Staff editorial: Students should think critically about media portrayals of Muslims

“If this were a Muslim man, killing 3 white Americans, there would be mass hysteria and the terror alert raised to HIGH.

“#MuslimLivesMatter”

This is a tweet from Twitter user @ChrisJohnMilly, sent on Feb. 11 after news broke of the killing of three Muslims – a newlywed couple and the wife’s sister – near the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

The hashtag is a variation of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, which was created in the events following the shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Both hashtags were made to affirm the value and importance of minority lives in a country where the value or importance of white or Christian lives is never questioned.

The killing at Chapel Hill took place on Feb. 10, when Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were allegedly shot by their neighbor Craig Stephen Hicks after what police are calling “an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking,” according to the Washington Post. The three victims were Muslim and their neighbor is an atheist.

Many people using the hashtag have done so to point out how underreported the story is, and to make the point that it would gain mass coverage if the religions of those involved were reversed.

We live in a country where religious freedom is touted and celebrated, but it seem at times that many feel it only truly applies if it involves a Western religion. Followers of Islam continue to face much more scrutiny and prejudice than followers of other faiths, both in the United States in many other parts of the world.

For example, as brought up by #MuslimLivesMatter, issues involving Muslims are often only highlighted when something negative happens.

While it’s not a good practice for media to bring up religion (or any other qualifier) unless it is somehow directly relevant to the story and situation at hand, it happens. And it has a direct consequence on how we understand these different elements of people’s lives, like religion.

As Muslims make up only 1 percent of the U.S. population, according to the research group Ipsos MORI, many people may never have the opportunity to interact on a personal level with someone who is Muslim. People like this, not that there’s anything wrong with them, inform their views of Muslims, then, by what they see in the media. That’s likely the most prevalent and pervasive information that many people can get. So when the news is full of mostly or only negative portrayals of Muslims, it creates a generally negative perspective.

So what does this have to do with you as a student at Franklin College?

As students of a liberal arts college, we are given the tools and opportunities to learn about experiences different from our own. Whether it’s taking a religion class (as a requirement or on your own accord), going to a speaker or utilizing the resources in the library, you can make yourself more knowledgeable about the world around you. Doing so will allow you to critically think about the messages media send and form appropriate responses.

Students of Franklin College, you can play a pivotal role in changing people’s worldviews and the state of American culture by being informed yourself. It’s not something that can change overnight, but it can come. No one, including Muslims, should feel threatened or prejudiced for their personal beliefs.

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About Ashley Shuler 1253 Articles

Ashley Shuler is the executive editor of The Franklin. She has held various multimedia journalism and public relations internships, including positions at Indianapolis Monthly, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and Dittoe Public Relations.

When she isn’t staying up late to edit stories, Ashley spends her time boutique shopping and drinking as much vanilla Coke as possible.

This is Ashley’s third year in a leadership role and her fourth year on The Franklin staff. She previously held positions as web editor and news editor.

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