Annenberg hosts discussion about image of Muslims in the media

first_imgResearchers, writers and media professionals held a discussion on misconceptions about Muslims and the role of the media, as well as political groups, in perpetuating these stereotypes Tuesday evening in the Annenberg Auditorium.The Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy and Institute for Diversity and Empowerment at Annenberg hosted the panel, titled “Is the War on Terror a War on Muslims?”The panel consisted of Associate Professor of Clinical Education Shafiqa Ahmadi, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Southern California Hussam Ayloush and former CIA analyst and case officer John Kiriakou and was moderated by Annenberg Clinical Professor of Communication Robert Scheer. Juan Cole, a professor of history at the University of Michigan, and Wajahat Ali, playwright of The Domestic Crusaders, were present via Skype.The event began by discussing the issue of discrimination against Muslims, which has become more prominent in recent years. Ahmadi especially mentioned how she came across discrimination against Muslim women in Hawaii.“They have a policy that they can’t cover their head when they went into banks,” Ahmadi said. “It was a pretext to not allow Muslim women to enter banks. It’s a paradise as a place, but discrimination happens all the time.”She also spoke about how Muslims were profiled at airports and discussed her fears for the future.“I look at Muslim students who are profiled, [and] my fear is about the new generation,” Ahmadi said. “My fear is more for the young individuals who are considered guilty by just being part of the Muslim community.”Cole spoke about how Muslims were being framed as the prime topic of terrorism, while in reality, Muslims in America carried out only 3 percent of terrorist attacks.“Terrorism is rationalized to Muslims,” Cole said. “The Muslims were under more surveillance, whereas the vast majority of attacks come from other groups, but no one talks about them.”According to Cole, right-wing terrorism is not a part of the discussion in the United States. He also talked about how the U.S. government has committed atrocities against Muslims, which are rarely mentioned in the same context as modern-day terrorist attacks.“No one bothered to read the book on Iraq before attacking it and trying to govern it,” Cole said. “They tried to run Iraq in English. They killed so many people for not understanding English.”He mentioned that America has traditionally formed alliances with Muslim-majority countries, which serve both a diplomatic and military purpose.“We have more formal allies in the Muslim world than any place else,” Cole said. “So how is it that the Muslim world is an enemy? That is bizarre.”Ali spoke about the role of media in creating a negative image of Muslims. The information that Americans receive from media is overly negative, Ali said, and as a result, it reinforces their ignorance and shape their image of Muslims.“Muslim labor, Muslim sweat, Muslims stories have cultivated the soil of America,” Ali said. “Even though Muslims have been in this country since 16th century, poll after poll says that 60 percent of Americans don’t know Muslims. All they know about Islam or Muslims is through media.”Kiriakou brought up personal examples of the young Muslims he has talked to in his travels throughout the Middle East. He said that they weren’t radical, just poor and uneducated, and popular perception of Muslims does not differentiate between the two. However, he also argued that media is not solely responsible for spreading a negative image.“It starts in the White House and goes down through media,” Kiriakou said. “Most Americans are very easily influenced; they get caught up in the feeling that they have to rally against people who are different than we are.”The solution, according to Ayloush, is that students should educate themselves about these issues and attempt to separate media portrayals of Muslims from reality.“The constant negative depiction of Muslims is a vicious cycle, and we should really care about perception because perception is reality,” Ayloush said.last_img