Covering Extremism In The Muslim World Cultural Studies Essay


There has been a series of terrorists attacks in Muslim and Non-Muslim world ostensibly conducted by Islamic militant groups, generally known as ‘Jihadis’, ‘al-Qaeda’ or now ‘Taliban’. Taliban among them are reportedly happening to be more violent as they have conducted series of suicide bombing largely in almost all major cities of Pakistan. Taliban Islamists’ instigated acts of suicide attacks are widely reported in local, Western and International media. On the other hand, Al-Qaeda has appeared to be a well organized extremist organization having its tentacles straddling the whole West, some parts of Asia and Africa, with franchised setups operating independently in various parts of the world; however, with some degree of coherence in their objectives.

The proposed study will attempt to explore as how the US citizens view Islam / Muslims amid growing religious extremism in the Muslim world. Besides, it will also explore the relationship between portrayal of the extremism in Muslim world in the Western media, specially the US Media, and changing perceptions towards Islam / Muslim in USs.

Introduction and Background

Since 9/11 destruction in the New York and 7/7 bombing in London, Muslims are being associated with extremism. Many research studies indicate that only certain segments in Muslims were found behind some unfortunate incidents of terrorism. But a general perception of the non-Muslims in the West about the Muslim is somewhat in a generalized mode of dubbing them as ‘extremists’ or ‘religious fanatics’.

Since extremism generates equally adverse reaction with wider condemnation, no saner school of thought, religion or sect can afford to instigate to choose the path of devastation caused to people hit by acts of terrorism.

Whereas the terrorist attacks presented the global community with a new crisis of gigantic proportions, a new threat to the open society and human civilization. Now it is the turn to fight terrorism, extremism, fanaticism, intolerance, fundamentalism and totalitarianism in the framework of a global, interdependent conglomerate of nations (Zassoursky, 2002). The terrorist attack on USA on 11th September 2001 (known as 9/11) has prompted the famous French philosopher Jean Baudrillard to make the following comment, which has attracted international attention [1] :

When the situation is thus monopolized by global power, when one deals with this formidable concentration of all functions through technocratic machinery and unification of thought, what other way is there, than a terrorist transferal of the situation? It is the system itself that has created the objective conditions for this brutal retort. By taking all the cards to itself, it forces the other to change the rules of the game.

The attack by al-Qaeda was an extreme act of aggression, the reaction it generated was even more extreme, and the subsequent trend of violence and chaos is leading to collective suicide. Western Scholar John L. Esposito in his book ‘Unholy War: terror in the name of Islam Post 9/11’ says, ‘given the nature of the American media’s focus on the continued terrorist threat, many Americans see Islam and the Muslim world through explosive headline events, failing to distinguish between the religion of Islam and mainstream Muslims and the extremist who hijack Islamic discourse and belief to justify their acts of terrorism’ (Esposito, 2002).

The Muslim leadership at top condemned the 9/11 extremist events immediately and pledged to continue to resolve to fight all kinds of terrorism. Dr. Abdelouahed Belkeziz, the then Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in a press release issued by the OIC on September 12, 2001 said, “I was shocked and deeply saddened when I heard of those attacks which led to the death and injury of a very large number of innocent American citizens.” Dr. Belkeziz denounced and condemned the criminal and brutal acts saying that they ran counter to all covenants, humanitarian values and divine religions foremost among that is Islam.

Moreover, the Organization of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers at its Ninth Extra Ordinary session on 10th October 2001 issued a communiqué to condemn the incident of 9/11.

Extremism is a global threat that has become menace to human security. Our current era is certainly not a peaceful one. Civil wars, insurgencies, ethnic/religious strife, riots, rampant urban crime and terrorism, often abetted by the weakening or collapse of state power, have marred the post-cold war era (Sandbrook & Romano 2004, pp. 1007-1030). The global extremism has local effects that have greatest threat to peace and stability of the region. Particularly the present growing trend of extremism is needed to be investigated. Extremism is at the heart of international politics. Extremism can be seen in all aspects of life. A recurring theme in international politics is the lament that democratization is hampered by an ‘arc of extremism’ that connects such disparate regional conflicts as Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel�"Palestine.

At theoretical level, the issue is affecting the repute of Islam and Muslims. Yet, in practical terms it posed many questions around domestic and international politics about Islam and Muslims. In the religious front, promotion of puritanical zealotry and moralization of hate continue to divide faith communities and set the stage for religious wars. In the sociopolitical front, tribalism, ethno-centrism, patriotism have been galvanizing brutal violence and paving way for genocidal campaigns.

