Connect with us

Film

The Guardian: Geert Wilders anti-Islam film gets House of Lords screening

Guests

Published

Geert Wilders anti-Islam film gets House of Lords screening

Dutch far right politician, who was last year banned from the UK, said film showing was a ‘victory for freedom of speech’

Sam Jones

guardian.co.uk

Friday 5 March 2010 17.57 GMT

The controversial far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders appeared at the House of Lords today to screen an anti-Islam film and denounce the religion as “totalitarian” and incompatible with democracy.

The visit, which was originally planned for last year, sparked demonstrations from anti-fascists and a show of support from the far-right English Defence League.

Wilders, 46, who leads the Freedom party, was banned from the UK when Jacqui Smith was home secretary. She said his presence had the potential to “threaten community harmony and therefore public safety”.

Wilders succeeded in getting the ban overturned and told a press conference that he had screened his film in the Lords and discussed it afterwards in what he termed a “victory for freedom of speech”.

“I had to debate with people who disagreed with me and people who agreed with me,” he said.

Wilders said he had “nothing against Muslims whatsoever” but Islam was a “totalitarian religion”.

“Islamism and democracy are incompatible. The more Islam we have, the more freedom we will lose and this is something worth fighting for.”

Wilders, whose film describes the Koran as a fascist book, has received death threats for denouncing Islam and has been under close protection for more than five years.

This afternoon he repeated the views that have angered Muslims in Europe and across the globe, saying Islam was a “fascist ideology”, “a violent and dangerous religion and a retarded culture”.

Wilders, who visited the Lords at the invitation of the UK Independence party leader Lord Pearson and the crossbencher Baroness Cox, said: “Cultural relativism is the greatest disease we face in Europe today.”

Lord Pearson said that while he and Wilders – “a very great man” – agreed on many things he did not support his Dutch colleague’s desire for the Koran to be outlawed.

“If Geert is still calling for the Koran to be banned like Mein Kampf then I would not agree with him,” he said. “[But] the Koran should be very much more discussed among the Muslim community.”

When Wilders was asked whether he would engage with Muslims who reinterpreted their holy book in a manner more compatible with his views, he replied: “If you tear the hateful passages out of the Koran, you would get Donald Duck.”

In any case, he said, Muslims would never abandon the text of what he called “a terrible book”.

Lord Pearson denied suggestions that Wilders’s visit had been a publicity stunt designed to woo those on the far right, saying it was a multi-party event.

Asked how many people had attended the event in the Lords, he said “about half a dozen”, adding that he was not aware of any objections or boycotts.

Wilders was escorted from the press conference as a crowd of about 100 protesters from Unite Against Fascism (UAF) demonstrated against both his visit and the presence nearby of the far-right English Defence League, who had turned out to welcome the Dutch politician.

A large-scale police operation ensured that UAF and the EDL were kept well apart.

While the anti-fascists were waving placards reading “EDL+BNP=Nazi racist thugs” and chanting “EDL, go to hell, and take your Nazi mates as well”, members of the league were massing further up the Thames outside Tate Britain.

When the English Defence League came to London. Link to this video
After waiting around for two hours outside the gallery and in a nearby pub, the 300 EDL demonstrators began marching towards Parliament Square just before 2.30pm.

Flanked by mounted officers and escorted by a thick police line, the EDL members wore shirts bearing the names of their divisions – Glossop, Blackburn, Oldham, Stockport, Merseyside – and carried placards reading: “Gert [sic] Wilders, England Salutes You” and “England needs a Gert [sic]”.

The point of the march appeared to have been lost on at least one EDL member. Spying a Dutch tricolour carried in salute to Wilders, he asked his fellow demonstrators: “What you got a French flag for?”

Source: The Guardian

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

#Culture

Mockery: Comedy’s Weapon Against Morality

Danish Qasim

Published

Mock mockers after that
That would not lift a hand maybe
To help good, wise or great
To bar that foul storm out, for we
Traffic in mockery.

-W.B. Yeats

Religion is a common target of mockery, and mockery is one of the quickest ways to destroy reverence. Laughing at the sacred and making seemingly benign comments whose harm is difficult to explicate is subversive to our sense of the sacred. Mockery may be aimed at the institution of religion, sacred texts, or holy figures. While Muslims remain distinctive in upholding the sanctity of the Prophet Muhammad, it is common to find Muslims caricaturizing practicing Muslims as judgmental, hypocritical, backwards, and stupid.  Making fun of instances of hypocrisy and judgmental behavior would not be so bad as that would target vices and inconsistencies. The caricaturizing of all practicing Muslims as backwards, however, occurs when basic tenets and practices become linked to absurdities. We should not be surprised when Muslim entertainers do this given that they exist in a larger culture which detests the sacred and champions mockery of authority. Furthermore, it is myopic to support such figures as religious representatives when they do not care to uphold the sanctity of basic religious beliefs and actions.

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

A comedian today is a cultural authority holding a role akin to the public intellectual. However, the comedian is not responsible for the views espoused and can always backtrack and say ‘it’s just a joke.’ He is not held to decorous standards or expected to hold any positions, nor is he expected to rationally defend the positions he does hold. He is an outsider as a critic, but an insider when on your side. A comedian enters discussions on his own terms, appropriates and disowns, has no committed position, and can always point the finger. The comedian is a transcendental figure not beholden to any moral standard or class of people. He does everything under the canopy of laughter. Mockery is such a comedian’s favorite tool. Mockery requires no critique, and it’s not an argument; however, it’s an effective way of devaluing and dragging something revered down to a level of flaws and the mundane. It’s a sneaky tactic that asserts superiority without making an argument or inviting rebuttals.

A comedian today is a cultural authority holding a role akin to the public intellectual. However, the comedian is not responsible for the views espoused and can always backtrack and say ‘it’s just a joke.’Click To Tweet

The comedian can justify anything by referencing his ability to incite laughter. Laughter – what we consider funny – is determined by the spirit of the age. What was funny 50 years ago is not funny today. There is a relationship between morality and humor. What is comedic is produced in relation to our moral sensibilities. When sacrilege is normalized it becomes a function of comedy. Jokes about God would not have been funny 100 years ago, but now they are commonplace.

