Islamic Faith And Muslims As Extremists Cultural Studies Essay

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In the last century or so, the Islamic faith and Muslims have often been viewed as extremists who are aggressive and pro-violence. Aggressive here is defined as "behaving in an angry and threatening way, usually characterised by unprovoked attacks and offences" (Longman 1999, p. 28). Quite similarly, pro-violence is defined as being "in favour of behaviour that is intended to hurt others physically" (Longman 1999, p. 1124, p. 1596). Furthurmore, an extremist is "someone who has extreme opinion and aims, and is willing to do unusual or illegal things in order to achieve them" (Longman 1999, p. 481). This is a stereotype that has been increasingly pervasive, especially in the West, due to various environmental impacts and influences. The main objective of this paper is to illustrate how this image of Muslims is something constructed and inaccurate.

To begin to approach this topic proper, we have to first understand a few key terms that will often be used in this paper. While we may define Muslims as simply being a follower of the Islamic faith, the West has often made the mistake of associating Arabs with Muslims and vice versa. Much of the perspective of Muslims discussed in this paper will also be from the West. The West here is simply defined as the Western part of the world, mainly the United States of America and Great Britain. These two countries are mainly the dominating representatives of the 'West' and offer a greater coverage. It is also precisely because of this that they have experienced bombings or attacks of some kind by Islamic extremist groups.

What categorizes a stereotype? A stereotype is the often oversimplified or biased mental picture held to characterize the typical individual of a group. This also means that all members of a group end up being represented with the same image or concept (Longman 1999, p. 1409) Clearly, Muslims have had the unfortunate fate of being at the receiving end of such treatment. To get a glimpse of how pervasive and severe this stereotype is, simply type the word 'Muslims' into the Google search engine. The immediate images that surface are often associated with violence and aggressiveness. The recent political cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that were published in the Jyllands-Posten Danish newspaper give a clear illustration of how acute this stereotype really is. Most of the cartoons featured in the newspaper portray the Prophet as someone aggressive and violent, resulting in the tainting of the image of Islam's holy founder (AINA, 2006). Thus, this causes the religion and its followers to be imbued with immoral connotations, giving rise to this negative stereotype

There is a need to address the truth behind this stereotype because this mindset that the West has of Muslims has been extremely damaging. This damage is not only in terms of repute, but also in security. Many attacks on innocent Muslims in the West have occurred on the basis of this stereotype. They have been severely discriminated against in many instances. For example, one only needs to don his or her Muslim garments to risk being suspected of being a terrorist or threat to the security of the state. Therefore, there is a great need to change this perception that many may have of the Muslims.

Hence, our focus of this paper will mainly centre on the reasons for the existence of the Muslim stereotype and how it is perpetuated, with a discussion on the reality that is veiled by this stereotype.

To address this stereotype with greater clarity, we will uncover the reasons for the creation of this stereotype. Muslims have not always been viewed as a monolithic group that is aggressive, extremist and violent. The existence of this stereotype is not something that occurred naturally, therefore there is a need for us to understand how it came about. It is an image that has been constructed and shaped repeatedly over the last century or so. Reasons for this are plenty, some of which are early Western concepts, historical events and the mass media.

Orientalism

Racial perceptions of Muslims and Arabs have already been deeply rooted in history even before the 20th century. Many argue that Orientalism has set the foundation and accounts for the existence of this stereotype. Since the days of colonisation, the 'civilised' West has always taken the moral high ground and viewed the Orient as inferior in comparison to themselves. This perception of moral superiority has been carried till today. Orientalism, according to Edward W. Said (1978, p. 1), is "a way of coming to terms with the Orient's special place in European Western experience". He feels that the idea of "Orientalism" is the West, or the Occident's way of formulating an explanation of the contrast between them and the newly "discovered" Orient, in terms of culture, thinking, behaviour and history. It is through this practice of studying the Orient that many stereotypes and coloured perceptions of the Orient by the West will start to formulate.

One of the problems with Orientalism also mentioned by Edward W. Said (1978, pp. 2-4), is that Orientalism is purely based on the experience and ideas of the Western interaction with the Orients. This is often without the complete understanding of the Orients because Westerners and Orientals speak different tongues and therefore cannot fully communicate, even through body language. Moreover, as mentioned before, the West perceives themselves as the more 'superior civilisation'. (Said, cited in Brown 1995, p. 76) Of course in comparison, the Orient will be seen as "barbaric" and "uncivilised", which is not necessarily true, since various societies have different cultures and practices. This is therefore a problem because it lays the foundation for greater misunderstanding in the future.