Furthermore, in the political front, the concept that a nation has the exclusive right to wage war against another under the “preemptive war doctrine” and/or impose “regime change” has paved the way for brutal occupation, radicalized insurgency, civil war and chaos [2] . For years, Islamic militancy has presented itself as a security issue on both the domestic and global scenes, which generated an intense academic debate about its nature, scope, and strength in Arab-Islamic societies (Haddad & Khashan, 2002, pp.812-828). Extremism is the root cause of the proliferation of violence throughout the world. It is the impetus pushing lawlessness, gluttonous greed and downright disregarding of human rights. It is a massive boulder blocking the path to peace [3] .

The term `extremism’ is commonly described as thought-oriented as it certainly needs to have thought orientation at the global level. Some argued ‘extremism’ is a state of mind, it is an attitude. It may be based less on facts and more on perceptions. It is founded on judgmental deductions, which may or may not be correct and accurate; generally these deductions revolve around myths. Negative attitudes, generally, arise out of real or imagined perceptions regarding inequitable and or unfair treatment, deprivation of economic equity and lack of even playing field for access to opportunities. Moreover, frustration emanating out of lack of compatible knowledge, market friendly skills and opportunities required to get going along the mainstream economic activity contributes towards creating a negative mindset. Extremism feeds heavily on these causes. In addition, stereotyping, discrimination and communal segregation are strong supplementary factors. Inadequate enfranchising of backyard communities into political system also breeds and accentuates pessimist attitudes leading towards extremism [4] .

The threat of fanning extremism affects all aspects of life. The evil of extremism has now its extreme form throughout the globe. Extremism is the most dangerous challenge facing the world. In presence of different kinds of threats now it is more difficult to distinguish what is the most fearful threat. Ongoing terrorism, especially the indiscriminant kind targeting unarmed civilians, is one of the most severe challenges facing human societies in the twenty-first century. The most direct ramifications of terror are heavy loss of human life and a disproportional reaction characterized by feelings of personal and collective fear, and behavioral responses to that fear. The rise in tensions and grievances, coupled with an increasingly ineffective and unpopular regime, provide an opening for violent protest movements (Sandbrook & David, 2004, pp. 1007-1030).

Perhaps Islam always stands for peace to all human without distinction. Islam and Islamic laws always condemns the extremism. Indeed Islam has no relation with extremism. But, as generally perceived in Muslim world, the West delineates Islam in different connotation. John L. Esposito, one of America's foremost authorities and interpreters of Islam, rejects as far too simplistic the concept that Islam is a militant, expansionist, and an anti-American and anit-West religion. In his book: "The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality," he demonstrates the diversity of the Islamic resurgence--and the mistakes our analysts make in assuming a hostile, monolithic Islam. [5] 

Amid this discussion, it imputes to explore the sources of this extremism. Esposito and Voll (1996, 186) argued that "youth, unemployment, and lack of housing have created conditions for recruitment by Islamists and have made for an explosive mix."

A nongovernmental group identified seven principal sources of Islamic extremism: historical grievances, ideology, globalization, “apostate” or authoritarian Muslim governments, non-Muslim rule or western military presence in Islamic lands, external funding of Islamic fundamentalism and extremism, and US policies [6] . The dialectical reaction to 'McWorld'-the homogenising, consumer-orientated and secular popular culture-is often 'Jihad'-a reversion to a world defined by religion, hierarchy and tradition. As Benjamin Barber graphically depicts the latter (Baber, 1996, p.81):

Jihad in its most elemental negative form is a kind of animal fear propelled by anxiety in the face of uncertainty and relieved by self-sacrificing zealotry-an escape out of history. Moral preservationists, whether in America, Israel, Iran, or India, have no choice but to make war on the present to secure a future more like the past: depluralized, monocultured, unskepticized, reenchanted.

To wage this battle of ideas effectively, we must be clear-eyed about what does and does not give rise to terrorism: Understanding the sources of Islamic extremism is critically important to designing a viable long-term strategy to counter or eliminate them. Therefore, Prophet Muhammad said “Beware of extremism in your religion.” True Islam is the middle way between excess and neglect, between zealotry and apathy [7] .

