What do Rev Franklin Graham Jr. , Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali have in common? Besides being among the loudest anti-Muslim and Islam activists in an ever increasing and lucrative market of purveyors islamophobia, they have been featured in recent weeks in the media to share their “expertise” about Islam and Muslims.
While their controversial pasts and remarks could easily be wrote off as the ramblings of extremists and islamophobes, the high profile attention they have been given by the media can not. The platform these voices of intolerance against Muslims have been given is deeply troubling and scary enough to question the motives of the media organizations who feature them.
Anti-Islam activists seem to compete with one another with extremist sound bites regularly heard on programs such “This Week” with Christiane Amanpour where earlier this month Franklin Graham called Islam an “evil religion” or given “subject matter expert” status on Islam and Muslims on programs such as the special “20/20 Islam: Questions and Answers” where anti-Muslim activists Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Pamela Geller were prominently featured to talk about issues such as the role of Muslim women in Islam, and the representation of Muslims in America.
What’s appalling is that time and time again, the media consistently calls on noted and in some cases self admitted Islamophobes to discuss Islam on the national stage offering them a platform to spread their anti-Muslim bias.
I am not against the airing of contrary views, in fact, not only am I a signatory in the defense of free speech even of those most critical of Islam, I also believe that in the dialogue about what Islam is or is not dissenting views help the dialogue.
However, what’s being sold as a dialogue about Islam and Muslims from the major media outlets is actually one-sided. Missing from the conversations, interviews, panels, and Sunday paper features are responses from actual Muslim women, actual Islamic scholars, and American Muslims and in particular African American Muslims who make up the majority of American Muslims.
Whenever the “Muslim view” is featured, the media often displays clips of Muslims overseas, or they seek interviews from recently immigrated Muslims, which helps paint Islam as the foreign religion struggling to integrate in Western society. Often the voices millions of indigenous Muslims in the West are ignored helping shape opinions that the media does not really care what Muslims think but only play lip service to the idea.
When one critically observes the coverage and continued unbalanced presentation of Islam and Muslims in the US and the West, one has to question the motives of those who produce these programs.
A good argument that controversy sells and that anti-Muslim bigotry and vitriol spread by guests such as Pamela Gellar make for good “must see TV” and helps the financial bottom line through ratings. However, it is intolerable and unfathomable that we continue to ignore the responsibility that these productions share and the role they have played in the rise of islamophobia across the country. Ratings and profits have become more important at the expense of Muslims in America and the acceptance of this ideal is increasingly dangerous for our country.
It should go without saying that the cause of the rise and increase of anti-Muslim hate crimes, vandalism, and speech can be tied to the media’s weekly coverage and insistence on featuring noted anti-Islam bloggers, speakers, and activists on their programs and productions.
Americans are routinely fed through the media an abundance of anti-islam rhetoric and the allowance of such is despicable and dangerous. The holocaust and other acts of genocide, oppression of a singular religious or ethnic group, and the denial of rights toward a specific minority or group never happens in a vacuum. Most acts of oppression, suppression, and persecution begin when a campaign of dehumanization is spread through rhetoric that is carefully channeled, controlled, and spread from media outlets and those in prominent positions or office.
When the cries for justice and the calls for balance are ignored by the media those seeking to dehumanize and malign control the narrative and all rumors, conjecture, and outright lies become the truth. The media has continually aided and abetted islamophobes in the spread of their rhetoric and concerted efforts against Muslims and as a result serious repercussions are reverberating across America in politics, domestic and foreign policy, and in the general attitudes of the American people.
We must stand firm and demand that counter arguments, voices, and scholars are given equal treatment and prominence in the media lest we wake up one day and find Muslims declared enemies of the state or worse.
I couldn’t imagine the media giving the same airtime to David Duke or others in a discussion about Judaism or Jews, maybe it’s a sign of things to come, I pray that it is not.