Jokes about God would not have been funny 100 years ago, but now they are commonplace.Click To Tweet

Mockery is comedy’s weapon against morality. Mocking an aspect of Islam is not an attack on the truth of it, rather it attacks the moral weight. Mockery is not a challenge on epistemic grounds: it’s a challenge of reverence. It removes the weight of veneration. Everything you believe religiously has an external correlate to how you interact with the world. If you mock a concept enough you will recreate it as a parody of itself. This is extremely corrosive for our faith. Mockery provides a material way of making religious practices look stupid. A common target is prayer. We can never materially prove that a prayer has been answered. It’s easy to view unanswered duas with cynicism and chalk it up to a spiritual interpretation of nothing happening.

If you mock a concept enough you will recreate it as a parody of itself. This is extremely corrosive for our faith.Click To Tweet

Recently, Muslim comedian Hasan Minhaj made a mockery of dua. Much like voting enthusiasts criticized Colin Kaepernick for ‘only kneeling’ or bureaucrats paint protesters as ‘noisemakers’ who don’t do anything ‘real,’ many Muslims have come to mock the idea of supplication bringing about change in the world. We should not accept any Muslim celebrity partaking in such mockery as it transgresses orthodox Muslim sensibilities and negatively portrays us for taking our rituals and worship seriously.  This is especially true when such figures are bound by the protocols of Hollywood “activism,” in which missteps of a different kind result in ‘listening, learning, and privilege checking’ rituals to prevent excommunication.

In his monologue We Cannot Stay Silent About George Floyd, Hasan addresses Keith Ellison, asking, “how many Muslim fundraisers have you and I gone to where we   ‘pray for the community…you gotta make dua…'[closing his eyes, raising his hands, as if imitating someone making dua].”  Hasan then says “we cannot just make dua.” His portrayal of dua here is that of being an empty ritual and a way of not dealing with problems.

Minhaj juxtaposes two activities: human activity and prayer, and suggests that all Muslims do is the latter and it’s coming at the expense of the former. This juxtaposition suggests that the only way to take the former is to sacrifice the latter, which is untrue. We only act on our volition by the will of God. Seeking permission from The Creator who determined what we can do in the name of practical activity in a perfectly sensible thing to do.

Seeking permission from The Creator who determined what we can do in the name of practical activity is a perfectly sensible thing to do.Click To Tweet

Given that he cited such duas as occurring at specific fundraisers, we could have excused this statement as bad taste and getting carried away if it had been his only negative portrayal of dua. If Minhaj’s point was to poke fun at people using dua as an excuse to not act, the inconsistency of dua not substituting going to work or school for worldly success could have been pointed out.

In Minhaj’s follow up, Hasan And Keith Ellison On Justice For George Floyd, he portrays dua as inherently useless. In the episode, Minhaj shares the criticism he received from his last monologue, with Muslims asking “why did you have to go after making dua?” Minhaj then states that he wants to start the interview with Ellison with a dua, and he begins with a Quranic dua making it seem like he is going to make things right. He then pretends to pray with utter seriousness for what he means the audience to understand as frivolous. He nonchalantly tells his “white friends” backstage that they can “just participate” and before officially ending, asks Ellison if he wants him to make anymore “shout outs.”

Minhaj’s dua scene has several implications. It mocks the importance of dua and portrays religious Muslims as useless, frivolous, and unintelligent.Click To Tweet

Minhaj’s dua scene has several implications. It mocks the importance of dua and portrays religious Muslims as useless, frivolous, and unintelligent. It also suggests that dua has no capacity to change things, and because it won’t change things, we can make dua any way we want.  One message is that the ultimate point is to change things with your hands because dua has no real power to transform the world. This is used as way of criticizing Muslims for making dua and allegedly not taking action as if the two actions are at odds. Minhaj is also making the point in his mock dua that it makes no difference what we pray for because the act itself is inconsequential.  This portrayal removes the cosmic dimension of prayer and states ‘God won’t intervene in this situation, only you can do it!’ We should not accept tropes which divide prayer and action and presuppose an inherent divide which demands we limit prayer to intensify our commitment to action.

Furthermore, this scene suggests that when Muslims make dua, they are seeking refuge from ‘white women in yoga pants’ and other silly matters, which preoccupies them from doing any important work or having a positive impact on others.

His dua also seemed to be a response to his religious critics by mocking them, as if to say ‘religious people criticized me, so I’ll just show you how silly these religious people are and why they care about prayer, and then I’ll get on to the important matters.’

Dua further becomes an object of mockery when the name of Allah and an address to Allah become a comical address to the audience. In many places in the Quran, Allah glorifies the name of Allah. For example, Allah says

“Exalt the name of your Lord, the Most High” (87:1).

The name of Allah is itself sacred. Belittling the name of Allah or calling upon Allah, invoking His name in jest is a major sin. It is not absurd to ask Allah for trivial matters with seriousness, as the Prophet  told us “Let one of you ask his Lord for all of his needs, even if his sandal strap breaks.”

The name of Allah is itself sacred. Belittling the name of Allah or calling upon Allah, invoking His name in jest is a major sin.Click To Tweet

Prayer was foundational for both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. in their respective civil rights movements.  They did not belittle prayer and deem their struggles ‘too serious’ for prayer. For oppressed people all over the world, all they have is prayer. Prayer is the barrier between oppression and despair. When Talut’s (Saul) army was to meet Goliath most of his soldiers despaired, saying “There is no power for us today against Goliath and his soldiers.”

