‘Muslim’- the word itself sounds like a terror to the western world and often considered as a synonym for a terrorist. This has been going on for a long but after the 9/11 attack, this fear took a drastic turn. The media has been focusing on this particular event since then and has created a negative impression on the whole Muslim community. Islamophobia and Xenophobia towards Muslims are evident everywhere. It is that media shape public opinion and manipulate the minds of people through their propaganda. Muslims face backlash in almost every sector because of the misrepresentation of the media. The 9/11 attack was an act of religious extremism by a group of terrorists and terrorists can be affiliated to any religion. It is the manipulation by the media for which in today’s world Muslims are facing consequences of offenses that they did not act on.
September 11, 2020, marks the 19th anniversary of one of the darkest foreign terrorist attacks in the history of the land of the free and the home of the brave, the United States of America (USA). It was a regular weekday and the World Trade Center, located in Lower Manhattan, New York being one of the busiest places, had already started. Just at 8.45 in the morning, an American Airlines Flight 11 aircraft which was a Boeing 767 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. After 18 minutes of the first attack, a second aircraft, the United Airlines Flight 175 flew into the South tower and cut it into half from the 60th floor.
The crash caused a gigantic blast that showered burning debris over everything around the towers and onto the avenues below. It quickly turned out to be evident that America was enduring the deadliest attack it ever faced.
The attackers were terrorists from Saudi Arabia and a few other Arab countries. They were financed by Al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization of Saudi escapee Osama Bin Laden ( History.com Editors, 2010) According to Al-Qaeda, it was a retaliation act by them as the USA had been supporting Israel against the Muslim countries and their involvement in the Middle East and Persian Gulf War. Al-Qaeda did not appreciate the military presence of the US army in the Middle East and decided to plan this attack to bring the USA to their knees. The terrorists executed their plan after long preparations which also included long-term training like flying lessons. Some of them were living in the USA for the past one year of the attack and some joined just a few days before the attack.
Indubitably this incident left an enormous effect on the Americans. They were shaken to the core seeing the twin tower fall in minutes before their eyes. But, it is to be agreed upon that this whole occurrence had a drastic effect on the Muslim immigrants of the USA. The attack was no less terror for the Muslims too but their lives were changed as soon as the media started to broadcast news that portrayed the Muslims as terrorists. The recipients sitting on the opposite of the TV screens captured the message in no time and the entire Muslim community is paying the price of this attack ever since.
The USA was traumatized with the fear of being attacked and the Muslims were time and again shown as the terrorists. The blameless Muslim immigrants living in the USA as a consequence had to receive racism, discrimination, hatred, abhorrence, and every possible backlash from the Americans. The world suddenly had a changed view towards the Muslims. It was no longer recognized as a peaceful religion rather, the media started to associate Islam with terrorism.
Research demonstrates that 9 out of 10 of all news reports about Muslims, Islam, and Islamic associations are identified with terrorism, unlawful activities, violence, and oppression. An article in the New York Times stated that the xenophobic attitude alarmingly accelerated leaving the Muslim community in a never-ending loophole of criticism and resentment (Lichtblau, 2016). The Western world and the media started anti-Muslim campaigns by stereotyping Islamophobia. These negative stereotyping of the media lead the Muslims into a vicious cycle of fear and hostility. As a result, many innocents are being the scapegoat for the offenses they did not cause.
Media and its impact:
In this era of media and communication, media plays an extremely significant role in shaping public opinions. The media not only shape the public minds but also to decide what are the things that the public will receive. Media censorship and yellow journalism often lead to situations where the real scenarios remain under the curtains. Media has built the concept that western imperialism is a normal phenomenon and the Muslim world has produced Islamic extremism to rule it out. Western imperialism According to Morgenthau, “Imperialism is simply a manifestation of the balance of power and is the process by which nations try to achieve a favorable change in the status quo. The purpose of imperialism is to decrease the strategic and political vulnerability of a nation.”
It is the media that decides what the world will see and restrict the things that it does not want the world to believe. Through different propaganda techniques, the media manipulates the minds of the people. Social network activist Fakhar Naveed stated
“Propaganda is a set of the messages intended to influence opinions of the masses, not giving the opponents any opportunity to rebut the idea. Instead of telling people the truth, propaganda often aims at the manipulation of ideas to influence the behavior of a large number of people. So, it presents ideas selectively” (Naveed, 2012).
