Australian Islamist Monitor

Islam Under Scrutiny

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Is the Media unfair to Arabs and Muslims?

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Let’s hear it from Peter Manning, journalist and academic, who researched how Sydney’s two daily newspapersIdiot Galore covered Arabic and Muslim people.…
” for the year before September 11, 2001 and the year after. And these two years covered… the arrival of largely Arabic boat people, including the famous “Tampa” incident; the Palestinian second intifada; two gang rapes involving Lebanese young men; the attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on September 11 itself; the 2001 federal election; and the looming war on Iraq”.
What did he find?
“a portrait of sustained fear. It is as though we are talking of another species…
Arabs and Muslims … and Palestinians in particular, are seen as violent to the point of terrorism. Israel, the US and Australia – ‘us’ – are seen under attack from such people and they are seen as both an external and internal threat. ‘Their’ violence is portrayed as without reason, humanity or compassion for its victims. Arab young men, in particular, are seen as especially threatening, wanting ‘our’ Caucasian women and not policed sufficiently by their own communities, who lack either values (respect for women) or interest (accepting responsibility) for these men. The men, women and children seeking to come here ‘illegally’ from the Muslim Middle East are portrayed as tricky ungrateful, undeserving (possibly well-off), often disgusting and barely human.”
What can have caused such perceptions of Muslim Arabs? It can’t be their actions, so it must be OUR prejudices.
 
Manning reminds us sternly
“we are talking about representations of the oldest civilization to which we can trace direct inheritance. Our language, calligraphy, music, art, mathematics, philosophy, owe a great deal to Arab culture… much of our music is related to instruments picked up in the Muslim presence in Spain. And in religious terms, these representations of Muslims slander not just Osama bin Laden or eight gang rapists but a billion people on the planet – not to mention the faith held dear by most citizens of our nearest neighbour, Indonesia”.
Plundering Bedouin
The greatest achievement of Muslims: Introduction of plundering Bedouin nomadic warrior culture, dromedaries and goats in every country  they conquered, looted and devastated.

So they’ve given us all this, and we repay them by demonising them? Shame on us!
(incidentally, Islamic imperialism resulted in Muslims “lifting” much of these benefits from other cultures, but don’t let the facts get in the way of a good narrative).

Manning dismisses the
“superficial answer to the question … that Arabs and Muslims brought it on themselves with September 11 and gang rapes and you would have to expect a “bad press” after such events”.
Yes, that would be blaming the perpetrators wouldn’t it, and that would never do!
 
Madrid Train Bomb Attack
Why do we have to blame Muslims for all these atrocities? 

 
Here are his reasons for this “ racist coverage”.

  • Sheer one-sidendness- refugees versus Ruddock’s DIMIA; Sheik al-Hilaly versus Howard in the Parliament under privilege; Lebanese youths in Sydney’s west versus the NSW Premier’s press machine.
  • Lack of history or context: When the Sydney “Daily Telegraph” abuses Lebanese youths and their education writer speaks disparagingly of their Muslim culture, there is no acknowledgement that these kids grew up in Australia, not Lebanon, went to local schools, are not particularly religious, and are suffering the trials of unemployment more than an excess of religion
  • symbolic caricature. ….Muslim religious leaders like al-Hilaly: accused of being tricky in Lebanon with a violent sermon – though the sermon was later shown on SBS to be harmless. Clearly, the media narrative has it that Arab and Muslim people are tricky and violent. That’s to be contrasted with us in the West, of course, who are honest, straightforward and peaceful: look at George Bush, for instance.
How unfair to attack Hilaly and Lebanese Muslim youths, when we all know they are victims of our racism!
“The single group most vilified in my research was the Palestinians. They carry the greatest load of demonisation and they alone seem to attract all three forms of misrepresentation with great consistency”.
Pali Butchers
Vilified Palestinians in action. 
According to Manning’s worldview this is because journalists are timid and fear being labelled “anti-Semitic” …
“Anti-Semitism… has become a political weapon to silence critics of the Jewish state - from Jews and non-Jews alike”. … it is clear that Ariel Sharon ratcheted up his identification with George Bush, comparing the US war against Osama bin laden and terrorism in general with his own battle against Arafat and “Islamic terrorists”….. The suggested equation is: you’re either for us or against us; those against us are “terrorists” …In such a narrative, there is no space for the fact that the victims here are the occupied Palestinians …”.
Yes, well, Israel is a democracy under attack from Islamic terrorists, just like the US and the rest of the free world. If Manning wishes to portray murderous Palestinian terrorists as victims of the “occupation”, he is free to do so, as we live in a free country.  But equally, we are free to tell the TRUTH.

