Negative depictions of Islam in the media create inaccurate and unfair generalisations, writes Hadia Elahi.

One of the most prominent roles of the media is representation.

In particular, the action of speaking on behalf of a certain section of society, portraying them in a specific way.

In light of recent reports, it is evident that an abundance of the media seems to depict the religion of Islam negatively.

This has the potential to construct an image of Islam that reflects terrorism, extremism and antipathy to opposing religions and individuals.

When I hear some sections of the media using phrases such as “the Arab world” and “the Muslim world”, my mind flashes to those terrible science-fiction space television shows screeching some ominous music and a title that screams across the screen in eerie lime green text The Muslim World.

These phrases serve as a simple ploy to create generalisations about all Muslim majority countries, simplifying the otherwise obvious complexities and diversities that exist, for the sake of their own Orientalist imaginations and stereotypes.

This allows the media to imply that all Muslims possess beliefs that are completely foreign to this planet.

This shows their rejection of everything outside of the western world.

This is only to be reinforced by our politicians who talk about Muslim immigration in a way that equates to an alien invasion.

This sheer tendency of the media to simplify and sensationalise, rather than discussing complexities, enables the possibility of making such simplistic claims that render Muslims as ultimately being inferior, culturally backward or whatever other propaganda they want to throw in the mix.

This is not only detrimental to the integration of Muslims into society but also to the wider growth of a society that ultimately wants to progress away from such primitive thought processes.

Moreover, it is the creation of the term Islamophobia that relays such concerted efforts to disseminate this negative image to society.

When I hear this word, the irrational element of the suffix of phobia serves as an ultimate summation of what I think about the word and the media’s overall presentation of Islam.

t suggests a fear of a religion – that merely inspires people towards goodness and, despite common belief, accords rights to all human beings regardless of their skin colour, race, or creed – is irrational.

When I think of Muslims I think of these people as individuals of society, rather than collating people into a specific category that has been silhouetted for them by a band of evil extremist minority.

A doctor. A teacher. A mother. A friend. A student.

All are trying to merely get by in society and all are not defining their whole identity by their religion.

However, they are defined by their religion by others who have perhaps read out-of-context, poorly translated quotes from the Qur’an.

Luckily at ANU and in Canberra, there is a lack of such opinion due to the simple fact that people are educated on the issue and have had enough contact with Muslims in their own lives to deduce their own conclusions about the nature of the religion.

For it is only those who wear the badges of ignorance and the blindfold put onto them by the media who ultimately lack the courage to love other human beings for what they are.

So I hope as responsible, educated citizens, that you continue to question what you hear.

Nothing that is said is the final word.

Nothing that is said is the ultimate truth because nothing is as conclusive as it seems.

For it is never as simple as a woman wearing a burqa being a definitive proof of a type of evil.

Hadia Elahi studied a Bachelor of Medical Science and Bachelor of Science (Psychology). She is also a representative of the ANU Pakistan Students’ Association.

Top image: Faseeh Fawaz/Unsplash

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