Brown also mentioned that the Western Catholics moulded the image of the East, especially the Muslims, as a "common enemy" in order to "unify" Christendom (2000, p.77). The consequence of this was unprecedented. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the West believing that they have a 'common enemy' in the Muslims. This will also allow their perceptions and understanding of Muslims or Arabs to be easily coloured due to their already existent mindset or bias against Muslims.

In colonial days, the Occident upon interaction with the Orient would attempt to write and study about them. Whatever misconceptions would be propagated in the West by the "varied work produced by almost uncountable individual writers" (Said 1978, p. 8) that have came in contact with the Orient. This will spread the stereotype and cause more people to have a biased view of Muslims. Evidently, Orientalism formed the very roots and beginnings for stereotypes of the Muslims and continues to do so, up till today.

In sum, Orientalists argue that the West is a dynamic, complex and ever-changing society, while the Orient, particularly the world of Islam, is static, barbaric and despotic (Kumar 2008, p.2).The idea that the Orient is inferior to the Occident provides a convenient justification for the discrimination against Muslims in contemporary culture.

Historical Events

Throughout the past century, there have been a few pivotal historical events that have greatly shaped Western opinion of Muslims. These events not only created and continue to shape the stereotype of Muslims; they are also often used as a justification for it. Unfortunately, many of these events have been greatly imprinted in the minds of the West. While these events are usually the actions of only the extremist faction of Islam, the West has come to believe that all Muslims behave in this manner. These events have done much to exacerbate the stereotype that Muslims are all extreme, irrational and violent.

The first event that greatly changed Western opinion, particularly that of the Americans, of the Muslim-Arab world was the Iran Hostage Crisis. The Iran Hostage Crisis lasted 444 days in the 1970s-80s. When the Islamist students invaded the Embassy of the United States and took 52 American citizens hostage in support of the Iranian revolution, the Western world in their anger, perceived it as an attack from unreasonable Muslims on the West. They perceived this as a great crisis and siege on the entire American nation. As Guthrie summarizes in his understanding of Edward Said's Covering Islam, "Islam... was portrayed as anti-American, militant, and barbaric" religion during and after the Iran Hostage Crisis (Guthrie 1982, p. 397). The Iran Hostage Crisis was thus deeply embedded in the minds of all Westerners, especially Americans. They perceived this as the 'beginning of a struggle between the two parties involved and hence an incompatibility of the West with Islam. Due to the occurrence of this event that displayed extremist practices of a fraction of the Muslim community, the complex realities behind Muslims are completely ignored. Moreover, due to the long duration of this incident, many would perceive Muslims as unreasonable people and difficult to negotiate with. From this point onwards, Western opinion of Islam and its followers revolve around this general idea that the Muslims are extremist, aggressive, and believe in the use of violence to resolve issues.

Another historical event that contributed largely to the exacerbation of the stereotyped Muslim terrorist and hence the spread of Islamophobia was the September 11 attacks on the United States (US). [1] On the morning of September 11, 2001, a group of Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked several airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Centre in New York City, resulting in the destruction of the building and the deaths of almost 3000 people. This devastating event gave rise to several repercussions such as a surge of anti-Muslim sentiment in the US as the grieving Americans coped with the tragedy, and the increased proliferation of the notion of Muslims as violent terrorists throughout the country, cementing this image into the minds of the Americans. In this sense, the 9/11 incident can be said to have catalysed the pervasiveness of this stereotype through the sudden surge in anti-Muslim reactions it induced. These repercussions were particularly significant in causing an upsurge in backlash against the Iranians in the US, resulting in "words of hate" that "led to acts of violence, and a number of American Mosques and public buildings" being "targets of crime and destruction" (Smith, p. 40). In 2001, following the 9/11 incident, the FBI identified an over 1600 percent increase in reported hate crimes against Arab Americans, Muslims, and even Sikhs, who resemble Muslims (Monshipouri, p. 56).

