ERIK C. NISBET
Lecturer at Department of Communication, Cornell University, USA
Constructing American Islamophobia:
The Role of Media and Identity
ON A NATIONAL LEVEL, COSTLY MEDIA CAMPAIGNS THAT increase awareness, knowledge, and sensitivity about Islam are required on national broadcast and cable channels.
More importantly, both domestic and foreign Muslim leaders must better articulate in the U.S. media why the Muslim world has unfavorable opinions of the United States that go beyond framing unfavorable opinions simply in terms of the Israeli/Palestinian issue or cultural/values differences between Islam and the West. Lastly, in the long-term, providing accessible alternative information source to the U.S. media about Islam and Muslims may be one of the most effective means to reduce Islamophobia. Two options come to mind. The first option is domestic English-language cable stations that provide news and/or educational content from a Muslim American perspective, such as Bridges TV. The second is international broadcasting, such as the new Al Jazeera English-language TV news service that would provide greater access and insights to the Muslim world than the U.S. media for American audiences. In both cases, domestic and foreign Muslim organizations and governments need to actively support such broadcasting efforts and their penetration of the American broadcast marketplace.
Lastly, no communication effort within the United States will be fully effective without as dedicated, independent, survey program to track trends in public opinion, benchmark campaign/program effectiveness, and explicate mechanisms of opinion formation. Such a survey research program would be modeled on the lessons outlined above and provide an invaluable resource to communication efforts within the United States.