Fairness and Accuracy in Broadcasting (FAIR) has released a new report on the prevalence of Islamophobia in the corporate media. The issue–which recently came to light in Grand Rapids with the distribution of an anti-Islam DVD by the Grand Rapids Press–is striking for how prevalent anti-Islam sentiment is in the mainstream. In “Smearcasters: How Islamophobes Spread Fear, Bigotry, and Misinformation,” FAIR provides many examples of Islamophobia and identifies the twelve most prominent Islamophobes in the media.
The report identifies Islamophobia as:
“…hostility toward Islam and Muslims that tends to dehumanize an entire faith, portraying it as fundamentally alien and attributing to it an inherent, essential set of negative traits such as irrationality, intolerance and violence. And not unlike the charges made in the classical document of anti-Semitism, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, some of Islamophobia’s more virulent expressions–like While Europe Slept–include evocations of Islamic designs to dominate the West.”
The report documents several prominent strains of Islamophobia in the media. These include the repeated assertions that Islam is inherently evil or violent, or as Pat Robertson has said, a “bloody, brutal type of religion.” Related to this is the idea that there is a “good” and “bad” form of Islam and that “moderate Muslims” must rain in the “extremist” elements within Muslim. The report points out that such demands are rarely made of Christians.
Another prominent strain of Muslim-bashing focuses on the idea that “militant Muslims lurking around every corner and paints them as an existential threat to the U.S. and its allies.” This is the type of Islamophobia advanced by the anti-Islam DVD distributed by the Grand Rapids Press. The DVD, titled Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West, “describes ‘radical Islam’ as a menace comparable to Adolf Hitler that, according to the film’s website, ‘is threatening, with all the means at its disposal, to bow Western civilization under the yoke of its values.’
Anti-Muslim views are disseminated through a wide range of online, radio, and print outlets. Not surprisingly, right-wing blogs have been at the forefront of Islam-bashing, but cable TV and rightwing radio shows also regularly advance such views. The report identifies twelve prominent Islamphobes, many of which can be found either on the radio, television, or in print in West Michigan. The Grand Rapids Press runs Michelle Malkin’s column, while Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage can all be heard in West Michigan. Similarly, rightwing commentator Debbie Schlussel is based out of Michigan.
Overall, the report provides a through examination of anti-Islam bias–much of which is outright hateful and offensive–in the mainstream media. While the report does not provide any concrete action steps, it is important that people confront Islamophobia when they see it by writing letters to newspaper editors, calling station managers–and if necessary–boycotting media outlets that advance such views.