In addition, in reaction to the perceived image of the Muslim terrorist, "since 9/11, Arab and Muslim Americans have been singled out for particularly egregious treatment as a result of anti-terror measures and laws" (Monshipouri, p. 56). For instance, The USA Patriot Act in October 2001 "greatly expanded the powers of law enforcement to intrude on the daily lives of American citizens and legal residents", resulting in Muslims in America becoming "targets of law enforcement operations in the name of homeland security" (Monshipouri, p. 57). The introduction of such measures under legal titles seems to suggest that the stereotype of the Muslim community as dangerous terrorists was, in a sense, legalised and justifiable and hence rational in the Americans' mindsets. This thus led to the increased belief and acceptance of the stereotype, causing such notions of the Muslim community to steadily intensify in magnitude. Hence, the 9/11 incident can be said to have catalysed the pervasion of the stereotype through the sharp increase in belief of this notion by the Americans in the period following the September attacks. This is apparent from the acute intensification of resentment towards the Muslims as seen through the Americans' actions and passing of new laws that caused the stereotype to be rationalised and hence more easily accepted, greatly accelerating its development in America.

Though the 9/11 incident was a catalyst in provoking the stereotype, other events following the 9/11 incident have continued to bolster and sustain this stereotype. For example, the 2002 Bali bombings and 2005 London tube attacks as well as the present day conflict in the Middle East are instances of terror attacks that continue to affirm the image of the Muslim terrorist, resulting in a deep-rooted endurance of such negative images of the Muslim community. In addition, the fact that these terror acts were carried out not just in the US but also in other parts of the world (Bali and London among others) has given rise to a global heightening of anti-Muslim sentiment that is no longer only encapsulated within the US, further intensifying the Muslim stereotype as it spreads throughout the world.

The 2002 Bali bombings on Kuta [2] , a popular tourist district, were carried out by members of Jemaah Islamiyah, a violent Islamist group, killing 202 people and injuring 240. In similar fashion, the 2005 London tube bombings [3] , carried out by members of Al Qaeda, also culminated in similar tragedies, with 52 fatalities and approximately 700 injured. These various terror acts by extremist Muslim groups served to amplify the perception of Muslims as aggressive terrorists, aggravating the development of Islamophobia not just in the US but also in other parts of the world. Where the 9/11 incident had been the trigger factor in precipitating the stereotype, the endurance of this stereotype was mainly due to consecutive terror acts such as those mentioned above. The persistence of this stereotype is also underscored by the constant conflict in the Middle East, such as the 2006 Lebanon Crisis and the 2008 Gaza Crisis among others [4] , which elicits much unrest stemming from these internal clashes. The image of the Muslim community with regard to the Middle East is thus seen as one associated with much destruction and bloodshed, further aggravating the negativity of the Muslim stereotype and contributing to the enduring effect of this notion.

Mass Media

Besides historical events, the mass media also has a crucial role to play in the creation and perpetuation of the Muslim stereotype. The mass media, with its all-pervasive omnipotence, wields great power in influencing the minds of people around the world. That being so, the mass media thus plays a major role in the perpetuation of the Muslim stereotype through its widespread channels in the vast network it operates in. The economics of the world today has ensured that the mass media's reports are based on what the consumers want, that is to say, the facts of the situation may not always be accurately and justifiably reported on. The Muslim stereotype, having already surpassed its creation stage and steadily intensifying in magnitude, has not been unaffected by the massive power the mass media holds. With the trend in anti-Muslim sentiment denoting an upward spike, the mass media has risen to satisfy the consumers' need for the reiteration of the Muslims' label as terrorists following events such as the 9/11 incident by acting as a mouthpiece for these negative expressions of resentment.

Before we can begin to understand how the Western media has perpetuated this negative stereotype of Muslims, we have to first understand why they do so. The media is a powerful tool in shaping the beliefs and opinions of the people. The Western media, particularly in Britain and America, have implicitly projected racist messages. The main reason for this is that the Western media is motivated primarily by finance and profit. (Richardson 2004, pp. 34-39). According to Richardson's study of British media, the media, like any other corporation is motivated by profits, and in this case, the audience becomes the 'market' as the 'consumer of news' (2004, p. 35). Thus, the media targets its information to suit the preferences of the audience in order to gain more profit. Also, according to research, 93% of the audience in Britain are white. This results in the truth and opinion of the minority races in the West to be marginalized in favour of the White (Richardson 2004, p. 36). This could also possibly account for why the media tends to sensationalize their reporting of conflicts associated with Muslims - because it sells. This is further complicated by advertisers and mega corporations who 'pay' media organizations to publish and report material in their favour. This could be done via influencing the audience or as Richardson puts it, "fact and opinion are not only put into news but are also taken out through censorial and occasionally authoritarian policing… by … parent companies or other corporations providing financial support" (Richardson 2004, pp. 38-39). An example of this happened when Gulf + Western pulled out funding for WNET after their supposed 'anti-corporate' and 'anti-American' reporting of the ill involvement of western firms in the Third World (Richardson 2004, p. 39). Therefore, it is because of the strong motivations that drive Western media to report in a biased manner against the Muslims that stereotypes of them have been allowed to grow so pervasively.

