Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11

Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11

Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11

Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11

Synopsis

After 9/11, there was an increase in both the incidence of hate crimes and government policies that targeted Arabs and Muslims and the proliferation of sympathetic portrayals of Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. media. Arabs and Muslims in the Media examines this paradox and investigates the increase of sympathetic images of “the enemy” during the War on Terror.

Evelyn Alsultany explains that a new standard in racial and cultural representations emerged out of the multicultural movement of the 1990s that involves balancing a negative representation with a positive one, what she refers to as “simplified complex representations.” This has meant that if the storyline of a TV drama or film represents an Arab or Muslim as a terrorist, then the storyline also includes a “positive” representation of an Arab, Muslim, Arab American, or Muslim American to offset the potential stereotype. Analyzing how TV dramas such as The Practice, 24, Law and Order, NYPD Blue, and Sleeper Cell, news-reporting, and non-profit advertising have represented Arabs, Muslims, Arab Americans, and Muslim Americans during the War on Terror, this book demonstrates how more diverse representations do not in themselves solve the problem of racial stereotyping and how even seemingly positive images can produce meanings that can justify exclusion and inequality.

Excerpt

JACK BAUER (COUNTER TERRORISM UNIT AGENT): How long have you
been planning this operation? Two years? Five years? Ten? All this planning for one
day. You do realize that if all the reactors melt down, hundreds of thousands of
people will die?

DINA ARAZ (TERRORIST): Every war has casualties.

JACK BAUER: These people do not know about your war. These people are inno
cent.

DINA ARAZ: No one is innocent.

JACK BAUER: You really believe that?

DINA ARAZ: As strongly as you believe in what you believe. So I won’t waste your
time or mine trying to explain something you can never understand.
—24, “Day 4: 3–4 p.m.”

REVEREND CAMDEN (TO NEIGHBORS): I know everyone is boycotting that
party tonight because they think the Duprees are French, but they’re not. The
Duprees are from Glen Oak.

NEIGHBOR 1: Well, that’s good to know.

REV. CAMDEN: And they’re Muslim. [Long pause by neighbors.] I had to see it
with my own eyes.

NEIGHBOR 2: See what?

REV. CAMDEN: Prejudice, narrow mindedness …racism.
—7th Heaven, “Getting to Know You”

On September 11, 2001, nineteen Arab Muslim men hijacked four airplanes and flew them into two of the greatest icons of power in the United States—the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nearly three thousand people were killed. In response, the U.S. government, under President George W. Bush, initiated the self-proclaimed War on Terror—a military, political, and legal campaign targeting Arabs and Muslims both in the United States and around the world.

After this tragic event, and amid growing U.S. American rancor toward the Arab world and violence against individuals with brown skin, I was surprised to find an abundance of sympathetic portrayals of Arabs and Muslims on U.S.

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