Syed Ali Mujtaba
MUSLIMS in the United States are increasingly being marginalised in the media and cinema, Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, a leading think tank in the US, has found out.
The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative works on targeted, research-based solutions to tackle inequality. It does original research and sponsored projects, studying diversity and inclusion in the media and entertainment industry.
The Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative study indicated that Muslims make up 25 per cent of the world’s population, but their presence as characters in popular TV series does not exceed 1.1 percent.
The study stated that images of Muslims are often linked to terrorism or violence. “More than 30% of the 98 Muslim personalities assessed were vulnerable to perpetrators of violence, while nearly 40% were the target of violent attacks,” the study found out,
There are two significant pointers about the portrayal of Muslims in popular culture, tells the study. One, there is a common trope that Muslim men are portrayed in bad light. Second is the portrayal of Muslim women in their veils.
A deliberate stereotype is built making the public assume that the “veil is a symbol of oppression”. The stereotypes relate to “the feeling of liberation of Muslim women when they take off the veil.”
Muslim women in popular culture are commonly portrayed as submissive and fearful of their male counterparts. This is another serotype that is deliberately built to reinforce the idea that Muslim women are vulnerable to oppression by their menfolk.
The study says that the media focus is often placed on the faith of the interviewed Muslim personalities. This makes the public believe that religion is the focus of every Muslim’s life. Such a stereotype reduces the chances of showing some other aspects of Muslim men/women’s personalities.
“These kinds of stereotypes are the cause of Muslims being isolated and not getting integrated as productive members of American societies,” says the study.
The study reveals that among the 98 Muslim personalities interviewed, almost half of them referred to their faith in some way or other, while 23.5 percent of them revealed that they were portrayed non-verbally on the grounds that they were Muslims.
Los Angeles Times has published a detailed article on Muslims in the US, based on Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s study. The newspaper has indicated that Muslim immigrants in America suffer from abuse in media and cinema.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org