Thus, as a fundamental constituent of the mass media, the news bears much responsibility for the perpetuation of the stereotype of Muslims.  The news "selectively repeat[s], rework[s] and reinvent[s] a simple pattern of key racist messages" which has led to the solidification of the Muslim stereotype (Law, 2002 cited in Richardson 2004, p.47). For example, research has found that the words 'conflict' and 'violent' are commonly combined with 'race' in the headlines of newspapers.  This shows that this race, or more specifically, the Muslims, is always associated with something negative, aggressive and extreme (Hartmann et al., 1974 cited in Richardson, p.47). Additionally, the news reports events without giving much contextual information in the headings, and instead emphasizes the violence of the events. For example, they report the damage incurred from the clashes, but not the cause of the conflict in the first place (Richardson 2004, p. 49). This is supported by the fact that newspapers have a history of not practicing responsible journalism as found by Baker, who states that "British newspapers have not always written responsibly about certain social groups in the past" and often focus "attention on the deviant behaviour of outsider groups" (2010, p.3), resulting in much negative bias towards the representation of the Muslims. There is obviously much inaccuracy and a lack of objectivity in the reporting of news. This leads people to believe that Muslims are easily provoked and constantly view violence as a solution to their problems, therefore explaining the frequency of it.

Additionally, the language used in reporting is also significant in contributing to the Muslim stereotype. By reading the papers every day, the cumulative effect of reading certain words and phrases results in the reader unconsciously absorbing and accepting whatever has been written. Thus, in utilizing the right phraseology, the mass media ensures that "certain groups are being positioned via language" (Baker, 2010, p. 5), thereby adversely affecting the representations of Muslims and further cementing the Muslim stereotype in peoples' mindsets. According to a research centred on 100 of the strongest tabloid keywords, the word 'terror' was featured more than 14,000 times in tabloid and broadsheet articles in which Muslims or Islam were the main feature (Baker, 2010, p.9). Thus, the constant usage of this particular word would cause readers to relate the ideas of Islam and Muslims to the connotations of fear and violence that characterise terror, with these notions thereafter echoing in their thoughts whenever the image of Muslims or Islam come to mind. Hence, the use of selective terminology in crafting news reports results in an enduring effect of the manipulated notions on the readers which further concretises the negative Muslim stereotype in peoples' minds.

Hence, through reiterating, modifying and thereby recreating crucial racist messages which are broadcast by the news, the mass media has succeeded in aggravating the Muslim stereotype more so than before. For instance, since 9/11, "public commentary has portrayed Muhammad as a fanatic and a killer, a terrorist and a demon-possessed paedophile" (Smith, p.40), even though such images of "Muhammad" have been grossly exaggerated and twisted. Yet, because of the backlash against Muslims after the 9/11 incident, the mass media has continually reported what the public wants to hear: that Muslims are "potential terrorists" (Smith, p.40). This is done through the abundant use of controversial headlines and selective phrasing of words that result in the publics' increased association of Muslims with destruction and bloodshed, thereby exacerbating the stereotype. Furthermore, since the violence of conflicts is almost always focused upon instead of the cause of the violence itself, the Muslim stereotype is intensified even more so than ever.

Other media sources are also guilty of exacerbating the Muslim stereotype. The negative stereotypes of Muslims being extreme, aggressive and violent are further worsened through movies and online videos. Hollywood's films have indirectly created a belief that "all Arabs are Muslims and all Muslims are Arabs" (Shaheen 2003, p. 171). In Shaheen's research of over 900 films produced by Hollywood, western audience has been conditioned to believe that all Muslims are "heartless, brutal and uncivilized religious fanatics" (2003, p. 171). In these films, Muslims are often portrayed as the villain pitted against the Western hero. Some recent examples are movies such as the popular Black Hawk Down (2001) and Rules of Engagement (2000). Very often, the projections of Muslims and Arabs (which the West believe are synonymous) are heavily caricatured and dehumanized, making the audience feel less for them and instead increasingly viewing them as 'evil people' (Shaheen, 2003). This idea of dehumanizing and poking-fun at Muslim traits is also seen in the very recently popular YouTube sensation Achmed the Dead Terrorist by ventriloquist Jeff Dunham. This video on the terrorist puppet who is comically aggressive, constantly saying "I kill you!" and "Silence!" has been viewed by more than 120 million people all over the world (KrowBatellio, 2007). Most of the comments on this Youtube video are streamed towards mocking and ridiculing the Muslims through Achmed's comical antics. The fact that this video has such a voracious popularity clearly exhibits the pervasive belief that all Muslims and Arabs are terrorists.

