CAIRO: The Western media and film industry are perpetuating Islamophobia and prejudice by demonizing Muslims and Arabs as violent, dangerous and threatening people, according to a new British report released Jan. 26.
The western media are largely seen by Muslims as a negative influence, co-author Sameera Ahmed said in the report The British media and Muslim representation: the ideology of demonization, a copy of which was e-mailed to IslamOnline.net.
The study, conducted by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said that the media was demonizing Muslims and Arabs and stoking prejudice and stereotypes.
This view is perhaps not without foundation, added Ahmed.
The traditional Orientalist stereotypes of Muslims as political anarchists and tyrants at home subjugating their women have been disseminated in the media as caricatures and stereotypes.
Very often the news that is shown about Muslims centers around negative stories, she added.
The report said that the Western media was failing to address anti-Muslim issues.
The TV News analyzed showed a limited framework within which Muslims and Islam were discussed, it said.
A survey conducted as part of the British report showed that the majority of respondents view Western media as Islamophobic .
All respondents unanimously pointed to media as being the chief instrument of Islamophobia, said the report.
Some 63.4% of British Muslim respondents said media portrayal was Islamophobic.
A further 15.5% felt media to be racist while 9.4% said it was covertly destructive.
The survey also found that 9.9% of non-British Muslims believe media portrayal was Islamophobic while 15.5% said media were racist and 13.2% thought it was covertly destructive.
There is a dominant perception amongst Muslims that the media does indeed portray them and their religion in an inaccurate and derogatory manner, said the report.
Famed US academic Stephen Schwartz had criticized the western media for failing to meet the challenge of reporting on Islam and Arab issues after the 9/11 attacks.
An independent review ordered by the BBC has recently concluded that its coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is inconsistent, incomplete and misleading, failing to adequately report the hardships of Palestinians living under occupation. The report said the film industries in Britain and the United States were stoking fears of Muslims and Arabs The British report said the film industries in Britain and the United States were also stoking fears of Muslims and Arabs.
A broad spectrum including Hollywood action blockbusters, cartoons and British artistic movies are all means through which either crude or exaggerated stereotypes are reinforced or otherwise more subtle disdain of Islam is obtained.
The report cited a number of Hollywood and British movies giving the image of Arabs and Muslims as violent and terrorist people.
The Siege portrays Palestinians carrying out a wave of attacks in New York City in response to the abduction of a Muslim religious leader by the US military.
Apart from the monolithic stereotype of the Arab/Palestinian/Muslim being violent and ready to be martyred for their cause (a ’cause’ which is never given any context and seems puzzling to the average American), a considerable number of other stereotypes about the Muslim/Arab culture and religion were presented in the film, the report said.
Muslim men are shown praying in a mosque, a call to prayer is made from a New York mosque minaret, recitation of the Quran or prayers are said in Arabic and one of the ‘mastermind’ terrorists is shown using a rosary.
All of these scenes are dotted about in the film between acts of violence, bombs exploding and indiscriminate killing, and more often than not they have no direct connection to the overall storyline.
Executive Decision also portrays Palestinians hijacking a Boeing 747 to launch a nerve gas attack on Washington D.C.
The film plays on the worst fears … about a potential terrorist lurking in every Arab/Middle Eastern/Muslim-looking person, and the incompatibility of Islamic and western values, it added.
The report also cited the Disney film Aladdin which describes Aladdin s homeland as barbaric , and that good Arabs including Aladdin are given American accents while the rest of the cast have exaggerated and ridiculous Arab accents .
It was evident from all genres that they contained negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims/ Arabs, added the report.
They all exhibited examples of Islamophobic discourses, including dual discourses of racism and Islamophobia, where the ethnicity of the character was understood to be irreducibly Muslim.
The 114-member Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) launched in June a news service to counter ill-founded and misleading Western media reports.
Malaysia has also proposed setting up an international Islamic journalism center to counter mounting Islamophobia and coach non-Muslim journalists about Islam and Muslims.
This article previously appeared at Islamonline.net. It was reprinted with permission.