudes in several European countries (France, Germany, Spain, and Great Britain) with large Muslim populations and the United States. As Muslim communities continue to grow in non-Muslim majority countries, and issues of identity and belonging become more evident, it is imperative to understand more fully the intersecting factors of demographics, media, and attitudes toward Muslims and Islam. Since media coverage of Muslims and Islam is likely to shape the opinions of those who have limited or no contact with this religion and its people, it is vital to analyze the potential associations these media portrayals might have with people’s attitudes toward Islam in general and Muslims in particular.
Another objective of this study is to determine whether the underlying predictors of Islamophobia are the same in Europe and the United States. Anti-Islamic attitudes and behaviors have eroded the tenets of democracy on both sides of the Atlantic, and it is crucial to ascertain if these trends have been fueled by the same basic factors such as political ideology or lack of education (Ogan, Willnat, Pennington, & Bashir, 2014).
What is Islamophobia?
(Bravo López, 2011) No agreement exists on the meaning of Islamophobia among scholars and policymakers. In short, the debate regarding how Islamophobia should be understood, its relationship with religious intolerance, and racism or cultural racism, is an ongoing one. The question ‘what is Islamophobia?’ remains unanswered. For this reason, this paper attempts to tackle the subject from an entirely different perspective by going back and examining some of the initial approaches to Islamophobia between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century (Bravo López, 2011).
A recurring problem in agenda-setting studies is that they tend to rely on Gallup poll data to reflect the ‘effects’ of newspaper stories. Indeed, the approach used in this study is a rather broad-brush attempt to link message analysis with survey material, without taking overall media exposure into account. Future studies should, therefore, attempt to more specifically establish the connection between Gallup poll results and analyzed media content. Moreover, Coleman and Wu (2010) noted that the effects of agenda setting are greater on emotions than they are on cognitive assessments, yet most agenda-setting studies measure the latter. Regardless, public perceptions, akin to news media coverage, were mostly negative. Future research should continue to examine the link between media coverage and perceptions of Islam and other religions. Longitudinal studies that consider previously held beliefs would be a beneficial next step. (Bowe, Fahmy, & Wanta, 2013).