City College: Media and the Myth of “Islamic Terrorism”

The mainstream media bears a huge responsibility in creating the myth of Islamic terrorism by focusing on negative stories and events related to Muslims. Negative coverage accounts for 80% of news on Muslims on CBS and 60% on Fox. The truth, however, seems to belie these statistics. While national news tends to identify 81% of domestic terrorism suspects as Muslims in, the FBI actually reports only 6% of such suspects as Muslims.

Violent incidents of anonymous ownership in Western cities, quickly blamed by a trigger-happy media on Muslim extremists, serve as a ready-made source of anti-Muslim bigotry. 9/11 proved to be a watershed moment in the rising trend of Islamophobic reporting followed by the train bombings in the UK and Spain and then the Charlie Hebdo murder in France. Here too, biased media reporting played a big part in shaping public perception, broad-brushing Islam as the root cause of terrorism and its followers as fundamentalists.

Double Standards in Reporting

Worldwide, violent acts have been attributed to several other groups such as nationalist Hindus in India, Zionist Jews in Israel, Christians in Rwanda and other parts of Africa, white supremacists such as the Oklahoma Bomber in the USA and most recently by Buddhists in Myanmar. However, the media’s double standards does not blame the violence on Hindu, Jew, Christian, white or Buddhist terrorists – it prefers seeing them as just criminals, rioters,  or at worst, misguided perpetrators of violence, while a violent act, supposedly by a Muslim and regardless of the motive, is branded as “Islamic terrorism”, further reinforcing the Islamophobic narrative.

Ignorance about Islam and Muslims

Since education about Islam as a world religion started in public schools only after 1990, most adults are ignorant about the religion or its adherents. A very large number of Americans do not know Muslims personally, with 62% having rarely or never spoken to one, 57% admitting to knowing little about them and 26% nothing at all, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. Although youth tend to have fewer preconceived notions than adults, they are still vulnerable to the prejudices passed on by adults, perpetrating the fear psychosis pervading the society.

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