Growing up, I saw the word ‘terrorist’ often. Every time Islam or Muslims were spoken about, there was a mention of an attack of some sort. Whenever someone (attempted) to pronounce my first and last name, they would pause and ask if I am a “Mooz-lum.” When I’d ask how they just assumed I was, “oh, well I saw a name like yours on TV.
That was the problem and will continue being the problem, because the world revolves around the media. Social media, television media and even the internet, causes the prolonged effect on how everyone perceives Muslims and Islam.
When there’s an attack, whether it is a bombing or mass shooting, the automatic assumption is that it is someone linked to ISIS. We have news anchors that are quick to call it an ISIS attack and how it was a young Muslim recruit from, let’s say, South Carolina. While there is a possibility for that to be true, there is not an assumption where a Caucasian is the one at fault, the one causing the harm. It is always someone who is a person of color that wants to cause havoc and put the lives of citizens at risk.
Then to add onto issues, we have dear Hollywood to use Muslims in their TV shows and movies that portray Muslims as the bad guys, the bombers, the wife-beaters, and the storekeepers. Why can’t a Muslim save the day? Or be the hero? But then, who’ll play the bad guy and not be offended?
Yes, the media’s job is to spread news, make something go viral, or create something interesting to watch, which it does, but in the most negative way possible. And that is where the media plays an important role in how society perceives Islam and Muslims, which leads to assumptions, insults, and even assault. I have personally witnessed someone verbally assault a young woman, wearing a headscarf and minding her own business, calling her a terrorist and telling her to, “go back to her country.” She calmly responded that this is her country, as she was born and raised here, but at the same time she is a Muslim-American. This is what the media should be sharing. The acceptance of different religions and belief, not a pessimistic perception, which everyone will act upon to make sure there is always a difference.
Many will hesitate to admit it, but Islamophobia is starting to become a culture and a mindset. The terrorist jokes aren’t cool, saying “Mooz-lum” is not right, and telling a Muslim-American citizen to go back to their country is not acceptable to say. The media will always have an effect on society, which will enrich and encourage the Islamophobic culture growing amidst society.
It’s time to redefine the meaning of culture, which by no means is discriminating someone whose beliefs differ from your own.
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