But the believers from among them, “those who were certain that they would meet Allah said, ‘How many a small group has overcome a large group by Allah’s permission. And Allah is with the patient’” (2:249). The Muslims were guaranteed victory for the Battle of Badr, and the Prophet  was making dua with his hands raised before the battle to the point of his shawl shaking off his shoulders. The Prophet  also made dua while walking to the masjid and when waking up in the morning.  Dua is not just the refuge of the desperate, it is a manifestation of one’s connection to Allah and the realization of one’s utter dependence. It’s a dependence we affirm regardless of circumstance. It is wrong to view dua as something to do only when we are in a bad situation.

We would not tolerate jokes by non-Muslims which paint Muslims as buffoons and idiots. The fear would be that the negative portrayal would affect all Muslims.  When ‘religious Muslims’ are mocked by Muslims themselves however, it’s easy to stand outside of it as one of the enlightened ‘good ones.’ This leaves those who are hanging on to beliefs which are already mocked open to further mockery.

The Poets 

And the poets, only those in error follow them. Do you not see how in every valley they wander? And that they say what they do not do? Except those who believe and do righteous deeds and remember Allah much. And they avenge [the Muslims] after they have been oppressed.  And the oppressors will soon know to which place they shall be returned (26:224-227).

In this verse, Allah faults the poets as having no grounding in principles or beliefs. They go to and fro without commitment and say whatever they feel like or whatever helps achieve their personal aims. After a general rule, Allah mentions the exception of righteous and believing Muslim poets. The Prophet Muhammad told some of his poets to respond to poems of the polytheists which denigrated them by making poems denigrating the polytheists.  He told his poets that such poetry is harder on them than being hit by an arrow.  The Prophet  made dua for his poet Hassan ibn Thabit that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) assist him with Jibrael 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) in his poetry against the polytheists. Poetry was used as a tool to elevate and defend Islam and denigrate the polytheists.

Poetry was used as a tool to elevate and defend Islam and denigrate the polytheists.Click To Tweet

Comedy is potentially a positive tool, but we cannot be naive about its nature and the hurdles one has to overcome to make positive use of it. Excessive joking and exaggerated speech are faults of the tongue, and excessive laughter kills the heart. Joking occasionally or being cheerful is not analogous to making a career out of comedy. It is naive to think we can ‘Islamicize’ a medium by changing the content. Mediums which are intrinsically problematic like entertainment will win out and shape the content. This is especially problematic in the mainstream where industry standards push one to speak in a way that is not grounded in beliefs, conviction, or reverence. When a comedic standard is mockery and religion is often targeted, we cannot expect Islamic sanctity to be respected.  Jokes which depend on mockery are only funny if you buy into hidden premises, which are often predicated upon deliberate misunderstandings of their object. If you don’t buy into the premises, the jokes are revealed to be mean, insulting, and condescending

We must move beyond ‘halal and haram’ discussions on comedy and educate ourselves as to how comedy is used. Poetry is halal, but we are warned about it because it can pull us along to places we shouldn’t go emotionally and tug on certain heart strings. Likewise, in comedy, someone might make fun of an ideal in the religion, or a fiqh ruling by making it sound absurd, such as “why do Muslims have an aversion to just one bite of pork but eat plates full of fried food?” The false equivalency of “permit this, but prohibit that” is a common comedic schema for mocking religion. Such jokes are harmful because by coming in the form of a joke, they can get you to implicitly agree without realizing it, and once you laugh along you are entertaining the premise. This is how meaningful acts turn into heartless rituals.

The entertainment industry is very aware of its influence and will use its entertainers to propagate messages in support of its aims and ideals. This is an age-old tactic and we should not be surprised when we see Muslim entertainers used to propagate what we know is explicitly haram as being open to interpretation to begin a major change in the Muslim mind.  For example, five years ago, Reza Aslan and Hasan Minhaj wrote us an open letter in which they state their disagreement of homosexuality being haram.  This letter is intended for Muslims who seem to view Islam as a cultural identity primarily.

Unfortunately, many Muslims will overlook the anti-Islamic messaging in what they perceive as pro-Muslim messaging.  The desire for representation, safety, and acceptance overpower their desire to protect our religion. We should be happier to not have Muslim representation in the field than having Muslims who fall victim to vile industry norms and then want the same for us. However, we can promote comedians who do not engage in the mainstream. We should also expect Muslim organizations to not support or promote those who do mock our faith. Representation, normalization, and acceptance cannot become idols we create to rival God.

The desire for representation, safety, and acceptance overpower their desire to protect our religion. Click To Tweet

When it comes to Muslim celebrities in general, whether activists, politicians, entertainers, or even religious figures, gaining acceptance in the mainstream is often bartered for key Islamic principles.  This is seen as negotiable to liberal secular Muslims who do not believe in the inviolability and honor of the sharia as an eternally sacred institution. They may root their path to success in being Muslim and self-tokenize as Muslims, and while they are okay with weaponizing the oppression capital of Islam and using that as a stairway to fame, will mock institutional ideas of Islam to appease liberal secular sensibilities. They will challenge centuries old views of Islam in order to refashion Islam into the image of secularity. ‘Extreme’ and ‘balance’ are then defined by their own golden mean which is their own comfort level. The Prophethimself, who remains revered, will be reimagined in a way which suits their own sensibilities and parts from his life which do not suit these sensibilities will be ignored. They do not view the Prophet as the ideal person whom we need to adjust our frames to understand, rather they center their own sensibilities as the perfect criterion.

In this reshaping, Islam is only good when it fits a secularism where we may mock religion and key ideas- just as American Christians mock Christian prayer. The tradition of Islam (opposed to very key tenets and values) become burdensome, and the fluid terms of ‘extreme’ and ‘balance’ will be alternated at will to justify this new approach to Islam.

In this reshaping, Islam is only good when it fits a secularism where we may mock religion and key ideas- just as American Christians mock Christian prayer. The tradition of Islam becomes burdensome.Click To Tweet

Knowing all this, we should not be surprised when Muslims in the mainstream make fun of Islam.  When someone else mocks us, it’s easy to view it as a clash and a challenge to what we believe, which evokes a defense. When we mock ourselves, it makes us indifferent and numb to its consequences.

