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Running head: Research Paper

Islamic Values vs. Popular Media in America Cecilia Brown English 122 Nathaniel Millard Ashford University August 29, 2011


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Values are those things that matter most to an individual. They are the ideas and beliefs that shape an individual’s actions, character, and how they perceive the world. Popular media can have a great impact on a person’s values. Media such as music, television, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, movies, and news reports all can shape a person’s ideas and beliefs. For Americans, values come in the form of freedom; the ability and right to freely think, speak, choose and practice their beliefs without opposition and oppression. American Muslims can have great difficulty in exercising their right of freedom of speech and religion along with the opposition of practicing their beliefs due to the nation’s perspective of Islam portrayed by popular media. To understand Muslims’ challenge in holding Islamic values in America, once must identify what their values are. Muslims are those that are an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion. Their beliefs and values are based on Holy Quran, which confirms the previous scriptures of Judaism and Christianity. Islam is also shaped by the life and saying of the Prophet Muhammad who was a slave and messenger of God. Once a person’s understands the correct meaning of Islam, they will clearly see how it is misrepresented in popular media. Islam is a religion of peace and believing in one God. Islam is very tolerant of other religious beliefs and its adherents are not cruel, evil, and violent terrorist as often portrayed. Because of the terrorist acts of 9/11 against the World Trade Center, Americans have grown hatred towards Muslims, even those who reside and are born in the county. Popular media in general goes against the values of Islam. Islam is against premarital and extramarital sex, the use of intoxicants such as drugs and alcohol, oppression of sex and race, nudity and exploitation of sexuality, violence, theft, desire of materialistic property, and the belief that there is no god or multiple gods. Anyone can turn to any media source and observe


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advertisement and promotion of such acts. Islam is about justice, fairness, righteousness, being aware and accountable for ones acts, and being consciences of the reality of life after death. Media is a social institution which is a key component of contemporary western society (Aly, 2007). After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, America’s awareness of the Qur’an increased (Hedahl, 2009, pg 226). Hedahl (2009) stated that it went from being reported as a sacred text from the late 1990’s to a manual of war and destruction. During an investigation of Osama Bin Laden, Fox News uncovered a 2000 manual called Military Studies in the Jihad against the Tyrants (Hedahl, 2009, p. 226). America began perceiving Islam negatively because of the news coverage of the hijackers and reports linking the concepts of jihad and the Qur’an in stories. Hedahl concluded, “This Fox Network story exemplifies the prevalent discourse of 2001, which said Muslims are not to be trusted; and the story exacerbated the overly fearful feelings about Muslims that existed in America after 9/11(2009, p. 226). The lack of understanding of the cultural and religious values of Islam is causing great plight on Muslims across the country. Most Americans only know what they are exposed to about Islam from media, instead of going through legitimate means of learning going to a local Mosque or Masjid, reading the Quran in full themselves, or even approaching and asking an Muslim. A poll posted by the Washington Post (2006) stated that 46 percent of Americans have a negative view of Islam. The same article state that those Americans who have a negative view of Islam believe that the Quran teaches hate. Contrary to the Washington Post poll, a new poll reported August 2011 by the polling firm Gallup stated that 78 percent of Muslims oppose violence. Although studies find that many Americans believe that the Qur’an teaches hate, there has been an increased number of hate crimes towards the Qur’an by Americans. In 2008, stories


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emerged of an American army sergeant shooting the Qur’an for target practice in Iraq (Hedahl, 2009, p. 229). For patriotic America, this could promote hatred towards Islam by those who support the troops and the views they possess. Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainsville, Florida, called for “International Burn the Koran Day” in remembrance of the September 11 attacks (Knickerbocker, 2011). Jones is an activist of anti-Sharia law and has also written a book titled, “Islam is of the Devil.” Knickerbocker reports in his article, (“Terry Jones: How free speech and Qur’a buring can lead to violence”, 2011) that the Dove World Outreach Center defines Islam as "a violent and oppressive religion that is trying to mascarade itself as a religion of peace, seeking to deceive our society” on its website. It is in fact not Islam that is seeking to deceive society but the media attempting to mislead America. Popular media sources are reporting such acts under the right of freedom of speech and press, but this coverage is a means to gain followers, spread anti-Islamic, anti-Muslim propaganda, and to instigate Muslims around the world to retaliate against the religious oppression and blasphemous acts and thus, shed a disapproving view of Islam. Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledges the dangers and downfalls of freedom of speech as he wrote in a majority opinion report for a separate case, “Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and - as it did here - inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker” (Knickerbocker, 2011). Roberts’ statement holds that its acceptable for anyone to inflict pain on another because it is their right without punishment. With such negative statistics about Islamophobia, growing up as a Muslim in America can be hard for young Muslims trying to establish their identity. In a study about Muslim children in Urban America, it was exposed that most schools and teachers are not aware of the concerns and needs of their Muslim students (Ahmad & Szpara, Journal of Minority Affairs,


