Fear… How can you look past it?

On September 11, 2001, we all know what happened. A nation’s roots were shaking at its core, and its people needed hope, love, and attention to revive from the crash of darkness. As President, George W. Bush took it upon himself to strengthen the hearts of those in mourning. When he first gave his speech to congress on September 20, 2001, he mandated a need to end terror throughout the world, especially in the Middle East. At the time, Bush asserted that the feelings of Americans must not be directed at the entire Islamic population in the world, but instead at Islamic extremists.

At its core, Bush’s speech addressed the matter at hand; he brought the nation together and established a goal to eradicate terrorism across the world. He set a divide; The United States of America verses Islamic Terrorism; however, he failed to address a question that we have yet to answer in truth: how can one identify a terrorist?

I found these two pictures below with two simple google searches. The first, “Islamic terrorist,” and the second, “Islamic Woman.”

In looking at both, can you see a major difference in appearance?

The rhetoric in Bush’s speech was undoubtedly just; however, its execution is where controversies arise. Bush asserted the danger of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the like, and he stated that they were at odds with the true values of Islam, but how do we decipher between extremists and Muslims at a basic level—the way they look and dress? Certain sights cause fear, something that is uniform across races, religions, and communities.

So, we must ask where do we see Muslims dressed in their religious attire? Walking out of a mosque, yes. Sitting in a restaurant with their families, yes. On a TV screen with a RPG in their hands, yes. The latter is what causes the danger. The way see Muslims on television has a major impact on the way view Middle-Eastern or Islamic looking people in daily life. According to a Kuwaiti study, “Western media organizations must see normal Muslims in everyday life, as professionals, educators, parents, community leaders and participants… TV news and documentaries have the strongest influence on people’s views of Islam.”[1]

Mainstream media presents a portrait of Islamic people that engrains itself into the minds of Americans. Even if media does not actively strive to cause division between middle-eastern people and white America, perpetuation of negative pictures, stories, and events involving Islamic people leads to dangerous assumptions about the Islamic faith and Middle-Eastern culture. These assumptions and associations have led to a fear, not just what some would call Islamophobia, but genuine fear.  Fear is generally looked at as “a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats.” [2] But not all fear is experienced face-to-face by all people, instead it is learned and developed by authority figures. Look at children as an example. At an early age, they are indoctrinated by their parents not to trust strangers: “Don’t open the door to strangers,” “Don’t get in the car with a stranger,” etc. But over time, kids are able to understand that some strangers are “good” and others are “bad,” and they make value judgements based on their parent’s approval.

Mainstream media is that authority figure that siphons how we are able to view a sect of people. “When the perpetrator is Muslim, you can expect that attack to receive about four and a half times more media coverage than if the perpetrator was not Muslim,” disturbing implications for the way Americans perceive Muslims.”[3]

AUDIENCE: Millenials living in a post 9/11 world, especially New Yorkers.

After workshop: Incorporate the speech more throughout the article/ use “I”– growing up in New York– riding the subway everyday…

 

[1] “Media has anti-Muslim bias, claims report,” The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2005/nov/14/pressandpublishing.raceintheuk.

[2] “Fear,” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/fear.

[3] Boyle, Tara, “When is it ‘terrorism’? How the Media Cover Attacks by Muslim Perpetrators,” NPR, http://www.npr.org/2017/06/19/532963059/when-is-it-terrorism-how-the-media-covers-attacks-by-muslim-perpetrators.

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