Academic journal article Global Media Journal

"Saving" Muslim Women and Fighting Muslim Men: Analysis of Representations in the New York Times

Academic journal article Global Media Journal

"Saving" Muslim Women and Fighting Muslim Men: Analysis of Representations in the New York Times

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study analyzed representations of Muslim men and women in The New York Times between September 11, 2001 and September 11, 2003. Stories about Muslim women living in non-Western countries were often stories about political violence where they were represented as victims of violence and Islamic practices. Representations of Muslim women were also marked by a continual obsession with the veil. Muslim women were often portrayed as victims in need of Western liberation, which was sometimes defined narrowly as the exercise of individual choice in the purchase and use of consumer goods such as nail polish, lipsticks and high-heeled shoes. Articles on Muslim men were often about Islamic resurgence, terrorism and illegal immigration with details about "resumes of holy warriors" and "manuals of killing." However, The New York Times also performed a watchdog role by highlighting violation of civil rights of Muslims living in the United States and hate crimes committed against them after the September 11 attacks. Such stories, however, were rarely able to resist the dominant representations of Muslim men as violent and dangerous and Muslim women as victims of oppression. The dominant images of both Muslim men and women served the same purpose: They established the need to intervene to rescue the women and control the men.

Keywords: Representations; Muslim women; liberation; modernity; Muslim men; terrorists; illegal immigrants; Western intervention.

"Saving" Muslim women and fighting Muslim men: Analysis of representations in The New York Times.

Viewing mediated representations of both men and women may be considered by some to be a truly feminist exercise as it is both critical and inclusive. The purpose of this paper is to identify and compare representations of Muslim men and women in The New York Times between September 11, 2001 and September 11, 2003, a period that witnessed both the war in Afghanistan in 2001 and the beginning of the war in Iraq in 2003. In both the wars, saving oppressed Muslim women and fighting militant Muslim men served as important justifications for waging war against the two countries. For instance, First Lady Laura Bush in a radio address on November 17, 2001 stated: "The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women" (Bush, 2001). The address enlisted support of women for the war in Afghanistan by pointing out that "because of our recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes" (Bush, 2001). Such broad claims render it necessary to analyze how Muslim women are portrayed in the U.S. press.

A study of media representations of Muslim men also becomes important considering that in the two months following the September 11 attacks, more than 1,200 non-US nationals were taken into custody in the United States, in "nationwide sweeps for possible suspects" (Amnesty International, 2002). Partial data released by the government revealed that most were men of Arab or South Asian origin (Amnesty International, 2002). The Amnesty International report stated that the organization is concerned that the U.S. government may be violating fundamental rights of those arrested and detained. In another report titled "Human Rights Forgotten in USA's 'War on Terrorism,'" Amnesty International (2003) revealed that since the 9/11 attacks, more than 3,000 people who are alleged to be "al-Qa'ida operatives and associates" have been arrested in over 100 countries. Again, the report expressed deep concern about people held without trials and charges.

Elizabeth Poole and John Richardson (2006) assert that they feel a "pressing ethical and political obligation to criticize and counteract the distorted reporting" on Islam and Muslims as such coverage encourages detention of Muslims without trial and racial profiling (p. 2). Apart from racial profiling of Muslims, the raging "War on Terrorism," continuing occupation of Iraq and escalating political violence in the region only heighten the urgency to examine how the U. …

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