Islamic Peril: Media and Global Violence

Article excerpt

MEDIA AND EDUCATION

Islamic Peril: Media and Global Violence,

by Karim H. Karim. Montral, New York, and London: Black Rose Books, 2000. x + 196 pages. Index to p. 204. $53.99 cloth; $24.95 paper.

Reviewed by Hamid Mowlana

Muslim societies in general have a rather skeptical view of the West's information and media expansion, to say the least. The history of colonialism shows that the West extended its hold on Muslim heritage and resources not only economically and politically, but also culturally and through the expansion of their communication media and control of information.

A number of studies on international communication over the last several decades reveal two essential characteristics: the ethnocentric orientation of the media systems in the highly industrialized nations, and the "asymmetric" circulation of information in the world. During this period, Western media reports of developments in the Islamic world have contained a good deal of bias, distortion, and ethnocentrism. Furthermore, the Western media (mainly the American and European media) have constituted a large proportion of the reporting of events in the Islamic world.

Karim Karim should be applauded for his excellent analysis, which illustrates the key role that international mass media play in the process through which Muslim societies are portrayed. He elaborates on the superiority of Western communication, which advances the dominant view of Islam as one synonymous with fanaticism and violence. Karim examines the Western mass media from the 1980s to 2000, with particular attention to the Canadian press, and shows how their construction of events has contributed to the mistaken perception that the West is in conflict with Islam.

Through studying the coverage of conflicts involving Muslims in different parts of the world, the book demonstrates the resilience of core Western images of Muslims that have recurred in depictions of Islam for over a millennium. Islam and Muslims are illustrated as terrorists, as posing a danger to society. With the advancement of globalization and the development of technology, the media-constructed depiction of the relations between Western powers and the Muslim-majority countries as essentially that of conflict is gathering momentum. The view that Islam is fomenting a "clash of civilizations" is increasingly prevalent. Terrorism, hijacking, hostage-taking, and religious wars have become synonymous with the identity of Muslims, and these narratives are supported by Western-based media networks, which have maintained their global hegemony.

In this well-documented and critical volume, Karim explores the lack of historical and cultural understanding in the mass media, as he tackles a number of major events, from the Middle East to the Balkans, to show how deeply the media affects popular views about Islam and Muslims. …