Effects of the stereotype on the Muslim community

The accumulation of these events, historical or recent, has resulted in the differential treatment of Muslims in the west. They are often victims of bullies in schools, subjected to criticism and discrimination in society. The views of what the white majority has on Islam and Muslims are based on the scant information from television, films, advertising and print journalism (Douglas and Dunn, 2003, p.53). Surveys by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) show that almost 60 percent of respondents in 2004 said that they "are not very knowledgeable" or "not at all knowledgeable" about Islam, yet approximately one in four Americans believes that Islam is a religion of hatred and violence (CAIR, 2006, pp.2-3). In a more recent report by the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies (2009), Islam was the most negatively viewed religion out of Buddhism, Christianity and Jews, and more than 43% of Americans feel at least 'a little' prejudice towards followers of Islam, which was twice or more of the number who said the same for other religions.

The effects of these beliefs are very real to the Muslims involved. After every major event that involved or purported to involve Muslims , whether it was the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, 9/11 incident or the bombings in various parts of the world, numerous instances of racial profiling, work place discrimination and hate crimes against Muslim Americans were reported. The fact that these instances increase dramatically during times of crisis reflects an underlying fear, misunderstanding and uncertainty that Muslims are treated by the others in America (Ayish, 2003, p.24).

These attitudes are translated into actions towards members of the Islam community. Muslims that are identified by the mainstream society are often targets for racial discrimination. A survey showed that in 1999, 76.5 percent of Muslim respondents were at least somewhat troubled by religious bias at work - the highest rate of concern out of the religious groups surveyed, including Buddhists, Hindus or Jews (Adams, 2000). This was before the 9/11 attacks. Another survey showed that 69 percent of respondents experienced one or more incidents of perceived discrimination or bias-related harassment since 9/11 (NYC, 2006, p.9). These included religious and ethnic insults, usually through the forms of verbal harassment, but some involved physical assaults. Many Muslims experience experienced discriminatory treatment in public places like restaurants, in their workplaces, neighbourhoods and schools (NYC, 2006, p.12). Children in public schools are often subject to racist acts as well. Teachers demonstrate racism and phobia against their Muslim students, damaging the students' self esteem and identities (Niyozov & Pluim, 2009, p.6). Among students, name-calling, teasing and even fights break out because of religion. Headscarf pulling and derogatory jokes are part of many Muslim students' school life (Cleveland Magazine, 2004). In 2006, British passengers staged a mutiny and did not allow their plan to takeoff until two men, suspected of being terrorists, were taken off the flight. These two men were overheard speaking in what was thought to be Arabic, and were dressed in heavy clothing despite the heat, and sported a rough appearance. They apparently checked their watches frequently while waiting for the gate in the waiting area to open. The two men were asked to leave the flight even though officials found nothing suspicious on the flight (Leake and Chapman, 2006).

As a result of these discriminations, many Muslims have resorted to modifying their behaviour when they are in the public sphere. For example, they speak only English in public, cut their hair, shave their beards, wear hats instead of the hijab or Americanise their names (NYC, 2006, p.14). Business owners frequently mentioned financial hardships and business losses as a result of non-Arab and non-South Asian and non-Muslim patrons taking their business elsewhere (NYC, 2006, p.15). Females rarely leave the house alone, and are usually in groups or accompanied by a male relative. Indeed, they are less likely to report satisfaction in their current standard of living as compared to the general population (Gallup, 2009, p.13).

However, mounting evidence proves that Muslims are not how the west believes them to be. These impressions of Muslims are inaccurate and misrepresent what the religion and its followers stand for. Popular opinion does not equate with facts, and the following paragraphs will provide evidence to dispel these myths.

