A Jew with thick lips, an African black skinned with fat a nose, and a Muslim with an extra long beard with a bomb behind his back, is the first thought that we formulate in our minds subconsciously whenever we think of individuals of these religions. Is that how we think freely or are we being forced to think? Can all of the nations and races be restricted to the way they look or do we have a right to be little somebody for what someone else of his identity did wrong in the past?
Creating such images and biases against people, judging them from the society they belong to rather than their individual behavior is called stereotyping, and in today’s liberal and free world it should be declared as an unjust crime against an individual’s identity. Sociologists believe that people are divided into two groups, which are acknowledged as, in groups and out groups; in groups including those people who are socially accepted and liked while the out group members are those who are thought of negatively by the others and thus are eliminated and in return are stereotyped.
They believe that the reason people stereotype is because of their lack of knowledge and laziness to find the truth, thus they find it easier to categorize people of the world in little groups, to formulate future assumptions and biases accordingly, refuting the necessity in understanding each individually separately.
Our world has always evolved in a mysterious way, it maybe distributed and separated due to the hundreds of boundaries and polices, with differences at every level, however at one point at which all of them come together is in creating a very precise “bogyman” of the society which they are able to happily accept and humiliate unanimously. Perhaps the oldest and the widest stereotypes which the world has unfortunately ‘laughed at’ always are the black Africans, they being called of from the various names such as ‘niggers,’ and ‘the race of fat noses.
They were depicted for the symbol of dumbness, low social and economic status, uncivilized and evilness, which made them always inferior to the white people and have suffered slavery since centuries until laws were implemented safeguarding their rights and human values. No matter their image has changed in the twenty first century, to a more civilized one, however, they are still targeted by the media and the conventional general public, as robbers, murderers, pick picketers, and drunks who remain the irresponsible members in the society, still making people fear their presence.
It is not only the Africans who have suffered through the ordeal of being prejudiced against but almost all the cultures and nations of the society have passed through a similar trodden path, with the Jews being jagged at for being shrewd, money hungry and race with thick lips, (which was so strong that it became the root cause for the Holocaust); the Chinese for being nerdy and the yellow race, and the Europeans for being proper, sophisticated and obsessed with status; however through this silent and persistent war between the races the group which I believe has been outlawed since many centuries is that of the Arabs and the Muslims on a whole.
Arabs and the Muslims represent the Middle Eastern part, and if more generalized the Muslim population spread around the sub continent could also be categorized in fulfilling the stereotypical view of the ‘typical Muslim extremist behavior. They are stereotyped in the media, theatres, films, cartoons, and hold adverse repercussions in their daily lives, international politics, even leading up to their own country’s sovereignty. The Arab and Muslim culture have been targeted since generations, where they are portrayed as people who are out to kill others, being the race which typically fits under the word of ‘terrorism,’ where they have their caricatures appearing commonly exaggerated with beards, turbans, moustaches, and guns. An image which a common person illiterate to the Muslims would imagine him with a beard, on a camel living in tents or living a nomads life, and drawing out a gun from beneath hi clothes.
These are the images which have been carved in people’s minds, the responsibility basically lying upon the media, be it the print, visual or audio side; they have always been in the forefront of creating and then polishing negative images in people’s minds; and in case of the Muslim image governments worldwide have also ignored their role in negating such upraises. The question that one would ask at this point is that why and how these wrong images were created against the Muslims, as to which events in the history can be deemed responsible for them. It wasn’t the fall of the World Trade Centre, or the first explosion at Beirut or the fall of Shah of Iran, the misunderstandings started with the coming of Islam, when the Jews were expelled and the Christians started to convert. The fall of Jerusalem to the Muslims in AD 638, and the following Crusade Wars, raised the name of Muslims as ‘infidels’ throughout Europe.
Thus writers and scholars of that time span started to speak against the Muslims and were regarded as sinister and evils of the society. However, how we could estimate the Muslims being paired up with guns could be because they usually belong to developing countries, which are devastated by wars or have recently gained independence (Pakistan), and thus have poor defense system, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine. Events which further initiated the stride include the 9/11 in America, for which the Arab Muslims such as Osama bin Laden was blamed; and its aftermath which led to invasions into Muslim terrorist countries further hyphened the poor situation in which the Muslim image was already hanging.
Nations need to be more democratic and flexible in appreciating the holiness and sanctuary of other religions as such beliefs stay holy to the concerned people thus media should take them more sensitively. Professor of Anthropology in United States, James Emery, in his interview to the newspaper, Middle East Times, says that “I often begin my college lectures on Islamic culture by asking students to write three adjectives to describe Arabs. Most responses include the word terrorists, an association they see and hear in the media. ”(Emery, 2008) The press on a whole today is also seen to report less of other religious extremists but usually adjective Muslims as an underlined word for terrorism.
How is it that terrorists around the world other than Muslims are not brought to sight and insult, such as the Timothy McVeigh (a Baptist by religion), who blew up the Alfred P. Murrow Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing around 200 people; brought up in media as the “Baptist terrorist” but the wrongdoers in Muslims be matched to their belief for what mistakes or acts of violence they perform. It is not the fault of the religion at any end, or of the race to which he belongs, but more of his own self for which the individual rather than the society should be punished. Today the West would look at any Muslim around them as a bomber, a suicide attacker or a terrorist out for massive killing.
There are more than one billion Muslims stretched around the world, but each one of them would be associated with Osama bin Ladin, Saddam Hussain, al Qaida or the Taliban, ignoring his individuality. Moreover, these groups also take the name of the religion to exploit immature people to gain popularity and their confidence just to carry out their evil projects. What people need o realize is that every religion is pious and peaceful by nature, thus association of few barbaric behaviors could not be due one’s religion. Stereotyping does not have strong short term effects but it shows its actual impact only in the long run, till which however, its result has become permanent and widespread. The formation of these judgments shows the targeted group of how low the society on a whole judges them.
When somebody has a problem with a member of the group, the entire group is blamed for it, and for the bad doings of probably just an individual, the whole community has to be accountable for it. Their has already been massive amount of killing and wars throughout the world, if the tension between the Muslims and the rest of the world continues, then it could not matter result in yet another Holocaust, this type it being even worse with the developed defensive systems at both ends. Stereotypes are not healthy for any nation; they humiliate the targeted nation, dehumanizing them to the worst state, while also those who are the source of the trouble suffer from biases leading them to make immature and irresponsible decisions on their behalf.
The world should try to accommodate the fact that the Muslims throughout are going through a harsh period, thus should help them fight the terrorism in their countries, read and learn about their religion rather than creating their own biases, and should also be flexible their religion if not appreciating them should be tolerable to their practices. Also Hollywood should take a more responsible behavior, rather than creating greater differences amongst nationalities it should represent and encourage the positive aspects of the Arabs and the Muslims. While on the other hand, the Muslims should be careful in creating a symbolic image, proving the world wrong as this will not only help them but also their generations to follow.