“Arab” a word associated with many ugly stereotypes
A stereotype is a preconceived or oversimplified generalization about an entire group of people without regard for individual differences. Even when stereotypes are positive, they always have a negative impact and can lead to discrimination. Using the word “ARAB” is used to describe various individuals in the Middle East, despite their countries, diverse cultures, variety or religion and backgrounds. I believe the word “Arabs” reduces individuals and countries to a distinct target, open to stereotypes and bias.
The Media is a very powerful took in all aspects in the Middle East all the way from Television to the Internet; and in my opinion the western media project individual’s often Arab descent in a negative manner. Arabs are seen as murderers due to the way the media manage to label us; after all; the words terrorists, extremists and fanatics are now almost alternatives to saying the world Arab.
One of the best examples on the media linking Arabs with terrorism was about a decade ago in 1995; the Oklahoma city bombings. Within minutes news reporters sent the message that this was a terrorist attach, which raised unpopular stereotypes of Arabs, allowing the American public to developed ides and images of Arab terrorists destroying and vandalizing American property. To add fuel to the fire; a terrorist expert Steve Emerson told viewers on CNN “not to believe Islamic groups when they denied their involvement”; it wasn’t until later when an American was arrested for the bombings in Oklahoma city that the American public realized that they were manipulated by the mass media to follow a certain philosophy.
While newspapers and television news play a major role in the way we perceive individuals, it is often the characterization of these individuals that shape our stereotypes. As a favorite pastime, the average American watches anywhere from three to five hours of television per day. Television has the ability to enlighten and enrich the lives of all the people it touches, however, it also has the ability to achieve and create stereotypes. In an analysis of television shows, Shaheen (1984) has formulated the four basic myths pertaining to stereotypes of Arabs. “They are all fabulously wealthy, they are barbarians and uncultured, they are sex maniacs with a penchant for white slavery, and they revel in acts of terrorism.”
In March of 2006 a total of 1000 randomly selected Americans were included in a Post-ABC News Poll on American Attitudes Towards Islam; The poll found that nearly half of Americans — 46 percent — have a negative view of Islam, seven percentage points higher than in the tense months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, when Muslims were often targeted for violence.
Negative stereotypes about Arabs by the media are all over textbooks used in American schools and taught in the educational system. Building such a stereotype is unhealthy, un-educational and plain prejudice because any student who experiences a visit in the Middle East can start forming new idea’s that perhaps they have gotten the wrong idea in the first place.
Soon after 9/11, hate crimes were on the rise, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment was common to read on websites and to watch on TV. Somehow no one stopped to think that an Arab does not translate into a terrorist and a Muslim does not translate into a terrorist either.
An Arab can be Christian, Muslim and some Jews also identify themselves as Arabs. Arabs span across 22 countries and have emerged from countries with different histories. In sum, they are a diverse community with different backgrounds, but also hold a strong sense of unity and solidarity with each other, regardless of the differences.
Muslims on the other hand, are not necessarily only Arab. A Muslim can be Indonesian, Indian, Arab or Albanian–in sum, there is no one definition of what comprises a Muslim. Like Christianity transgresses beyond national borders and has a following of billions, Islam, has a following of roughly 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide. And clearly, 1.2 billion Muslims cannot be all terrorists.
What needs to be understood is that ignorance is not really bliss when it comes to labeling and stigmatizing communities, because it does not help multiculturalism and it isolates a community that is trying to integrate and find its spot in many western societies.
For all that’s worth a change in the Mass Media should be made, the image of Arabs is portrayed as a menace to society and degenerates from an uncivilized culture. The negative images of Arabs are creating myths and stereotypes which encourage judgments and perceptions by individuals.
Open Your Eyes: There are two sides to every story!
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