Myths and Media Perception of Muslims
My restrained reply started with pointing out that his “proposal” would have an outcome worse than the Nazi regime, and I asked if he knew how many Muslims there are in the world.
Now, my friend is not an unreasonable person. Most people who have this knee-jerk reaction are simply unaware of the portrayal of Muslims outside of sensationalist media sources such as FOX News. His reply to my comment was a simple, “No idea”.
The Nazi comparison probably made him realize that his statement to wipe out an entire religion may have been a bit lacking in data and foresight. I informed him, “Over a billion and a half, actually, probably closer to two billion now,” I added as the last resource I read was dated about five years ago.
“Holy sh#t that's like...a quarter of the world's population, you psycho-Nazi!” I jokingly say while I pull up a graph on my phone showing the regional world distribution. I wish I took a picture of his face when he realized there were Muslim countries outside of the Middle Eastern region.
This is where the indoctrination from media becomes apparent, as well as the tendency for people to generalize entire populations into categories of convenience. The media in the West has capitalized on and promoted the image of the Middle Eastern Terrorist; the dark-skinned man with a head wrap holding an RPG or AK-47, killing “infidels” indiscriminately.
After the 9/11 attacks the bulk of the collective anger of the United States would be channeled towards anything that could somehow be related to the terrorist attack: the entire Middle Eastern region, Muslims, anyone wearing a Hijab, these peoplewere all immediately guilty by association. Taken further, you could say anyone with a head wrap and their lower face covered playing a bad guy in a movie equates to a Muslim archetype. If you're in your 30's and older you might remember that the last iteration of this trend was when everything evil was associated to Russia or anybody that spoke with an Eastern European accent. Except now, that desire to express violence towards the perceived collective evil on our myopic stage is more easily viewed through social media outlets like Facebook. In fact, I've been surprised more than a few times to see amongst the usual shares of mundane world news and pet videos, a status update to the like of “TIME TO START HUNTING MUSLIMS!”
To this day, whenever I move to a different state within the US, I’ll always meet people that will bow to me. This is what I mean about categories of convenience. One glance and it's assumed that I'm associated to a group that exists in their imagination. Does it matter that I'm from Hawaii? Does it matter that I'm equal parts Sicilian and Japanese? Does it matter that I think it's odd they're bowing instead of shaking my hand like everyone else is?
I'm Asian-looking, all Asians bow (and most likely eat dogs), just like every Muslim must be wearing a suicide vest waiting to kill every American in sight. Having a US passport and not needing a green card to work doesn’t seem to matter (nor does my love of dogs; alive, thank you very much). I am the stern karate master, descended from kamikaze pilots and you, the Muslim, are awaiting your commands to bomb the United Nations for your “reward of virgins”.
Now I think the real question is: can we blame them for not knowing any better? Can we blame the public for not going the opposite direction of what is on media, TV, and history? Can we blame anyone for thinking badly about Muslims when all they've ever heard or known is that they're responsible for 9/11, everyone killed from the resulting battles, the videos of extremists doing unspeakable things, and, now, ISIS?
If a child is raised by religious extremists, how much of that is the child's fault, especially if they're in a closed system where any other ways of looking at the world are discredited or simply don't exist for them? That's probably why when I'm faced with perceived racism, I try to shrug it off and understand that it's completely unintentional. It's just what they know.
So now we're faced with the real issue: whose to blame for what people know? I've never seen positive imagery or positive acts that were attributed to a Muslim, and never see Muslims simply being shown as normal people; that’s across many media platforms, too. The percentage of people that have a moment of consciously questioning what they believe to be true in spite of what is being presented to them is possibly always going to be in the minority. I've developed this as a habit of sorts, perhaps out of a personality defect that makes me want to figure out an argument over everything I hear from most people I talk to. You could say it’s that rebellious teenage streak I never outgrew for better or for worse.
My internal “BS meter” automatically goes off whenever I hear anything either controversial or political. Following alarm, I came to a simple conclusion about Muslims: the stereotypes and media about them are bullsh*t. The excuse that people use religion for their own political gain has been the game of bullsh*t since the dawn of humanity. Perhaps one day the media can focus more on this general issue rather than pointing fingers at whichever religion is somehow associated with it. It’s not about the religion, it's about the politics of violence that religion has become a tool for blame.