The complex reality behind the stereotype

Behind all the negativity that is associated with this stereotype lies a complicated history which hints at a complex reality that provides an alternative view towards the original Muslim stereotype. Islam, contrary to what many may believe, is not a monolithic faith. Like all religious faiths, there are many different factions and branches of teachings. Within the two main denominations, the Sunni and Shi'a, there are many more branches. Several countries and regions have majority Muslim populations: Indonesia, Bangladesh, Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa. China, Russia and India also have substantial numbers of Muslim minorities. Islam looks very different in each of these regions and countries largely because as the religion spread, it adopted customs and traditions of the people of various lands. The ideas and practices that are made to justify religious texts are ever-changing, based on historical transformations that are independent of religious ideology (Kumar, 2008, pp. 3-4). Some may be nominalists, going through the rituals of the religion, while others may be extremists, going all out to propagate their faith. Various religions have had bloody histories as well, and as the CAIR chairman Parvez Ahmen said in a press release, to judge all Muslims based on the minority of extremists is the equivalent of making judgments on Christians based on the Crusades (Hassan, 2006).

Also, many of the stereotypes prevalent in the minds of the west see Arabs and Muslims as one entity. However, all Muslims are not Arabs, and all Arabs are not Muslims. Arabs are people who speak Arabic, share common cultural traditions, and claim a common Arab identity (Rodinson, 1979). In fact, only 18 percent of Muslims are Arabs (Hossain, 2004).

Not all Muslims support the terrorists

Specifically pertaining to the stereotype, most Muslims do not agree with using violence to solve problems or to spread their faith. One survey shows that 93 percent of the Muslim population is 'moderate' or non-radical. The overwhelming majority of Muslims condemned the 9/11 attacks and other subsequent terrorist attacks, mostly citing religious reasons about the sanctity of life (Gallup, 2008, cited in BBC News, 2008). Research conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows that 78 percent believe that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets to defend Islam from its enemies can never be justified, and 58 percent rated Al Qaeda as unfavourable. After the 9/11 attacks, the CAIR (2007) issued a statement condemning the vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism and organized a compilation of condemnations of articles, press releases and news clippings representing a sample of worldwide Muslim condemnation of these attacks and of terrorism in general. These statistics and reports are in fact readily available online for free access, but yet it seems that the general public has little interest in finding out the validity of their beliefs.

In fact, the view that the Muslim community poses a threat to society should be contested. Muslims in the US are generally better educated and more financially well-off than the general population. They are more integrated into the American society as compared to European Muslims. The percentage of Muslim college graduates, at 58 percent, is more than double the national percentage of 25 percent. 77 percent of Muslims reported that they had been involved with organizations to help the poor, sick, homeless or elderly, and 69 percent had been involved with school and youth programmes. 44 percent of them describe their occupations as professional, medical or managerial (CAIR, 2006, pg 3). There are also many famous Muslim Americans: renowned boxer Muhammad Ali, the famous three-time World Heavyweight Champion, and Dr Fazlur Rahman Khan, the architect who designed the John Hancock Centre and Sears Tower in Chicago. Somehow, the current frames of stereotypes against Muslims fail to take into account those who have made a positive contribution to their countries and societies. The media often fails to highlight these contributions, choosing instead to sensationalise news and publish what will attract customers to purchase their products as mentioned previously.

The Muslim community too has been working to try to dispel this unfavourable image of their community. The CAIR announced in 2006 that it would be launching a $50 million media campaign involving television, radio and newspapers as part of its five-year program to create a better understanding of Islam and Muslims in the US. Many reports and surveys have been carried out by organizations based in America such as CAIR, as well as Gallup and Pew Research Centres to find out what perceptions and attitudes people have of Islam, as well as the Muslims' view on the impacts of the stereotype on their daily lives.

With these differing representations of the Muslims, the notion of the Muslim community has thus proven to be one of much complexity that transcends a singular definition. This arises from a complicated history stemming from a deeply ingrained foundation of Orientalism which adversely affects the way the West views the Muslims and thereby builds the foundation towards the creation of the Muslim stereotype. This is exacerbated by the occurrence of several pivotal events (such as the Iran Hostage Crisis and 9/11 attacks) which follow a pattern of violence and destruction, resulting in the image of Muslims being viewed as one associated with terror and aggression. This idea is perpetuated by the Mass Media, which seizes on its marketability to spread such negative notions around the world through its massive influential power. Yet, many people have contested this stereotype of the Muslim terrorist by alluding to the complex origins of the Islamic faith which illustrate the fact that such extremist actions are in fact not undertaken or supported by many Muslims. In addition, past studies conducted have depicted a contrasting image of the Muslims from the original notion identified, portraying the Muslims as humanitarian members of society instead of violent extremists. However, the enduring effects of history have ensured the continual perpetuation of the stereotype, resulting in many still believing in only the negative notion of the Muslims.

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