This fundamentalist holy war assumes diverse forms - Christian, Jewish, Hindu, as well as Islamic- although only in the Islamic world do such protest movements threaten the stability of entire societies (Sandbrook & David, 2004, pp. 1007-1030).

The situation arising out of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks on the US World Trade Centre made Pakistan an ally to the United States in its war against terrorism. The 9/11 incident gave a bad name to both Pakistan and Islam. It is imperative to distinguish this war from the general notions of a 'Clash of Civilizations' between Islam and the west or a war against Muslims. That would create human problems within the west itself. According to Edward Said, “we must be able to see the connection between what the West has been saying about Islam and what, reactively, various Muslim societies have done” (Said, 1981).

The current situation of rising extremism in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and some other parts of Muslim world is not only a challenge to their own stability but also for the whole world. The US invasion and occupation of Iraq, Washington’s hegemonic policies in the Middle East, its support to Israel’s policy of occupation and persecution in the Palestinian territories and the disturbed conditions in Afghanistan have fanned the fires of extremism and militancy in the Muslim world including Pakistan.

Granted religious extremism as in Al-Qaeda, the Crusaders, and the inquisitors had also caused many deaths and destructions; however, make no mistake, it was secular extremism that was responsible for some of the most atrocious crimes against humanity with profound impunity. From the holocaust, the on-going systematic genocide of the Palestinian people, the ethnic-cleansing in the Balkans, the Cambodian genocide, the Rwandan genocide; and never mind slavery, colonialism, Stalinism, etc.

The progress of civilization hangs on the ability for cooperation and understanding between these cultures. Although this challenge of removing the "clash" between these two cultures is indeed pressing, it is not new. Negative images of Islam have persisted in the United States throughout its history.

The issue of Western perception of Islam, and Western perspectives on Muslims and Islamic things constitutes a topic of ongoing concern both for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It has come to the fore in a dramatic and global sense ever since the terrorist attacks that damaged the Pentagon and destroyed the World Trade Centre in Manhattan, New York, on September 2001. Some 80 years ago, before the advent of radio and television, Walter Lippmann observed that what people knew about the world around them was mostly the result of second-hand knowledge received through the press. It goes without saying that the Western perception of Islam is dominated by misrepresentation and distorted image, which derive largely from past misunderstanding and ignorance.

The media image of Islam is all too often a threatening one, and in the uncritical Western imagination the particular and dramatic activities of some specific Muslims is generalized; thus the religion, Islam, is perceived as itself a threat. And, in recent years, it would appear that, apart from Bosnia, Kosovo, and perhaps Kuwait and Kashmir, Muslim countries or regions as a group have been tarnished with the brush of aggression, with Muslims in them branded as `bad guys’, everyone. Or so it seems. Of course, as already acknowledged, this is a gross oversimplification. Or is it? (Pratt, 2005).

Academic and media commentators use ‘extremist’ in their discussions of Islam and Muslims with great confidence. However, the precise criteria for identifying who is a ‘Muslim extremist’ remain surprisingly undertheorised. Some guidance on the term ‘extremist’ is provided by analysis from earlier periods in European politics (Malik, 2008).

A growing number of Europeans fear that Europe faces “a Muslim problem” (Bawer, 2006; Laïdi, 2002; Leiken, 2005). In every European country, public debate is focused on the dangers of Islamic dogma, the urgency of breaking the religious collective, and the necessity of taming and institutionalizing Islam within a much more securitized and secularized process.

Terrorism has emerged as one of the most important political issues in the United States. Some U.S. officials and commentators have linked it to Islamic militancy, particularly to Iran (Georges, 2003).

Although observers of the American scene agree that the mainstream media’s negative news coverage of Islam and Muslims conditions public perceptions of and attitudes toward Muslim societies, they find it difficult to delineate the complex relationship between the mainstream media and US policy (Herman 1993, 25; Sigal 1973, 42�"49). In this view, a number of factors contribute to the situation, including the media’s overwhelming dependence on government sources for their news stories; the lack of public contestation of government propaganda campaigns; and the government’s use of ideological weapons like anticommunism, a demonized enemy, or potential national-security threats. Only rarely do offbeat reporters dare to challenge the fundamentals of official policy (Sigal, 42�"60; Herman, 26).

In US eyes, Islamists have replaced pan-Arab nationalists as the driving force behind terrorism in the Middle East; today terrorism is basically religiously inspired, lacking any nationalist inspiration (Georges, 2003).

