Last month, Pastor Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., put the Quran â€œon trialâ€ and found it guilty of â€œinciting violence, murder and rape.â€ The punishment: He burned the Quran.
In response, individuals in several parts of Afghanistan retaliated by committing violence, which resulted in the murder of 24 innocent people. The media has portrayed this as Muslims committing violence in accordance with their religious belief.
However, both Jones and the rioters were not acting in accordance with either Christianity or Islam. Both were lunatics not acting on behalf of a religion but fueled by emotional-cultural rage.
Many in the West see the riots in Afghanistan as confirmation of their preconceived notions that all Muslims are violent, dangerous and must be feared. However, the West often confuses African, Middle-Eastern and Central Asian culture as being part of Islam. That is incorrect. Many social cultural practices that occur by individuals who claim to be â€œMuslimâ€ are often times social cultural norms that existed prior to Islam or are independent of Islam. Many cultural practices in the East are no more Islamic than many cultural practices in the West are Christian, such as pornography, drug use and violence.
A minority of individuals in African and Middle Eastern countries practice extreme social cultural behaviors such as the wearing of a burqa â€“â€“ the complete covering of a woman except her eyes â€“â€“ terrorism, female genital mutilation and beating of women. All these fringe, lunatic and extreme cultural practices are confused as â€œIslamicâ€ simply because the horrible people who commit these atrocities just so happen to call themselves â€œMuslims.â€ None of these acts, in any way, are taught and condoned by Islam and the vast majority of Muslims.
The underlying issue that leads many non-Muslims to confuse those social cultural practices as Islamic is the factually incomplete portrayal of Muslims in mass media.
Muslims most often appear in the media when the news talks about terrorism or violence. This creates the false consciousness that all Muslims commit horrible acts. However, we never see a Muslim buying a car or going to Disneyland, as if Muslims do not do these things.
After Sept. 11, many of Hollywoodâ€™s action films feature terrorism, and in these films the antagonists are Arab or Muslim. Once again, this reinforces and attempts to legitimize a psychologically-tainted ideology that all Muslims are evil.
Many television pundits have been exclaiming, â€œWhere are the moderate Muslims? Why are they not condemning these attacks?â€ My response: for Muslims to condemn the lunatic acts of individuals presupposes that because I am a Muslim, I am somehow associated with those individuals and am therefore partially responsible for their actions. It just so happens that many terrorists love to play soccer. Should all people who enjoy soccer condemn the acts of terrorists solely due to a loose commonality? Absolutely not. Terrorism is a result of social cultural antagonisms, not Islam.
We are all connected to mass media via television, Internet, cell phones, etc. and get much of our information and opinions from these outlets. It is imperative to understand that mass media does not cover all sides of a given story, rather it covers what is most convenient and profitable. So when individuals of any group commit newsworthy acts, the actions of the individual are portrayed as a reflection of the whole. Blacks, Latinos and homosexuals have also been victims of such portrayal in the media. Mediaâ€™s partial portrayals of groups is an injustice and creates a predisposition for members of those groups to be victims of hate crimes, discrimination and misinformation.
Jamal Kamandy is a senior political science and philosophy major. He is also a member of Young Americans for Liberty and the Center for Peace Justice and Environment. If you would like to continue this dialogue, Kamandy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.