It is imperative to comprehend that there are critical contrasts between Muslims in the West and Muslims in the Muslim world as far as the impediments and difficulties they needed to persevere and this is one of the greatest consequences of propaganda instilled by the media in the western world.
An image is attached below to show the condition of the Muslim community after the 9/11 attack. This image is just a mere example of a few of the troubles faced by Muslims.
This image shows how badly Muslims are treated in the western world. They have faced more discrimination in the post-cold war era than any other community. This situation is still being continued in many places and at times the lives of the Muslims have become like a living hell-hole. Humiliation like calling names, extra inspection in airports, physically threatened, not getting justice, etc are the consequences of the manipulation of the media. The media has manipulated the people and has made it believable that Muslims are the offenders.
Different media campaigns are noticed these days which are run with anti-Muslim concepts. Western media which have notable financial funds run these anti-Muslim campaigns and portray a disgraceful image of the Muslim community. In today’s era, where everything is controlled by the media, it is very easy to manipulate the minds of people and tag Muslims with radicalism and extremism. After 9/11 the term Muslim and terrorism are often considered synonymous. Since 1980, the USA has repeatedly bombed and occupied around fourteen Muslim countries. Those cause thousands of death but the journalists did not recognize these acts as terrorist activities. But, Muslims are called out as terrorists even when they had not done anything.
Media stigma and its effects on Muslim women:
Muslim women have faced troubles in multiple sectors due to their appearances. Many Muslim women choose to wear a veil (niqab) and it is seen as a sign of oppression by the western world. Kecia Ali stated in his article “Rethinking Women’s Issues in Muslim Communities”-one of the difficulties tolerated by Muslim ladies in the Western world is the manner in which they dress particularly in wearing a Hijab (cover). Western individuals see ladies wearing the Hijab distinctively as they are part of the minority and more recognizable (Åli,2002)
Time and again the media manipulated the minds of people by stating how Islam has dominated women by not giving them the freedom to what to wear. But, it is often forgotten that a person is entitled to decide on their clothing. A woman wearing a Hijab/Niqab/Burkha is not a sign of oppression rather it is their freedom of deciding what to wear.
Muslim women have been reported to face discrimination in healthcare sectors too. They are treated in a different way than regular patients because of being Muslim and following a different kind of appearance. They were humiliated for asking for a female Doctor. Muslim women living in America stated how the healthcare provider did not want to be left alone with her in the cabin. It is seen that many Muslim women ask the medical assistants to shut the window curtains for a physical check-up but they have been mocked for such demands.
Muslim women are seen as young, oppressed, and females who marry early. This is how they have been portrayed by the media. They are also judged as potential terrorists and seen as threats. This has created mental pressure for most Muslim women. Being affiliated with terrorism without having done any crime is a huge humiliation and the women face this to a great extent because of their burkha, niqab, or veils.
Job Discriminations Faced by Muslims:
As per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, American Muslims have encountered massive employment discrimination since 2001. Recruiters have been found to have biases against Muslims. It is noticed that even after being highly educated and skilled, people who had pictures with headscarves were discriminated against and not called for interviews (Leckcivilize, 2019). Sometimes the CVs with Muslim names are not even checked. Unfortunately, the discrimination does not confine only in interviews rather noteworthy pay gaps are detected (Leckcivilize,2019). According to researches conducted by the PEW Research Center, most Americans believe that Muslims should be subject to stricter examination and inspection than people of other religions. Since the terrible events of September 11, 2001, Muslim Americans have faced a more prominent investigation, due to many more incidents that occurred recently which further triggered the anti- Muslim concepts in the United States (Lakhani, 2017). Religious discrimination increased by 250%. anti-Muslim workplace discrimination also accelerated after the 9/11 attack and the reason behind this is the anti-Muslim sentiment (Lakhani, 2017).
It is the time of the internet and online jobs are ruling a lot of sectors. Here also Muslims face a hard time getting recruited. Companies do not want to employ Muslims when they figure out their religious affiliations from their social media accounts. A study via Carnegie Mellon University found that in the most Republican states in the USA, employers tend to avoid interviews with candidates whose social media profile specify them as Muslims (Sahgal, 2013). Some workplaces restrict their Muslim employees from keeping a beard or covering the head.