Past studies into media representations of Arabs and Muslims suggest that the mainstream media are a contributory factor in the perpetuation of ‘Orientalist’ myths, which further ‘naturalize’ and fortify negative ethno-religious stereotypes of these peoples. Elizabeth Poole examined the coverage of British Muslims in the British press from 1994 to 2002, and found that since 11 September 2001, there has been an increase in discriminatory discourse against Muslims in British newspapers. While Poole cites the Guardian newspaper as being more sympathetic in its treatment of Islam-related content, she nonetheless contends that these counter-hegemonic discourses are ‘marginalised by the dominance of the conservative interpretive framework’ (Poole, 2006, p.102). Moreover, Poole argues that, since 11 September 2001 the huge shift to focus on terrorism now unifies coverage within the orientalist global construction of Islam.

One image dominates that of ‘Islamic terrorism’. It would appear that whilst Western/US-driven policy is now under question for various reasons, these powerful groups have been successful in maintaining hegemony of ideas of Islam. (Poole, 2006: p. 102) Thus, through varying modes of discourse, or ‘discursive strategies’, the mainstream, and arguably conservative, Western media collectively reproduce, either implicitly or explicitly, discourses that sustain social inequality, thereby reinforcing their own dominance (Foucault, 1995, 1972).

British media representations of the Arab world, and of Muslims in particular, tend conventionally towards a reductive ‘handful of rules, stereotypes, and generalizations’, and perpetuate ‘every negative fact associated with Islam [and the Middle East] �" its violence, primitiveness, atavism [and] threatening qualities’ (Said, 1997, p.xvi). Furthermore, essentialist British media misrepresentations of complex Arab-Islamic histories, cultures and societies result in Arabs and Muslims remaining an artificially monolithic, voiceless and imaginary ‘Other’ (Khoury-Machool, 2009).

Problem Statement

Following is the problem statement of the proposed research:

Does media exposure to extremism in the Muslim world lead to hostility towards Islam and Muslims among the US citizens?

In other words, do media affect the relationship between exposure of extremist events and Americans’ attitudes towards Islam and Muslims?


The broader objectives of this study are:

1. To trace existing perceptions of the US citizens towards Islam and Muslims. 

2. To explore nexus between media coverage of growing extremism in the Muslim world and its influence on the perception of the people, hailing from The United States, towards Islam and Muslims.

3. To see whether there is any role of Social Identification Theory towards developing anti-Islam and anti-Muslim perceptions.

4.      To see whether there exist general anti-Islam and anti-Muslim sentiments which forces the people to think negatively against Islam and Muslims? 

5.      To see whether it is generally believed that Islam and extremism are interrelated.

Significance of the Study:

The focus of this study is to trace as how media coverage affects the change in perception about Islam due to growing extremism. The importance of this research lies in its being the rare academic study to collect quantitative data about attitudes of the US citizens. This study will identify some important reasons why extremism tends to change the perception of Islam. This research study would attempt to explore the relationship between Western Media portrayal of religious extremism and as a perception of Islam of Non-Muslims in The United States. Moreover, it attempts to assess the underlying significant reasons for this attitudinal change amongst the Westerns.

Literature Review

Since the global history, Islam and Muslims are always in the discussion of researchers in the West. Historically the Western negative sentiments exist for religion of Islam and its followers in the mind of Non-Muslims. Moreover, the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States brought Islam into the forefront of the public agenda. America’s ensuring war against Al Qaeda, continued terrorist acts by Islamic extremists, and the Beltway sniper killings in the Washington beltway area has kept Islam and its relationship to violence on the national agenda [8] . Although no evidence emerged about the existence of an “Islamic Internationale”, the World Trade Center bombing did considerable damage to the Muslim image and presence in the United States. As James Brooke commented in the New York Times, by linking “Muslims and domestic terrorism in the minds of many Americans,” the bombing made Muslims vulnerable targets for racism and political discrimination (New York Times, 28 August 1995). For example, in the first of two surveys on American attitudes toward Islam taken just after the bombing, more than 50 percent of the respondents said that “Muslims are anti-Western and anti-American.” In the second survey, the respondents were asked to rate various religious groups from favorable to unfavorable; Muslims topped the most unfavorable list.

