With campaign season in full swing and the recent anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, media coverage on Muslims and Islam seems to be taking over, and feminist problems are coming with it.
Islamophobia is a relatively new term, but it is definitely falls under feminist principles like oppression, racism, white supremacy and xenophobia. I realize that is a long list of issues, so we are not going to dissect every one of them today. Instead, let’s dive into exactly what Islamophobia is in today’s media and how to spot it as a feminist.
Islamophobia in short is the fear, or even hatred of the Islamic religion and things that have to do with it. This directly affects Muslims, or people that follow this religion. In my lifetime, the entire rhetoric surrounding Muslim people and their faith has changed and become far more divisive and even violent.
After 9/11, many people in the United States began to view Muslims as an enemy because the terrorists who perpetrated the infamous attacks claimed to be “Islamic extremists.” This tends to come from the belief that Islamic law or sharia affects the entire religious and political systems of those who subscribe to the faith. This belief coupled with the trauma from 9/11 (and a pinch of political propaganda) created a fear of Muslim people in general.
With the development of the terrorism rhetoric, groups like ISIS forming and hate speech out in the open, Islamophobia has become fairly common and the media is a subscriber when covering politics, immigration and day to day interactions with Muslim people.
The mainstream media, particularly television outlets, have a sort of formula that perpetuates Islamophobia rhetoric. Sara Berzingi is medical student at West Virginia University who also serves as a reporter on the U92FM news team. She’s a member of the media and a Muslim woman who sees Islamophobia play out from both perspectives.
“The fear-mongering approach of typically nationalistic media sources both in the U.S. and even abroad in areas of the U.K., propagates islamophobic attitudes to the community at large,” she said. “Ann Coulter is probably the best example of this. As a political commentator she continues to spew hateful vitriol on air and through her social media. She has a long-standing hate for women who wear the headscarf and never fails to let that be known on air. Her bias impedes her work and violates any and all journalistic integrity she may have ever had.”
People in Muslim and feminist communities are starting the conversations about why Islamophobia is problematic. Islamophobia is a feminist issue because it is taking away from the equality and equity of a group of people, and is spurred by that long list of institutional oppression agents I mentioned earlier. The mainstream media is perpetuating that oppression by reinforcing stereotypes, speaking in a xenophobic way about Muslims and continuing the us vs. them rhetoric.
So, when you see media personalities interviewing a Muslim person after a terrorist attack and firing off accusatory questions, you are witnessing Islamophobia. When someone like Ann Coulter spouts out comments about riding camels and magic carpets, that’s Islamophobia. And when you see hate crimes, hate speech and other explicit acts play out on a public stage that is Islamophobia and it is a contemporary feminist concern.