Ghayra

إن أصل الدين الغَيْرة ومن لا غيرة له لا دين له فالغَيْرة تحمي القلب فتحمي له الجوارح فتدفع السوء والفواحش، وعدم الغَيْرة 

تميت القلب

The root of religion is ghayra. The one without ghayra has no religion. Ghayra protects the heart and protects the limbs and repels evil and lewdness. And a lack of ghayra kills the heart
Ibn Qayyim

Ghayra, which may be described as a sense of protection, honor, and love for something as sacred and inviolable will often better protect one’s religion than a rational understanding. Someone with ghayra for Islam will not laugh at sacrilege.

We exist in a broader culture, which when coupled with lack of knowledge may lead to a default assumption that Islam agrees with what we know of other religions or from our own cultural values. What is ‘good’ as defined by the broader context whether religious or cultural becomes what is ‘Islamic.’ Furthermore, for many, notions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ vary between what religious authorities say about Islam and what their internal sense of right and wrong is, which is also negotiated within the broader context and mitigated by their own sense of what is or is not a serious issue.

‘Seeing both sides’ to sacrilege relates to its normalization. In a culture where comedy is meant to scoff at everything, a person sounds like a hardliner for affirming a unique status to religion. A point of mockery is to establish that nothing is exceptional and above mockery. Even as Muslims who understand making fun of religion is wrong, while existing in a broader culture where religion is the target of comedy, we understand that making fun of religion is a ‘different norm.’ One way to combat this, in addition to not watching such comedy, is to say astaghfirullah every time we hear such jokes, so the hate in our heart for sin remains and we don’t grow numb to sacrilege.

The tendency to uphold the honor of something comes with the tendency to feel disturbed when something is mocked. If you want a sense of ghayra for the sacred you also have to feel disturbance for its disrespect. The fact that we feel disturbed is a good sign.

All over the Muslim world- as well as inner-cities in America- the drunkard, the criminal, and the reprobate who has submitted to his own desires will have enough ghayra to draw a line at mocking Allah and His Messenger. He himself would not tolerate that disrespect, let alone engage in it.

A common complaint by liberals is the unacceptability of mocking the Prophet Muhammad . They are bothered by the honor and reverence Muslims maintain for their Prophet and want us to be able to see such mocking as benign. Although their aims will persist, we have to remain uncompromising regarding the sanctity of our Prophet  and not let any Muslims be the gateway for this.

They are bothered by the honor and reverence Muslims maintain for their Prophet ﷺ and want us to be able to see such mocking as benign. Although their aims will persist, we have to remain uncompromising regarding the sanctity of our Prophet ﷺ and not let any Muslims be the gateway for this.Click To Tweet

Comedic license

The Prophet Muhammad  joked with his companions. His humor involved word play and making matters light while always speaking the truth. In Arabic, such joking is called mu’da’ba, which has a connotation of lighthearted humor that is not offensive. It was not undignified or an exaggerated joking like ‘mizaah.’ As some say, the Arabic word mizah for exaggerated jokes is named such because it expunges truth (إنَّمَا سُمِّيَ الْمِزَاحُ مِزَاحًا لِأَنَّهُ يُزِيحُ عَنْ الْحَقِّ).

Moderate humor is praised in books of tasawwuf.  It is often compared to salt in food, where too much or too little can be harmful. Buffoonery is blameworthy, as Aristotle mentions “The buffoon, on the other hand, is the slave of his sense of humour, and spares neither himself nor others if he can raise a laugh, and says things none of which a man of refinement would say, and to some of which he would not even listen” (104, Nicomachean Ethics).

Popular comedy is often viewed as an expression of truth unbound to convention. It’s a free time to delve into taboo and transgressions. Propriety takes a backseat to unfiltered expression. We do not believe the rules are suspended during comedy hour. Comedic license is not a license to mock, blaspheme, or indulge our caprice.  The Prophet  gave severe warning against using comedy as an avenue to falsehood.  Here are two hadith on the topic:

Verily a man will speak a word to make those in his company laugh and will plunge by it further in the fire than Pleiades

and

“Woe unto the one who speaks then lies to make the people laugh. Woe unto him. Woe unto him.”

Comedy does not give one license to commit sacrilege.

Many times in the Quran, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us the perils of taking His signs in jest, for example “That is because you took the verses of Allah in ridicule, and worldly life deluded you” (45:35).

Comfortable as strangers

“Islam began as a something strange and it will return to being strange, so blessed are the strangers” (Muslim).

We need to get comfortable as non ‘normalized’ religious people. As a religious group, we will have many things which set us apart from larger society, and that is okay. A numbness to blasphemy and sacrilege, mockery of Prophet , or disparaging comments about Allah will spiritually kill your heart. We are better off in this world and the next for upholding the sacred. Being labeled boring and prudish is a small price for what awaits us in reward- God willing.


You will surely be tested in your possessions and in yourselves. And you will surely hear from those who were given the Scripture before you and from those who associate others with Allah much abuse. But if you are patient and fear Allah – indeed, that is of the matters [worthy] of determination Quran 3:181

Allah tells us that we will hear much abuse from disbelievers. Not a casual snide remark, nor a microaggression. Much abuse. In the face of that abuse, we are told that being patient and having taqwa are from the great matters of this religion. The earliest known example of such patience and taqwa in America is that of African slaves who fasted Ramadan while being forced to work on plantations.  They performed their salat, even if they had to hide behind trees. As Sylviane A. Diouf explains “The slaves were, as a rule underfed and overworked. Yet these extremely brutal conditions notwithstanding, Muslims fasted.” She goes on to share the description of a slave Salih Bilali by his owner James Hamilton Couper as “a strict Mahometan; [he] abstains from spirituous liquors, and keeps the various fasts, particularly that of Ramadan” (66). This description indicates that Salih fasted non-obligatory fasts despite his horrific conditions.