After 9/11 Islam became globally, and almost overnight, a field of study of immense significance to both politicians and the public. Since then Islamist have been challenged to reach out and talk to all kinds of people�"often about terrorism and jihad [9] . Curtis claims that the aim of The Power of Nightmares is to demystify Western mythical discourses of the Arab-Islamic world as a threat to Western civilization, adding that the real danger to modern society is the prevailing ‘idea’ of an ‘organized worldwide terror network’, which has led governments to devise ‘policies that will alienate young Muslims further and drive them towards dangerous extremism’. Moreover, he contends that such discourses can result in a ‘witch-hunt against the whole Islamist movement’ (Curtis, 2005).

Another major concern of Western nations is the highest influx of Muslim immigrants and immigration that has become a major topic in the public debates and it also the main concerns of citizens which has been measured by opinion polls. The other direction Rodinson pointed out in his book titled `Europe and the mystique of Islam’ is that centuries of interaction have left a bitter legacy between the world of Islam and the Christian West, deriving largely from the fact that both civilizations claim a universal message and mission and share much of the same Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman heritage (Rodinson, 1987).

The Prince of Wales in her speech on the topic of Islam and the West says `extremism is in some way the hallmark and essence of the Muslim. Extremism is no more the monopoly of Islam than it is the monopoly of other religions, including Christianity’. The depressing fact is that, despite the advances in technology and mass communications of the second half of the twentieth century, despite mass travel, the intermingling of races, the ever-growing reduction-- so we believe-- of the mysteries of our world, misunderstanding between Islam and the West continue.

Dekmejian (1995, 3-4) noted the polycentric nature of the contemporary Islamic revival movement, despite its pervasiveness and persistence. This implies that, in essence, Islamic movements emerge in response to local conditions. Western fear of radical Islam is not new. Writing immediately after the end of World War I, Bury (1919) noticed the absence of militant tendencies in medieval Islam. He saw Islam as a totally peaceful religion as long as Muslims did not feel threatened by foreign intruders. Separated by conflict and held together by common spiritual and material ties, Christians and Muslims presented a religious, intellectual, and military challenge to each other (Hourani, 8; Esposito, 25; Lewis, 89). Between 1919 and the 1950s, European interest in Muslim societies was more influenced by the requirements of colonial policy and decolonization than by religious sentiment (Fuller and Lesser, 19�"20). Even though Islamic militants, especially Usama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization, have repeatedly attacked US targets during the past two decades, hardly any-body imagined that they would mount such horrific acts as those carried out on September 11, 2001. For years, Islamic militancy has presented itself as a security issue on both the domestic and global scenes, which generated an intense academic debate about its nature, scope, and strength in Arab-Islamic societies.

In the mass media, cultural bias in coverage of the Muslim world has been so pervasive as to merit academic study (Friedlander 1981; Shaheen 1980, 1984). Consequently, the popular media’s interpretation of Islam and the Muslim world has flowed freely into schoolrooms and then back out again to the wider public without being subjected to much critical analysis and correction.

Following the 9-11 attacks, Americans were exposed to competing images of Islam, one peaceful and one violent. Distinctly negative reports of responses to the attacks in Islamic countries promoted a violent view of Islam. Video footage showed Palestinians cheering and celebrating the terrorist attacks on America (“Some Palestinians,” 2001; “Special Report,” 2001, 124-125) [10] .

Halliday (1995) considers the Islamic threat to the West to be an illusion. Not only does a unified Islamic World not exist, even were such a World to exist, it would fall for short of the economic and military power to compete with, let alone risk confrontation with the West. The hostility of the West towards Islam and Muslims therefore encompasses racist, xenophobic, and stereotypical elements, a phenomenon which Halliday calls anti-Muslimism.

In western countries, fear of Islam and its extremist elements is not a new phenomenon. Threat has had remarkably consistent effects in past social science research. One of the most pervasive and powerful effects of threat is to increase intolerance, prejudice, ethnocentrism, and xenophobia, regardless of whether threat is defined as a widely acknowledged external force or a subjective, perceived state. Groups that are disliked, violent, or disruptive elicit intolerance and face heightened restrictions on their civil rights and liberties (Gibson 1998; Marcus et al. 1995; Sullivan, Piereson, and Marcus 1982). Threat not only promotes intolerance but also leads to support for punitive action against threatening groups. In past research on foreign policy attitudes, Americans have supported overseas military action in direct proportion to the threat posed by a foreign aggressor to U.S. interests (Herrmann, Tetlock, and Visser 1999; Jentleson 1992; Jentleson and Britton 1998). Americans who perceived a high future threat of terrorism not only supported aggressive action against the enemy, they were also more likely to negatively stereo-type Arabs and support restrictive immigration and intensified surveillance policies directed at Arabs and Arab-Americans, in line with the expected effect of threat on out-group vilification.

