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How Mainstream Media Are Stoking Violence Against Muslims

'Mainstream' Media characterisations of Muslims function to justify oppression at home and imperial devastation abroad.

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2. A  Daily Express article "claim[ing] that NatWest and Halifax had removed images of piggy banks from their promotional material in an effort to avoid offending Muslim customers".

3. A story about a Muslim bus driver commanding passengers to disembark at prayer time. 

Beards and civilisation 

John L Esposito highlights some of the disconcerting repercussions of pervasive Islamophobic rhetoric in the US in his foreword to  The Islamophobia Industry. According to a 2006  USA Today-Gallup Poll of non-Muslim Americans, Esposito writes: 

"[f]ewer than half the respondents believed that US Muslims are loyal to the United States. Nearly one-quarter of Americans - 22 percent - said they would not like to have a Muslim as a neighbour; 31 percent said they would feel nervous if they noticed a Muslim man on their flight, and 18 percent said they would feel nervous if they noticed a Muslim woman on their flight. About 4 in 10 Americans favour more rigorous security measures for Muslims than those used for other US citizens: requiring Muslims who are US citizens to carry a special ID and undergo special, more intensive, security checks before boarding airplanes." 

It's not enormously difficult to see how such a climate would spawn  record levels of anti-Muslim violencein the country. 

The de facto criminalisation of certain types of facial hair and other signifiers of Islamic piety is meanwhile aided and abetted by certain journalistic manoeuvers such as references to " bearded savages" and the like in the mainstream press. 

A 1998  New York Times feat of Orientalist travel writing entitled " Exotic Oman Opens Its Doors" begins: 

"Think of the Persian Gulf and what do you see? Gulf war soldiers, burning oil, bearded fanatics, polluted seas and flat, bleak desert." 

Luckily for the author-vacationer,  Judith Miller, "exotic" Oman defies stereotypes and proves itself to be an "exquisitely civilised country". As for less fortunate Persian Gulf locales, the same Miller subsequently expanded her talents from providing the  Times' readership with detailed descriptions of the turtle egg-laying process on the Omani coast to  falsified reports of an Iraqi WMD programme

In the end, media characterisations of Muslims kill two birds with one stone, justifying  oppression at home and imperial devastation abroad.

Belén Fernández is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin magazine and Ricochet and a blogger for teleSUR English.

 
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