Teaching Representations of Islam in the Media

Learning Outcomes

After this lesson, students will:

  1. Have an understanding of the different ways in which Western mass media content shapes our view of Islam.
  2. Have a general understanding of what the Anthropology of Islam is.
  3. Be able to place this issue within current international affairs.  

Audience

Undergraduate students in Anthropology, Sociology, Political Sciences, and Media Studies.            

Pre-Class Assignments

  1. Read the assigned readings. Depending on the focus of the class, different combinations of readings will work best. If the focus is on introducing the students to the anthropology of Islam, the Bowen book and the article by Huntington would work well. On the other hand if the focus is on media, the book by Elgamri would work best, possibly in combination with the article by Saeed. The article by Korteweg would be beneficial if there is a general focus on gender in the course.
  2. Bring to class a newspaper article which shows a representation of Muslims and/or Islam.    

Opening Activity

Go around the room and talk about the newspaper articles that you have brought to class and how they are related to the reading.  

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is accurate media representation important? What does accurate media representation imply?  
  2. What are the consequences of biased representation of Muslims on a larger political scale?  
  3. What are the defining characteristics of the Anthropology of Islam?  
  4. How might the anthropology of Islam be used to achieve a better understanding of Islam and Muslim populations in the West?    

In-Class Activities

In groups, discuss the articles you have brought and rewrite them (in a paragraph or two) in a more neutral tone/language. You can also rewrite them in another less neutral tone that differs from the original one. Compare and contrast them in a larger group setting and talk about the effect these changes would have on readers’ understanding of an event.

Closing Activities

  1. Discuss with the wider group how this class has changed your viewpoints on Islam and how it has changed the way you look at representation in the media.  
  2. Talk about how other topics might be wrongly represented in the media.

Readings

Books

Bowen, John. 2012.  A New Anthropology of Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  

Elgamri, Elzain. 2008. Islam in the British Broadsheets: The Impact of Orientalism on Representations of Islam in the British Press. Reading: Ithaca Press.

Said, Edward. 2012. “Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine how We See the Rest of the World” in The Anthropology of Islam Reader, edited by Jens Kreinath, 309–21. New York and Abingdon: Routledge.  

Varisco, Daniel. 2005. Islam Obscured: The Rhetoric of Anthropological Representation. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. 

Articles

Brown, Callum. 2007. “Secularisation, the Growth of Militancy and the Spiritual Revolution: Religious Change and Gender Power in Britain 1901–2001.” Historical Research 80, no. 209: 393–418.

Huntington, Samuel P. 1993. “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs 72, no. 3: 22–49.

Kabir, Nahid. 2006. “Representation of Islam and Muslims in the Australian Media, 2001–2005.” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 26, no.3: 313–28.

Korteweg, Anna C.  2008. “The Sharia Debate in Ontario: Gender, Islam, and Representations of Muslim Women’s Agency.” Gender & Society 22, no. 4: 434–54.

Saeed, Amir. 2007. “Media, Racism and Islamophobia: The Representation of Islam and Muslims in the Media.” Sociology Compass 1, no. 2:443–62.

Multimedia Content

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HORIZON, "Isfahan/ Imam(Shah) Mosque." May 20, 2006 via Flickr.

Fox News on "no-go zones" video

Fox News' Bolling: ‘Zero’ People Have Been Killed in the Name of Every Religion But Islam video