The media shape the issues about which the public can form an opinion. Nevertheless, the media alone are not able to impose their opinion on the public. If a subject appears often in the news, it will be talked about more often as well. Although education and socialization in general are extremely important in the transmission of stereotypes and prejudices from generation to generation, the media play a significant role in the creation of new ones if they oversimplify the presentation of the actual developments in the groups concerned. People in the West are daily confronted with news both on television and in newspapers in which Muslims and Islam are the main topics. Research from various sources indicates that the way in which Western media report about Muslims, Islam, and ethnic minorities in general leaves much to be desired (see Said, 1981; Van Dijk, 1991; Noakes, 1998; Hafez, 2000; Poole, 2000).

Taskhiri (1993) claimed, “It is the channels of the mass media, and their multifarious crafty means and devices which increasingly exploit art and history, which transmit views and concepts hostile to Islam” (p. 87). Western representations of ethnic cultures and histories have been the focus of discourse analysts such as Teun A. Van Dijk, and cultural theorists such as Stuart Hall and Edward Said. According to Van Dijk, ‘the media contribute themselves to the definition of the ethnic situation through … discursive strategies, e.g., biased topic choice, stylistic negativization of minorities and dramatization of ethnic events’ (Van Dijk, 1989: 230).

Islam is a religion of vast dimensions which has inspired great civilizations and today offers many men and women comfort and ethical guidance [11] .

Growing Extremism and its effects on Western Culture

Mass media is globally penetrated having powerful impact upon values and traditions and continues cultural influence across the world. Zealot, Fundamentalist, Extremist, Barbarian, Terrorist, all of these have become a recurrent part of our contemporary cultural lexicon, and although the Bush administration and like-minded pundits may argue that such characterizations are not leveled at the “Islamic world” as a whole, these pejorative interpellations are deeply intertwined with discourses about Arab and Islamic cultures. While the events of September 11, 2001 certainly catalyzed the use of such negative terminologies, their sociopolitical constitution of Muslim peoples is not an entirely new phenomenon [12] .

Edward Said notes in the 1997 edition of his book, Covering Islam, “in short, fundamentalism equals Islam equals everything-we-must-now-fight-against, as we did with communism during the Cold War.” Said describes how media coverage and public discourse for at least past thirty years has framed the Islamic faith as a monolithic, violently enraged, generally backwards cultural threat to the prosperity and basic security of ‘Western civilization’.

One avenue for constructive engagement with the Islamic world/culture would consist of a thoughtful analysis of the ideological frameworks that form the zeitgeist of contemporary practice and belief. However, rather than engaging the Islamic intellectual tradition, most media commentary and public political discourse chooses to brand Islamic believers as radicals or fundamentalists.

Unfortunately, as post-9/11 depictions of Islamic culture have been increasingly intertwined with rhetoric of fundamentalism and extremism, the nature of fundamentalism is rarely articulated. The term generally seems meant to represent fanaticism, zealotry and aggressive dogmatism, and although certain movements within Islamic cultures may legitimately fall within this descriptive domain, such characterizations do not easily allow for thoughtful examination of broader ideological frameworks [13] .

Although no evidence emerged about the existence of an “Islamic Internationale,” the World Trade Center bombing did considerable damage to the Muslim image and presence in the United States. As James Brooke commented in the New York Times, by linking “Muslims and domestic terrorism in the minds of many Americans,” the bombing made Muslims vulnerable targets for racism and political discrimination (New York Times, 28 August 1995).

This is evident in the case of Islam and of Muslims, who are often portrayed in a negative light, thus placing them at a considerable disadvantage in US public opinion (Georges, 2003).

Since September 11, the trend of tolerant convergence between American people and Muslim people has either been interrupted or is being reversed. Most Americans and Muslims (both in the USA and worldwide) are regrettably in the process of being pulled apart. Muslims in the West are routine targets of harassment in various ways, while Westerners in the Muslim world have to be concerned about hatred and consequent physical harm (Mazrui, 2004).