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2003). Many of the school activities and guidelines leave Muslim students feeling like outcast and embarrassed by how teachers exposed their differences or preferences of choice because they are Muslims to other classmates. The case study also found that some teachers show little sensitivity to the distinct identity of Muslim children. Due to the biased media portrayal of Islam, Muslim adults are also facing hardships living in America after 9/11. In 2001, Congress passed laws under the Patriot act making it easier for authorities to investigate in the “war on terror”, which has led to many Arab American and Muslim American being harassed and detained biasly and without warrant (Fang, 2002). Law abiding citizens were being treated as criminals. Fang reports in the article (“Under Scrutiny, Always”, 2002) that a study conducted by Council on American-Islamic Relations showed almost half of the 945 Muslims questioned said their lives had deteriorated that year. In movies and TV, there are but a few positive Arab and Muslim roles portrayed in America. Most Muslim characters are either terrorists or part of an anti-terrorism unit. Dr. Marwan M. Kraidy, a professor at American University says, “Until we see regular ArabAmerican or Muslim-American or Arab or Muslim characters who are not linked to terrorism or conflict in any way, there will be no significant progress in perceptions" (Asharqe.com, 2006). In the 2011 GOP Debate, a main topic of discussion was anti-sharia law. Sharia is the code of conduct or religious law of Islam (Sullivan, 2011). Such discussions in a publically viewed platform are detrimental to the understanding and acceptance of Islam by Americans. Anti-sharia laws would not only be unconstitutional but would make it illegal to be Muslim. The negative exposure of Islam should not frustrate Muslims but should be viewed as a sign of truth of Allah (the Arabic translation of God as revealed in the Qur’an). Tyrants have been attacking Islam for centuries. Allah revealed in Surah An-Noor of the Qur’an, ayat 19,


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“Those who love (to see) scandal published broadcast among the Believers, will have a grievous Penalty in this life and the hereafter. Allah knows and ye know not.” (www.Quranexplorer.com). This verse means that those persons who promote and spread such condescending views of Islam will be held responsible for their actions and Allah will deal with them justly. Allah consoles the Believers by instructing them in Surah An-Nahl, ayat 127, “And do thou be patient for thy patience is but from Allah nor grieve over them and distress not thyself because of their plots” (www.Quranexplorer.com). Muslims must remain steadfast in their faith and trust in Allah in spite how the world and media views them. Muslims have learned how to use popular media as an educational resource and a means to unity the religious community. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu uploaded a video to the web via Facebook to wish the Muslim world a happy Ramadan (Keinon, 2011). A Moroccan American by the name of Zahra Hussein told the Washington Report, “I follow him on Facebook,” referring to Professor Tariq Ramadan, an Islamic scholar (Hanley, 2011). She further stated, “He speaks to me about what matters. He speaks to me about what is important in Islam and how I can practice my religion in my county- America” (Hanley, 2011). Muslims use the internet video hosting site, Youtube, to view the Islamic lectures and recitations of the Qur’an of Imams and scholars from around the world. With the advancement of mobile devices, Muslims can access positive news coverage, radio, music and engage in religious forums. Although these resources are available for anyone to use, it is not widely advertised and promoted by mass media as much as anti-Islamic coverage. Muslims acquire such resources by researching and seeking it out of personal interest. Once popular media starts to promote a positive outlook of Islam, America may recognize that Islam could very beneficial to the country. “Islam is the perfect social contract


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under Allah in which only can lead a virtuous ethical life if practice faithfully”, (Brown, 2011, pg. 7). Islam could correct the nation’s economy if it adhered to its specified guidelines on trade and interest; it could help with the countries debt by using promoting moderation and saving instead of extravagance; and crime would be cut because of Islam’s views on justice and punishment. Instead, the country that was known as the “land of the free”, being “one nation under God” has become the land of oppression and a society that fears the believers of God and have little remembrance of God in its policies. The notion of freedom of religion is being overpowered and is diminishing because of the freedom of speech and press. Even though Muslims are aware of the hardships that popular media has on how the world view’s them and Islam, and may be strong in their faith to withstand it, media sources must change the negative perspective it portrays of the religion in order to promote equality and to minimize the oppression that Muslims face because of it.


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References Abbas, F. (2006, September 14). 9/11 and the birth of the "Muslim action hero". Retrieved August 18, 2011, from http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=5&id=6383 Ahmed, I., & Szpara, M. (2003). Muslim children in urban America. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 23(2). Retrieved August 18, 2011from EBSCOhost Database Al-Qur'an. (n.d.). (Quran Recitation and Translation online in Arabic, English, and Urdu.), Retrieved from http://www.Quranexplorer.com Aly, A. (2007). Australian Muslims responses to the discourse on terrorism in the Australian popular media. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 42(1), 27-40. Retrieved August 29, 2011 from EBSCOhost Database Brown, C. (2011, August 25). Why Islam is the best way of living for a virtuous and morally ethical life. Retrieved August 29, 2011 from http://issuu.com/asiyabintcecil/docs/107_final_reflective_paper Deane, C. & Fears, D. (2006, March 9). Negative perception of Islam increasing. Washington Post on the Web. Retrieved August 18, 2011, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2006/03/08/AR2006030802221.html Hanley, D. (2011, July). Keynote speech by Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan. The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, 29(5), 54-55. Retrieved August 29, 2011 from EBSCOhost Database


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Hedajl, S. (2009). The emerging presence of the Qur’an in American broadcast media: 19982008. Dialog: A Journal of Theology, 48(3), 222-230. Retrieved August 29, 2011 from EBSCOhost Database Keion, H. (2011, August 1). PM wishes Muslims in Isreal, abroad, Ramdan Karim. New US envoy Shapiro tries to ‘get to know’ Israelis via Facebook page. Jerusalem Post. Retrieved August 29, 2011 from ProQuest Database Knickerbocker, B. (2011, April 2). Terry Jones: how free speech and Qur’am buring can lead to violence. Christian Science Monitor, Item 08827729. Retrieved August 29, 2011 from EBSCOhost Database Naurath, N. (2011, August 2). Most Muslim Americans See No Justification for Violence. Retrieved August 18, 2011, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/148763/muslim-americansno-justification-violence.aspx Sullivan, A. (2011, June 13). Sharia Myth Sweeps America. USA Today. Retrieved August 29, 2011 from EBSCOhost Database


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Islamic Values vs. Popular Media in America  

Values are those things that matter most to an individual. They are the ideas and beliefs that shape an individual’s actions, character, and...