These Muslims did all they could to uphold their religion and worship their Creator. They were oppressed and even in bondage displayed a nobility many Muslims throw in the garbage for the sake of being ‘normalized.’Click To Tweet

These Muslims did all they could to uphold their religion and worship their Creator. They were oppressed and even in bondage displayed a nobility many Muslims throw in the garbage for the sake of being ‘normalized.’ As we combat Islamophobia, we must ask ourselves, do we want to be a normalized faith group at the expense of our actual faith? Are we going to dishonor the legacy and struggles of our predecessors who in the most oppressive circumstances imaginable clung on to their religion and venerated their Lord?

As we combat Islamophobia, we must ask ourselves, do we want to be a normalized faith group at the expense of our actual faith? Are we going to dishonor the legacy and struggles of our predecessors who in the most oppressive circumstances imaginable clung on to their religion and venerated their Lord?Click To Tweet

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

#Culture

Messiah, A Fitnaflix Production

Dr Idris ElBakri

Published

Netflix released Season 1 of a new thriller series called “Messiah”. The series imagines the emergence of a character claiming to be sent by God, the Messiah, or Al-masih (messiah in Arabic) as he is referred to in the television series. 

This so-called Al-masih first emerges in Damascus at a time when ISIS is about to storm the city. He then appears in Palestine, Jordan and ultimately America. Along the way, he performs miracles and dumbfounds the Israeli and American intelligence officers charged with tracking him and figuring out who is enabling him. The season ends with a suggestion that he is truly a divine man, with the ultimate miracle of reviving the dead.

The entertainment value here is quite limited. Some stretches of the series are just flat or straight out boring, and the acting is not all that great. However, the series does create an opportunity for discussion about Muslim eschatology (the knowledge of the end of times), response to fitnah (faith testing tribulations) and Muslims portrayal in and consumption of entertainment media. 

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

The series shows some sophistication in the portrayal of Muslim characters relative to what people have been accustomed to with Hollywood. Characters that are situated in the Middle East are performed by actors from that region who speak authentic regional Arabic (including Levantine and North African dialects). The scenes appear authentic. While this is progress, it is limited, and the series falls into oversimplification and caters to typical stereotypes. While several Muslim characters draw the viewers’ empathy, they are not used to provide context or nuance for issues that the series touches on: ISIS, refugees, the Israeli occupation and suicide bombings. The two American Muslim characters are never really developed. In fact, all Muslim characters tend to be “flat” and one dimensional. This is in contrast, for example, to American and Israeli characters which appear multi-dimensional and complex, often dealing with personal challenges that a Western audience is likely to identify with (caring for an aging parent, mourning the loss of a spouse, balancing career and life, dealing with family separation, abortion, etc.). While Muslim characters are shown as hapless refugees, terrorists, religious followers, political activists, a university professor and student, their stories are never developed.

The show repeatedly refers to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. There is also consistent normalization of Israeli occupation and glorification of the occupying forces.  

Islamic eschatology 

Orthodox Muslims affirm a belief in “the signs of the End of Times, including the appearance of the Antichrist, and the Descent of Jesus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) the son of Mary 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), from the celestial realm. We also believe in the sun’s rising from the west and the appearance of the “Beast of the Earth from its appointed place” [1]. Dr. Omar Al-Ashqar gives a detailed review of the authentic narrations regarding the signs of the end of times in his book Al-Qiyamah Al-Sughra [2]. When it comes to actual figures who will emerge in the end of times, Sunni scholars generally affirm the following:

  • Imam Mahdi, who is a just ruler who will share the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) name. 
  • The False Messiah (Antichrist), or Al-Masjih Al-Dajjal, who will be the greatest fitna to ever to afflict this Ummah. 
  • The True Messiah, Isa ibn Maryam, who returns in the end of days, kills the Antichrist and rules for 40 years and establishes justice and prosperity – close to the time of the day of judgement. 

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) warned that the fitna of Al-Dajjal will be the most severe ever. In a hadith narrated by Ibn Majah and others, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is reported to have said, “Oh people, there has not been a fitna on the face of the earth, since God dispersed the progeny of Adam, greater than the fitna of Al-Dajjal. Every prophet of God warned his people from Al-Dajjal. I am the last prophet. You are the last Ummah. He will appear amongst you no doubt!”

Al-Dajjal comes after a period of famine and drought. He will be one-eyed and will claim to be God. Believers will recognized a mark or word of disbelief on his forehead. He will perform many miracles. He will endow those who follow him with material prosperity and luxury, and those who deny him will be inflicted with deprivation and suffering. He will travel at high speeds, and  roam the whole world, except Makkah and Madinah, which he will not be able to enter. He will create a heaven and hell, command rain, the earth, animals, and resurrect the dead – all supernatural occurrences that he has been afforded as a trial and test for others. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) went as far as encouraging us to flee from confronting him, because it will be a test of faith like no other.

Reflections on the series and lessons to be learned

The Prophets and the righteous are not tricksters and riddlers.

The Netflix series portrays the character ‘al-masih’ as someone who speaks cryptically; it is never clear what he is teaching and why. He leads his followers on long physical journeys without telling them where they are going or why. He speaks in riddles and tortures his followers with mental gymnastics and rhetorical questions.

On the other hand, a true prophet of God offers real guidance and brings clear teachings and instructions – the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) spoke clearly to his followers, he taught them how to worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) alone, to be just, to uphold the ties of kinship, to look after one’s neighbour, and so on. He did not abandon them in a state of confusion to fend for themselves. Moreover, “al-masih” deceives his followers by concealing his true name (“Payam Golshiri”) and background – something a righteous person would never do, let alone a prophet.