The Fear of Extremism and its Effects on Social Identity

Different events of extremism including the 1993 explosion at the World Trade Center, the 1998 bombing of the American embassies in Africa, and the events of 9/11 �" the growing incidents of violence by similar kinds of Muslim extremists even now - all culminated in raising several issues regarding extremism.

Western Scholars are mostly interested in finding out the fear in two interrelated concepts of "locals" versus "foreigners." "Locals" are the inhabitants of western countries and "foreigners" are immigrants those are minority. In western countries both local and foreigners are experiencing the threat of social identity. This study aims to explore the threat that mostly called as xenophobia of locals to Islam and extremism in the name of Islam. One source of this xenophobia is originating from Islamphobia due to lack of perspective, lack of orientation, and social fear. This growing fear is also rising due to nature of aggressiveness and frustration in Religious extremism. The quest for the sources of this new threat to western society is focus of this study.

One source of bias is the perceiver's social identity. Individuals derive their social identity in part from the social groups to which they belong (Tajfel & Turner, 1979), and thus are motivated to view these in-groups as more correct, more appropriate, and better than out-groups. A wonderful example of how social identity functions as a filter through which people perceive the world is seen in the hostile media bias (Price, 1989). Social identity is a powerful sculptor not only of perceptions, but of opinions as well. Research has shown that opinions are often influenced by other members of the in group. The media, which disseminates information and creates social norms, most likely has the power to build bridges as well as destroy them (Anastasio, Rose, & Chapman, 1999).


H1:      More the media exposure of events of extremism in the Muslim world, more the threat perceptions (culture, political and security) among Americans.

H2:      Mass media exposure of events of extremism in the Muslim world is generating feelings of hatred towards Islam and Muslims among Americans. 

H3. In-group identity of Americans promotes prejudice among them towards Islam and Muslims.

H4:      Media coverage of religious extremism in the Muslim world is one of the strong antecedents in changing perception of Americans towards Islam and Muslims.


This research study will adopt web survey method in quantitative manner. The data will be collected from the common US citizens in the form of a structured close-ended questionnaire.

The survey questionnaire will be designed to collect information about the attitudes of people in following key areas:

How do they perceive Islam and Muslims?

Do they practically interact with Muslims in everyday life?

To what extent the individuals have any bad experience with Muslims?

How do they perceive growing religious extremism in the Muslim world?

How much media are effective in shaping people’s perceptions towards the events related to a particular religious group?

How does the media portrayal affect the perception of people in The United States?

Measured Variables

The measurement of the variables will be done with the use of measurement scales using five-point Likert-type scale items, ranging from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5).

The first section of the survey for this study will be designed to quantify any personal experiences of the people with Muslims community. With regard to personal experiences, the respondents will be asked several questions on such things as whether they had been abused in the past year, physically attacked, discriminated or hurt by any Muslim.

The second section of the survey will design be to measure attitudes towards politically/religiously motivated violence, with questions on whether the respondent agrees, for example: that the threat with Islam perceived by the people justifies their reportedly changed attitude towards Islam.

The third and the final section will design to see the role of the western media in portraying religious extremism.

This study will use non-probability sampling technique of `Sample of volunteers’. This technique is used when all members of a population have an opportunity to participate in the sample, and all volunteers are accepted. The questionnaire of the study will be placed on an Internet page and will require the respondents to give their opinions on issued raised through questions in the research study. This technique is used as an alternate technique when there is no list of the members of the population from which a random sample could be drawn, or when it is difficult to contact the people in a sample because their addresses are not known.

The following criteria will be applied for selection of sample of volunteers:

1. General public

2. Non-Muslim

3. Belong to the United States

4. Access to the Internet to fill out the web based questionnaire

The focus of this study is on three elements. The first part of the paper considers the result of penetration of the media into the debate of extremism. The second part of study explores the relationship between Islam and media. The third part of the study considers the result of penetration of the media into the debate of culture. The final part elaborates media and social identity.

Time Period

The researcher is interested to develop and refine the instrument for data collection and collection of data from a cluster of samples from selected regions of he United States. Then, the instrument will be placed on web for access to common people of various demographic characteristics all around The United States for handful data.

These objectives are estimated to be achieved in 12 months as the researcher has already done sufficient literature review on the subject and methodological design has somehow been found in a good shape, requiring refinement only.