Manning believes
“most journalists are professional and want to do a fair and reasonable report” and muses why they produce “such a sustained load of appalling crap? “
Here I must agree with him. Just read Al Age, especially Ed O’Loughlin and Waleed Aly.
But no, it seems Manning is not referring to these journalists.

“My guess is orientalism. Edward Said outlines how the Islamic revolution of the seventh to the fifteenth century scared the daylights out of Christian Europe and how it has failed to recover sufficiently to distinguish one Muslim or Arab from another. He attacks essentialist thinking: the sort of low-grade ‘analysis’ that sees essential qualities in Arabs or Muslims. I think he’s right. You see the kind of thinking…in the whole triumphalist imperialist rhetoric of “Rule Britannia” at the turn of the last century. And that’s exactly where we came in. Our first meetings with the Arabs and the Muslims were supporting British war aims in 1914. Our troops stopped off in Egypt on the way to fight “the Turk” at Gallipoli. Later we scooted around Palestine and Syria in support of British troops chasing the Turks out of their empire.
I suspect we picked up the orientalism virus along the way… It’s infected our thinking ever since. Now, thanks to our media being so dependent on a British and American view of the world, we’re back sucking at the twin imperial teats, along with its infected milk.
Only now, since September 11, it’s worse….. Our media haven’t resolved their old orientalism and they are expected to chase terrorists under every bed. Almost all of them seem to be Muslim, if not Arabic. The old blood sport has taken on new, crescent-shaped colours. “Of Middle Eastern appearance”…. is used to trawl through a whole community, creating fear and loathing.
So the reason we reacted with such horror to 9/11 wasn’t the sheer random brutality of the perpetrators, who ended the lives of thousands on that day, but our orientalism.  And if we conflate Islam with terrorism,  that’s because we’re racist, not because the terrorists uniformly seem to take on crescent-shaped colours!

Manning opines
“Vilification of Arabic and Muslim people in the media has been traced back to the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and the first Gulf War against Iraq in 1991….. For some reason, John Howard is intent on playing Little Sir Echo to Uncle Sam in faraway Iraq and showing these backward Arabs about such concepts as “democracy” – as though Arab leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Iran hadn’t tried it before, only to see it crushed by invading British or French troops. So my view is that it too convenient for governments right now to align old racist prejudices with such concepts as “the War on Terror” and keep the old stereotypes alive.”
American Embassy Hostages
Blindfolded American Embassy hostages being paraded before the public by their Iranian captors, November 5, 1979. 

Horrid us! Arabs have long wanted democracy and we stopped them getting it! Now I understand!

“I think we can only move forward when journalists, media students and editors take it on themselves to stop this rot. After all, it’s their representations that are defaming whole communities…At the same time, the Arabic and Muslim communities… needs to be media-friendly but media-savvy. It needs to talk the talk but accept no excuses for essentialism and defamation, for one-sided laziness and journalism without history or context
…we have not gone beyond orientalist thinking. It is rooted within us as a racist virus and has to be attacked.”  (source )

So come on, all you journalists, start being nicer to Muslims! Stop blaming them for gang rapes/terrorism/violence against women et al.
Let’s blame ourselves instead. Oh, I forgot, we already do!
Last Updated on Thursday, 07 August 2008 12:54  

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