What Netflix got right and what it got wrong

The Al-masih character initially emerges in Damascus (and the Islamic tradition mentions Isa ibn Mariam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will descend in Damascus). However, the character is eventually revealed to hail from Iran. A number of ahadith refer to Al-Dajjal first appearing in Khurasan, which is part of modern-day Iran. He poses as a righteous person, but it is revealed that he doesn’t pray at all. He quotes religious scripture, but only to service his cryptic speeches. That Al-Dajjal would pose as a religious person would not surprise Muslims, since some hadith mention he will emerge from the remnants of the Khawarij, a heterodox group known for overzealousness and fanaticism [3]. Al-Dajjal travels the world at fast speeds, disappearing from one land and appearing in another, just as the character in the series does. 

messiah

photo credit: IMDb

However, numerous features of Dajjal would make his identity obvious to believers, not the least of which is that the word ‘disbeliever’ will be written – whether literally or metaphorically (scholars differ) – on his forehead in such a manner which even those unlettered would be able to read. Physically, Dajjal is a short man, with a deformity of his legs, and one of his eyes is likened to a “floating grape”, sightless, and “green like glass”. The Prophet is said to have focused on these physical features because they are so manifest and eliminate any confusion.

Al-Dajjal’s time overlaps with that of two other eschatological figures – Imam Mahdi and Esa ibn Maryam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Imam Mahdi is prophesized to fill the world with justice and rule for seven years, after which Dajjal will emerge. While the Muslims following al-Mahdi are taking shelter in Damascus, Prophet Esa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will descend and eventually slay the Dajjal. Therefore, according to the Islamic eschatological tradition, things will get better before they get worse before they get better again – Imam Mahdi precedes Dajjal and Dajjal precedes Prophet Esa [2].

Safeguarding against tribulations

The best safeguard is to have sound knowledge of theology and law, and to have our iman rooted in revelation and reason. For example, the most basic understanding of Islamic theology would lead us to reject any man who claims to be God, as Al-Dajjal will claim. With basic Islamic knowledge and reasoning, we would know that Allah does not manifest in human-like form, much less one that is deformed, as Allah is the all Powerful and Perfect. Could it be that at the end of times even such essential Islamic knowledge is lacking? 

walking on water

Al-Dajjal deceives people by his miracles and supernatural abilities. Our iman should not be swayed by supernatural events and miracles. We should measure people and ideas according to their standing with the Shari’ah. We must keep our heads level and not be manipulated because we cannot explain an occurrence. 

Al-Dajjal also lures people by his miracles and by his ability to give them material prosperity, comfort and luxury. We must tie our happiness and sense of satisfaction to eternal spiritual truths, not to the comforts of this life, and be willing to give up what we have for what we believe. We should live simply and not follow into the path of excessive consumerism and materialism.  

Another important consideration is not to base our connection to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) on another human being (except the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Scholars, celebrity preachers, imams and teachers are all prone to error and sin. We must use the Shariah and the Prophet Muhamamd’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) character and teaching as the filter by which we evaluate them, not the other way around. Despite his obvious deformities, the Antichrist will be a mesmerizing blinding celebrity, but whose falsehood will be uncovered by believers who make judgements based on loyalty to principle, not personality. 

Is it time to live on a remote mountain?

The clearest indication of the nearness of the Day of Judgement is the prophethood of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). The Prophet likened the difference between his time and the Day of Judgement as the difference in length between the index and middle fingers. However, before we sell everything and move to a remote mountain, let’s exercise care in projecting Islamic eschatology on the political events of our times. The reality is that no one knows when these things will happen. Explaining the current phase in our history away by end of times theories or conspiracy theories, are simpleton intellectual copouts that lead our Ummah away from actively working towards its destiny. Anyone who has claimed that this event (remember Y2K) or that event is a major sign of the Day of Judgement has been wrong, so far. There were scholarly guesses in the early centuries of Muslims that expected the Hour 500 years after the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) death. Yet, here we are. No one knows.

The best you can do is stay calm and make salat!

Muslims and the entertainment media

This increased sophistication and the apparent familiarity with Islamic sources exhibited by Messiah producers should lead us to value the importance of producing accurate, authentic and polished material and content about Islam and Muslims and our community’s role as a source of information. 

It is also important for Muslims to produce works for the mass media and entertainment industries. This is no longer the era of the sole MSA Da’wah table. Sophisticated, entertaining and authentic media production is an imperative for modern Muslims.  When we don’t tell the story, someone else will. 

Make it a Netflix Night?

We may refer to it as Fitnaflix, but let’s all admit that we cannot avoid television and the entertainment industry, for better or for worse. We can however moderate, guide and channel its use. Start breaking the isolation in which many of our children and young adults consume media. Families should watch TV together and use it as an opportunity to model how we select appropriate material and to create teaching and discussion moments. Parents should know what is influencing their kids even if they don’t like it. 

Some parts of the series Messiah, despite its flaws (and an explicit sexual scene in episode 9, not to mention profanity), could be used as a teaching moment about trials and tribulations, the end of times and the importance of Muslims engaging in the entertainment industry in a principled and professional manner. 

Ed’s note: Much of the series’ content is R-rated. Besides depictions of terrorism and other mayhem, sexual activity and brief rear nudity are shown. Mature themes include abortion, adultery, infertility and alcoholism.

Works Cited

[1]  T. C. o. I. Al-Tahawi, Hamza Yusuf (trans), Zaytuna Institute, 2007. 
[2]  O. Al-Ashqar, Al-Qiyamah Al-Sughra, Dar Al-Nafa’is, 1991. 
[3]  [Online]. Available: https://abuaminaelias.com/dailyhadithonline/2014/06/23/dajjal-emerges-khawarij/.

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

#Culture

The Creation Of The Stereotypical Arab

Omar Sayadi

Published

stereotype Arabs

Robert Entman, professor of media and public affairs, published an excellent study in  1993 in which he explained the inner workings of framing. Framing is a well-known concept within communication sciences and the study of mass communication, and concerns according to Entman both selection and promotion. He describes it as:

“The selection of some aspects of a perceived reality to make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation and/or treatment recommendation for the item described”. (Entman 1993)

A typical frame consists therefore of four qualities. It selects a specific problem by considering and checking the related actors, with which resources they act and observed from their own cultural framework. Then, the greater forces behind the problem are identified, i.e. the broader context. Subsequently, ethical questions are raised that interpret and evaluate the effects and actions of what is taking place. Eventually, solutions and treatments are offered.

