Since 9/11, the U.S. media have been contributing to framing messages of fear that align terrorism and violence with Islamic ethnic groups (Yusof et al., 2013). At the wake of a terrorist attack, the media frames messages that correlate Islam or Muslims with terrorism and some the most common frames used by media are ‘Islam causes Violence’ and ‘Muslim are terrorists’ (Yusof et al., 2013). This negative framing by the media has given rise to what we know as Islamophobia – a term first popularized by Trevor Phillips, the former head of Britain’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). It means to portray a clear discrimination against Islam or people who practice the religion (Green, 2015).
People today are being shaped by media’s agenda of terror, knowing that a terrorist attack, public bombing or a mass shooting could take place any day around them cultivating a social reality that makes them to be susceptible to the Mean World Syndrome – a term coined by George Gerbner that explains how violence-related content on mass media makes viewers believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. According to the United States Department of Justice, between 1980 and 2005, 94 percent of the terrorist attacks carried out in the U.S. were committed by non-Muslims; Latino-related groups carried out 42 percent of terror attacks and 24 percent were carried out by extreme left-wing actors (United States Department of Justice, 2012).
Interestingly, the public’s modern views on terrorism are generally linked to what they hear, see and read on television, online news articles, and newspapers. In the post 9/11 world, there has been a profound trend by the public to associate bearded men with fear, danger and terror – whether they are Muslims, Middle Easterners, Arabs or not. At the wake of a bombing or a mass shooting, men with beards are the first suspects (Culcasi & Gokmen, 2011). The U.S. media pays more attention to some attacks than the others. When the perpetrator of an attack is a Muslim, the media covers it 449 percent more than other attacks, and even more so if the perpetrator is a foreign-born Muslim (Kearns et al., 2017).
Since the September 11 attacks, the U.S. news media often used words such as “militancy” and “radicalism” to depict Muslims in a negative manner. Other common adjectives used to describe Muslims have included words such ‘radical’, ‘fanatic’ and ‘fundamentalist’ (Yusof et al., 2013). Due to the rampant negative media coverage, Islamophobia became a widely recognizable term to the American people (Shryock, 2010).
This study aims to investigate why Muslims are stigmatized in a highly negative manner and what are the different events or historic relevance that has led to this bias by the Western world towards Islam and those people practicing the faith.