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Arabs and Muslims in the Media

Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11

Evelyn Alsultany
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 239
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  • Book Info
    Arabs and Muslims in the Media
    Book Description:

    After 9/11, there was an increase in both the incidence of hate crimes and government policies that targeted Arabs and Muslims and the proliferation of sympathetic portrayals of Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. media. Arabs and Muslims in the Media examines this paradox and investigates the increase of sympathetic images of the enemy during the War on Terror. Evelyn Alsultany explains that a new standard in racial and cultural representations emerged out of the multicultural movement of the 1990s that involves balancing a negative representation with a positive one, what she refers to as simplified complex representations. This has meant that if the storyline of a TV drama or film represents an Arab or Muslim as a terrorist, then the storyline also includes a positive representation of an Arab, Muslim, Arab American, or Muslim American to offset the potential stereotype. Analyzing how TV dramas such as West Wing, The Practice, 24, Threat Matrix, The Agency, Navy NCIS, and Sleeper Cell,news-reporting, and non-profit advertising have represented Arabs, Muslims, Arab Americans, and Muslim Americans during the War on Terror, this book demonstrates how more diverse representations do not in themselves solve the problem of racial stereotyping and how even seemingly positive images can produce meanings that can justify exclusion and inequality.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2917-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    On September 11, 2001, nineteen Arab Muslim men hijacked four airplanes and flew them into two of the greatest icons of power in the United States—the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nearly three thousand people were killed. In response, the U.S. government, under President George W. Bush, initiated the self-proclaimed War on Terror—a military, political, and legal campaign targeting Arabs and Muslims both in the United States and around the world.

    After this tragic event, and amid growing U.S. American¹ rancor toward the Arab world and violence against individuals with brown skin, I was surprised to find...

  5. 1 Challenging the Terrorist Stereotype
    (pp. 18-46)

    In 2004 the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) accused the TV drama 24 of perpetuating stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims.¹ CAIR objected to the persistent portrayal of Arabs and Muslims in the context of terrorism, stating that “repeated association of acts of terrorism with Islam will only serve to increase anti-Muslim prejudice.”² CAIR’s critics have retorted that programs like 24 are cutting edge, reflecting one of the most pressing social and political issues of the moment, the War on Terror. Some critics further contend that CAIR is trying to deflect the reality of Muslim terrorism by confining television writers to...

  6. 2 Mourning the Suspension of Arab American Civil Rights
    (pp. 47-70)

    After 9/11 the news media and the public alike seemed eager to debate, and to disagree about, the manifold issues and anxieties unleashed by the terrorist attacks: whether the USA PATRIOT Act should be passed; whether Arabs and Muslims should be racially profiled, detained, and/or deported; and whether or not, or the extent to which, it was justifiable to suspend or violate the U.S. Constitution during a time of crisis. Political conservatives often argued—both in the harrowing days after September 11 and in the months and years following—that it was not possible to be both safe and free,...

  7. 3 Evoking Sympathy for the Muslim Woman
    (pp. 71-99)

    It is not possible to write about representations of Arabs and Muslims since 9/11 without addressing the quandary of Arab and Muslim women. In innumerable ways, and from both ends of the ideological spectrum, these women have been represented as veiled, oppressed, and in need of rescue. The government and commercial news media have been central to the circulation of stories about the “oppressed Muslim woman” and the imperative to “save brown women from brown men.”¹ Yet the figure of the oppressed Muslim woman has not been prominent in post-9/11 TV dramas, which tend to focus on Arab/Muslim American patriots,...

  8. 4 Regulating Sympathy for the Muslim Man
    (pp. 100-131)

    After 9/11 there were many attempts by government officials, journalists, scholars, bloggers, and citizens to explain why the terrorist attacks happened. The explanations ranged from the one offered by President Bush that there is evil in the world that must be fought by the good and compassionate United States to the one offered by TV show host Bill Maher that Muslim men simply need to “get laid.” Bush’s explanation relies on the notion that terrorism is an epic struggle between good and evil and that the terrorists hate us for our freedom. Maher’s explanation for terrorism is a variation on...

  9. 5 Selling Muslim American Identity
    (pp. 132-162)

    In the weeks after 9/11, patriotic advertising campaigns flooded highway billboards, radio, magazines, newspapers, and television. Many corporations directly or indirectly used the tragedy to market and sell their products. General Motors launched a campaign, “Keep America Rolling,” offering zero percent financing deals on new cars and trucks. The New York Sports Club encouraged New Yorkers to “Keep America Strong” by joining the gym for a special discount rate.¹ Some corporations, such as AOL/Time Warner, MSNBC, Ralph Lauren, Sears, and Morgan Stanley advertised that they would not be advertising, instead buying advertising space on billboards and television and in print...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 163-178)

    During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, right-wing activists accused Barack Obama of being a closet Muslim, a secret Muslim, and a sleeper cell agent.¹ “Once a Muslim, always a Muslim,” declared the conservative political commentator Debbie Schlussel.² The proof, critics claimed, was everywhere: Obama’s middle name, Hussein; the fact that he spent some of his childhood in Indonesia, allegedly attending a Muslim school; the fact that his father was Muslim.³ E-mails circulated accusing Obama of not wearing an American flag pin (which had, in recent presidential elections, become ridiculously reductive “proof ” of one’s patriotism). Some e-mails circulated photos of...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 179-204)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 205-220)
  13. Index
    (pp. 221-226)
  14. About the Author
    (pp. 227-227)