Entman illustrates this by giving the example of the Cold War. According to him, American media made during that time frame extensive use of the so-called “Cold War frame”. This frame selected for example the Vietnamese Civil War as a specific problem. It then identified the actors and greater forces behind that war, usually Communist rebels supported by the Soviet-Union and China. Subsequently, these media ethically appraised the whole situation, interpreting the war as instances of severe Atheist agression. This frame could then eventually lead to the promotion of specific solutions being presented to the common man, among which support of the United Stated to the opponents of Communism, and military intervention.

55973_102107_4LGdeF
The caption of the Looney Tunes show Ali-Baba Bound reads: “Ali Baba, the mad dog of the desert.”
Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Framing is a means used by mass media to transmit specific messages to the audience. This is accomplished by using the classic transmission model, i.e. the sender who sends a message to the receiver through a channel/medium. However, Entman adds culture as an additional element for the transmission of a frame. Professor mass communication, writer and expert on racial and ethnical stereotypes in the media, Jack Shaheen, expands on this theory. After all, the framing phenomenon can not be completely understood when detached from the social and cultural context in which the message is transmitted to the audience. The era of Communism and the “Cold War frame” may be over, traditional mass media keep using frames to promote specific images among their audience.

Images that would certainly have a hard time to take root where it not for it adaption to existing and established cultural convictions. Convictions that were built up and developed through decades-long illustrations and representations within cultural productions, most notably in the movie industry.

Hollywood

Shaheen did some extensive research on the cultural depiction of Arabs in the Hollywood society. The results of his observations were brought together in the documentary Reel Bad Arabs (2006), one I’d recommend everyone interested in this subject. “Arabs are the most malign group in the history of Hollywood. They’re portrayed basically as sub-humans,” says Jack Shaheen to open his argument. “These images have been with us for more than a century.”

During no less than thirty years he watched thousands of movies, from the oldest ones to modern blockbusters, to observe and analyse the depiction of Arabs en Muslims in Western cinema. He subsequently discerns a dangerous and systematic pattern of hateful and racist stereotypes that strip a whole people of its humanity and depicts them as the embodiment of evil, fanaticism, and ignorance. According to Shaheen, this is an established fact from which filmmakers rarely deviate.

The land of the Arabs! An image Hollywood eagerly adopted from long-lost British and French explorers and writers that depicted the Arabs based on their own biased imagination of the Orient, the strange and exotic land that seemingly emanated stories like “One Thousand and One Nights”. The land with its eternal deserts, its threatening roughness, and ominous music. The desolate wilderness littered with palaces of rich and decadent pashas and their harem. The mysterious melodies that guide the movements of voluptuous belly dancers and snake charmers, watched by the all-seeing eyes of the scimitar wearing guards in movies like Invitation to the Dance from 1956.

Even today, such stereotypes are being used, even in children’s movies. Disney’s Alladin (1992) has been watched by millions of children all over the world but recycles nearly every stereotype that had been already used by the silent black-and-white Hollywood past to depict the so-called Arabland. A rough, unfriendly desert landscape where “they cut off your ear when they don’t like your face”, as stated in the opening song of the movie.

In the Looney Tunes animated cartoon Ali-Baba Bound (1940), we see the fairy tale character depicted as a cunning, insidiously grinning Arab with a beard, big nose and evil eye-brows who calls his companions by literally barking at them like a dog. The caption of the show reads: “Ali Baba, the mad dog of the desert.

Not only children, but adults as well see Arabs depicted in movies as hot-headed and impulsive simpletons who deliver some cheap and funny laughs. Take for example the India Jones movie Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), in which Indiana ends up face-to-face with a threatening and completely random armed Arab. The man tries to impress the American hero with his evil smile and some sword tricks, to which Indiana simply shoots him dead and runs off to continue his adventure.

The same Arab that prefers dogs over women. Indeed, an Arab states in The Happy Hooker goes to Washington from 1977 that “dogs are better than sheep. They’re cleaner, I know, I’ve tried dogs.” And if it isn’t dogs or sheep (think of the popular nickname “goatf*#ker” used by Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh to publicly denote Moroccans), than it is blond, American women.

The stereotype of the obtrusive Arab obsessed with white women appears so many times that it becomes ridiculous.Click To Tweet
55973_102110_1fJoxf
Two Lebanese terrorists from “The Delta Force” (Cannon Film) – 1986

 

In the Bond movie Never Say Never Again (1983), Kim Bassinger is being undressed by a filthy  Arab businessman to be sold, with an unintelligible gurgling and crackling (Hollywood Arabic), to a bunch of miserable Bedouins. Arabs are being depicted as primitive and aggressive desert dwellers obsessed with American women as a welcome change to their usual covered and invisible womenfolk hidden in their palaces.

Those Arabs, on the other hand, that do effectively have access to modern society, technology and progress are being imagined as a faceless nuisance to Western society or death and destruction craving terrorists anxious to ruin the West.

Two businessmen in The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) jokingly state that Arabs “don’t go anywhere without their animals.” Note that they were talking about a recent trip by plane!

How was London?” the main character of the movie Chapter Two (1979) is being asked. “Full of Arabs,” he replies. Movies that are in no way related to Arabs or Muslims and aren’t connected to the Middle-East in any way still can’t resist to the urge of making racist and humiliating comments on screen.

Back To The Future

Even in the hugely popular Back to the Future from 1985, the above statement is sadly the case. The movie is a plain, American Sci-Fi picture for teenagers in which stereotypes about Arabs are nevertheless again introduced. Emmett Brown, scientist and the inventor of the time-traveling car is minding his own business when he suddenly gets shot at, without any motive or reason, by a bunch of Libyan terrorists. They shoot him and then focus on the main character Marty McFly. The shooter curses violently when his weapon jams and fails to kill McFly. When he finally resolves the issue with his machine gun, their car breaks down so they again fail in an almost cartoonish way to continue.

