Sunday, November 20, 2016

Islamphobia and the Media

There is no denying that 9/11 was one of the most traumatic events that our country has faced. That day marked the largest terrorist attack on the United States and our country continues to mourn for the lives that were lost.

15 years later and some people are still being impacted by the events of that day. How the day affected the individual varies but everyone was touched by it in some way. While some lost their family members and friends, others lost their freedom.

Wajahat Ali, a writer, speaker and American Muslim of Pakistani decent, spoke to us on the topic of Islamphobia.

As a Muslim in the United States post-9/11, Ali spoke about how he is expected to know everything about the conflicts between the west and Islam. He made sure to state that Islam is not a person, but Muslims are people with stories.

But before we get into hate crimes, let’s look at Islam as a religion. According to, the name Islam itself derives from the word “peace”. Additionally they value, “moral virtues like honesty, justice, charity, kindness, chastity, righteousness, and mercy”. If the reality of Islam’s religion is good, why are our perceptions so skewed?

Ali believes it is both ignorance and the media. Ali stated that Islam is currently at the lowest favorability rating and that hate crimes and bullying have increased by 66%.

While 9/11 was an attack from al-Qaeda, an Islamic-extremist group, that does not mean that all Muslims are terrorists.

The extremes are always questionable, but we need to look at the facts. When the religion bases itself off of doing good for others, how can we judge an entire religious group based off the actions of a few? The Westboro Baptist Church are considered extreme-Christians but we don’t judge all Christians off the extreme views of a small group.

Ali calls us to support Muslims with hope. While apathy is lazy, hope means you stand with these individuals and support their beliefs. Along with faith, you actually work to support the cause. As journalists we look to reveal the truth so we can play a role in how Islam is portrayed.

 While we have to report on the extremist-terrorist groups, we should shed some light on the religion itself. Journalists can help change the stigma by making sure any coverage is backed up by focusing on the fact that this is an extreme group and differs from what Islam actually values.

Unfortunately, this election has lead us to twisted prejudices against Muslims. According to CNNpresident-elect Donald Trump stated that he plans to, "suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States." Now, while this seems like a step to protect ourselves, Trump did state earlier that he wanted to track Muslims that immigrate here.

We live in the United States. We should look to move towards equality but unfortunately with uncertainty and skewed perceptions we are scared. We want to protect ourselves so we close ourselves off from those who are different than us and we learn about these groups only through the media. We live in a country that has the freedom of religion so we as Americans need to remember that we cannot judge an entire religion based on the actions of a specific group within it.

Hopefully, if we can take the responsibility to change how the media reports about Islam, we can make a positive change on society’s perception on the religion. Ali quoted, “even if the day of judgment is around the corner, plant the seed”. Even though it may take a while and people are already in their set beliefs, little by little we might be able to make a positive difference in time.

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