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Media Misconceptions Haunt US Muslims

Published: 17/01/2012 01:32:35 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Feeling the pinch of growing hostility in their society, US Muslims are complaining of the negative media portrayal of their faith, spreading m (more)

CAIRO - Feeling the pinch of growing hostility in their society, US Muslims are complaining of the negative media portrayal of their faith, spreading misconceptions about the religious minority and demonizing their life style, The Breeze newspaper reported on Tuesday, January 17.

“People don't have time to read books or further educate themselves,” Pakistan-born Ehsan Ahmed, a professor and department head of economics, said, complaining of the way Muslims are portrayed in the media.

Dalia Desouky, a Muslim and sophomore double major in international affairs and political science, agrees.

She notes that media coverage and rightwing political maneuvers were the main reasons behind tarnishing the image of the Muslim minority in the US.

She cites a common misconception in the US that Islam is an ethnicity, not a religion.

“So, you can't really look like you're Muslim,” Desouky said. “There are Muslims in seriously every country on this earth.”

As an African Muslim born in Nigeria, Adebayo Ogundipe, an assistant professor in the School of Engineering, feels he has not suffered the same slurs as Middle Eastern-looking Muslims had following the 9/11 attacks.

“I think it's because [racism] is no longer fashionable [in the US],” Ogundipe said.

“It is harder to separate ‘Are you having this attitude because of my skin color or because of my religion?'”

Likewise, Jake Rath, a Muslim light skin freshman accounting major, has also never been a target of discrimination.

But the case was not the same for his mother, who was harassed in the street for donning a headscarf.

“Someone called her a murderer on the street,” Rath recalled.

“My mom just looked at the guy and walked away, and I could tell that she was crying and was really hurt.”


Many Muslims say that Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has given ammunition to the media to demonize Muslims and their faith.“He was not a scholar, he hadn't written any [theological] books, he was not a religious leader,” Ogundipe said, stressing that most Muslims opposed the 9/11 attacks.

“He was nobody.”

The misconceptions related to hijab, portrayed as a symbol of oppression for women, were still a factor.

By wearing a hijab, “You're trying to make someone notice you not for your physicality, but notice you for who you are as a person,” said Saadia Khan, a fifth-year biology major who moved to the US from Pakistan when she was 2 year old.

But, there have been times where she felt she was not welcome as American after being harassed for wearing hijab.

Since 9/11, US Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.

Anti-Muslim frenzy has grown sharply in the US in recent months over plans to build a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property.

Moreover, US Muslims have sensed a growing hostility following a hearing presented by representative Peter King on what he described as “radicalization” of US Muslims.

Lawmakers in at least 15 states have introduced proposals forbidding local judges from considering Shari`ah when rendering verdicts on issues of divorces and marital disputes.

US Muslims yearn to the days before 9/11 when they did not feel different at all.

“I didn't make any distinction between my family being Egyptian or my family being Muslim,” Desouky said.

“I really just thought I was American.”

Reproduced with permission from