The reason for this sudden and random occurrence is completely unknown, and all throughout the rest of the story no reference is made to it. But the fact remains established, a group of inept Arabs killed the beloved professor.

Foreign Policy

Just like the above-mentioned Cold War frame, this frame on Arabs and Muslims is a perfectly suited tool of the mass media and the political establishment to help shape American foreign policy in the Middle-East and North Africa in the minds of the American citizens. Four different events caused Hollywood to radically increase its use of Arab and Muslim stereotypes. Before anything else, the creation and establishment of Israel in 1948 en the subsequent Arab-Israeli wars resulted in a clear positioning of the United States and Hollywood on the side of their Israeli ally. The Arab embargo that hit Europe and the USA during the 1970’s and the Iranian Revolution further contributed to the role of Arabs as thugs and greedy businessmen. The notorious War on Terror could count as the fourth reason for the establishment and representation of the Arab and Muslim as enemy of progress and freedom.

Take for example the plans of a rich Arab oil sheikh to buy his way up through the United States, conquering it in the process. In the movie Network from 1976, it’s insinuated that a group of Arab businessmen threat to almost run over the Unites States financially by buying up several companies and building plots. The character of Howard Beal than calls live on television to rise against these Arabs, that are planning to buy his TV network. A memorable and frightening scene than follows in which the audience can see a mob of angry citizens take to the streets to express their rage, an image of social hatred against a common enemy, the Arab.

The Ultimate Demon

If it’s not an evil, perverse, and decadent Arab businessman, the Arab gets the role of dangerous and hostile terrorist assigned. Reserved for Russians and Cubans during the days of the Cold War, Palestinians would later figure as the antagonists of the hero in American action movies. The terrorist antagonist stripped from any bit of motive and humanity, serving as fleshly embodiment of the ultimate evil.

This image is already used as early as 1960 in the movie Exodus, where the Palestinians are depicted as invisible enemies hiding in the desert who perform appalling acts against the innocent Jewish colonists because of their radical antisemitism. It’s no wonder that this movie was considered a major promotion for Zionist thought and a support for the Israeli cause.

Theologian and writer Roland Boer writes in his 2009 work on Biblical themes that the depiction of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in American cinema still influences American citizens to this day with regard to their opinion on the conflict.

55973_102112_Ll19BW
Palestinian terrorists in “True Lies” – 1994

Over a decade later, we find the same old story in the movie Black Sunday (1977). A Palestinian female terrorist wished to detonate a blimp over a typical American sports stadium during the Super Bowl, with about 80.000 ordinary Americans present. The caption of the movie on its release poster reads: “It could be tomorrow!” Again, a decade later, Arnold Schwarzenegger faces a group of Palestinian terrorists that wishes to destroy American cities with nuclear missiles in True Lies from 1994. Again and again, Arabs and Muslims are being identified with hatred, terror and the ultimate failure of their plans due to the American action hero.

An image that, not unimportantly, was fed extensively by two Israeli producers, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who created The Cannon Group company. For over twenty years, The Cannon Group produced at least thirty movies in which everything Arab is being mocked and demonized. Yes, the political relationship between the USA and Israel does indeed trickle in the world of cinema. What could be a more effective weapon than a seemingly unending source of full-length movies in which enmity and distrust against a certain people is promoted? A cultural alliance to dismiss these Arabs, “sand n#^*rs”, “goat f*^#rs” and “ragheads”, fed by a billion dollar business.

The most striking example of this would be the movie Rules of Engagement from 2000. The film leads the audience to Yemen, where a mob of dusty Yemenis are protesting loudly in front of the American embassy. American marines are being asked to evacuate the present staff, when they suddenly open fire and mow down every single protester, including women and children. As a result of this event, an investigation is started to examine the decision of the marines to open fire. Towards the end of the movie, however, the audience is revealed a whole other story than initially portrayed. Plot twist, the Arab protesters were armed themselves and they opened fire on the American soldiers.

55973_102109_qCEtcz
“Rules of Engagement” (Paramount Pictures) – 2000

Men and woman wildly brandishing guns and even a little girl that aims her pistol on an American soldier. A little, Arab girl that wasn’t nearly as innocent as she looked. A whole bunch of Arabs that weren’t as innocent as initially thought. They deserved to die! It was their own fault they attacked the mighty American army of the free! The marines had the right to kill them, to protect themselves! Sure, it was a massacre, but a legitimate one against the enemies of the USA. Against faceless, unknown human beings killed like animals.

Debunking Cultural Practices

Such movies present complicated and nuanced conflicts as a caricatural fight between Good and Evil. They polarize the wars in the Middle-East and North Africa by presenting the American cause as the necessary and just fight against demonized and inhuman enemy, an intrinsic evil. A propaganda weapon arises on a massive scale because of popular cultural injections.

Entman also describes culture as the “stock of commonly invoked frames“. In fact, he defines culture as “the empirically demonstrable set of common frames exhibited in the discourse and thinking of most people in a social grouping.” The fact that framing is then used extensively in the mass media, which includes movies, soaps and news reporting, could be explained from this point of view.

Because of the prolonged cultural impact of Hollywood, the frame of the Arab and Muslim is undoubtedly established within those societies that lie within its sphere of influence. The frame is developed as a cultural element within that society and determines how people look at messages and images that fit within that frame. The Arab that appears in the news is usually no individual. He’s a terrorist, a religious extremist, a zealot, a Muslim, a Palestinian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Syrian or Iranian. These are all frames that evoke certain connotations among the traditional receiving audience, developed within a shared consciousness.

It’s a dangerous trend, but the best solution is the simplest one of all: look beyond the message alone. Don’t let popular culture or traditional news reporting decide how you see the world, because there’ll always be agendas being followed to guide and manipulate you. Common sense, an open mind, and sufficient dialogue can debunk the most stubborn cultural prejudices.

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading
..

MuslimMatters NewsLetter in Your Inbox

Sign up below to get started

Trending