While discrimination based on religion was prohibited by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a recent report demonstrates that Muslim names have turned into an obligation for employment searchers. Six thousand comparable, imaginary resumes were sent to California work firms with names “recognizable” as white, Latino, African American, Asian American, and Arab American. The name Heidi McKenzie got the most elevated positive reaction rate, 36.7 percent, and Abdul-Aziz Mansour, the least, 23 percent (Lubis, 2017).
As indicated by Biplab Pal, an Indian-American specialist who has filled in as a procuring administrator for American designing firms, it has turned out to be harder for instructed minorities, including Muslims and Indian and Bangladeshi Hindus who resemble Muslims, to get salaried employment in the U.S. “Numerous minority engineers are changing their names to American-sounding Christian names to find a new line of work,” says Pal.
Judicial Crisis Faced by Muslims:
According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination based on ethnicity or religious affiliation is an act of crime( Haake& Aziz, 2020). Muslims are found to file cases under this act in the United States of America. But, it is found that most of their cases are treated with ignorance and callousness. The judges fail to exercise justice towards the Muslims who filed the case. The Muslim community faces a nearly unconquerable battle to put their cases in front of the jury. They barely get served with justice when their employers mistreat them. The judges are found to have biases against the Muslims and support the employer’s interpretation instead of the one who filed the complaint. Nineteen years after the 9/11, the American judicial system keeps on being stacked against Muslim offended parties even when they are repeatedly attacked (Haake& Aziz, 2020).
A person is entitled to justice regardless of their origin, race, religious affiliation, and color. The courts must serve justice and be biased towards any other sector. But, it is a matter of concern that the Muslim community are often the victims of mistreatment from where they expect to get justice.
Islamophobia and Racism:
More than half of the Americans outcast Muslims from American society and believe that Muslims can not be a part of mainstream American society ( Pew Research Center, 2017). A large number of Americans associate Islam with violence and say that Muslims should always be treated with suspicion. The reasonably larger part of Muslims carries on with a strained life that is clearly of a lower quality than that of different social orders.
Regardless of societal position, being perceived as a Muslim dependably brings up ill-treatment and scrutiny. The media has targeted them as the universe’s irrefutable suspects until they figure out how to clear themselves – and achieve a superior status than “to be observed cautiously.” This arrangement of Muslims is effectively recognizable in the methods received by the legislatures of the non-Muslim countries that we live in or visit. This leaves a large number of Muslims with just a single choice — to turn out to be progressively otherworldly.
Muslims in many situations accept the horrifying life they are compelled to lead, although a couple of outside variables contributed to hauling them into a situation for which the entire Muslim community is not responsible. They are living under the mark of “universal suspects” just for their religious affiliation.
Muslims are seen as a threat and this is how media has portrayed them for years now. They are also seen as potential threats and at the time of any situation, they are at the suspect’s point ( Warren, 2017). This is one of the most humiliating experiences that is faced by the Muslim community because of how the media has portrayed Islam as an extremist religion.
read more 9/11 Tragedy and American Narcissism
19 years have passed since the 9/11 attack but the Muslim community still has to be at the receiving ends of mortification. The aftershocks of the 9/11 attack and the media portrayal of the incident have grown immense hatred and violence towards Muslims.
Muslims are often taken as defaulters even when they are not at fault and these are the consequences of the media manipulation. Media has successfully molded the minds of the general public and shaped their perspectives in an anti-Muslim way and this has been continuing since the 9/11 attack. The 9/11 attack is considered to be the highest fall of national security faced by the USA. The major intelligence failure was faced during the Bush administration but that does not justify blaming the entire Muslim community and making them face the inevitable consequences of 9/11. Muslims are represented negatively by the media which shows the lack of acceptance of diversity. The western media should change their view regarding Muslims and should rather start discussing the concepts of “interculturalism” instead of Islamophobia. The significance of media is undeniable and thus it is the right representation of Muslims by the media that can bring changes into the world which sees the terms “Muslim” and “terrorism” synonymous.
writer Mubassira Tabassum Hossain Dept. Of International Relations Bangladesh University of Professionals.
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