American Muslim Culture


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How American films portray Muslims. A sample of advanced ESL student work on a project for a class "American Culture through Film."

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  • Islam is not an Eastern religion. Islam developed in the Near East, not in India or the Far East. Ideologically, Islam has much more in common with Judaism and Christianity than it does with any other major religion. It is but a circumstance of politics and geography that Islam is more prevalent in the Middle East, Asia and Africa than in Europe and the Americas. But geography is not as significant as origins and ideology when it comes to classifying a religion as Eastern or Western. Islam is not an Arabic religion. Although it began amongst the Arabs almost 1400 years ago, Islam quickly spread beyond the Arabian peninsula to become a "universal" or "world" religion. Much as Christianity spread to every corner of the earth, to peoples of all nationalities and races, so too did Islam. In fact, today most Muslims are not Arabs and some Arabs are not Muslim . Nor is Islam a "Black" religion. Although about one third the Muslims in America are African Americans who either converted to Islam or were born to parents who had converted decades earlier, Islam is not the religion of any particular people. As a "universal" religion, Islam sees its message as true for all people, its way of life as virtuous for all people.
  • 7 million Muslims out of 300 million Americans
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  • ,, thick lips, and missing teeth
  • DR. Shaheen looked at more than 1,000 films, films ranging from the earliest, most obscure days of Hollywood to today’s biggest blockbusters. And what I tried to do is to make visible what too many of us seem not to see: a dangerously consistent pattern of hateful Arab stereotypes, stereotypes that steal from an entire people of their humanity. Dr. Jack Shaheen, the film explores a long line of degrading images of Arabs--from Bedouin bandits and submissive maidens to sinister sheikhs and gun-wielding "terrorists"--along the way offering devastating insights into the origin of these stereotypic images, their development at key points in US history, and why they matter so much today.
  • Popular films ranging from Hollywood blockbusters to children's cartoons are depicting "crude and exaggerated" stereotypes of Muslims and perpetuating Islamophobia, according to a study published in 2007. The study, titled The British media and Muslim representation: the ideology of demonisation, argues that Hollywood has a crucial role in influencing how the public views Muslims. A survey conducted as part of the research revealed that Muslims in Britain felt negative images of their faith on the big and small screen had consequences in their daily lives. Those interviewed "found a direct correlation between media portrayal and their social experiences of exclusion, hatred, discrimination and violence". The problem with portrayals in film was not the fact that they were negative images, but that they were the only images: "You don't get a good Muslim guy in a movie."
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): Indiana Jones must find the ark of the covenant before the Nazis. The report says: "The cultural stereotypes and scenarios are patently obvious," pointing to a street scene featuring bazars, veiled women and bearded men in traditional dress, all set to snake-charming music.
  • The Siege(1998): represent a wave of attacks by Palestinian terrorists in New York city, in response to an Islamic religious leader's abduction (ekhtetaf) by the US military. Report says that the film reinforces "the monolithic stereotype of the Arab/Palestinian/Muslim being violent and ready to be martyred (a person who is killed because of the religion) for their cause”.
  • House of Sand and Fog (2003): An abandoned wife is evicted from her home, which is taken over by an Iranian family forced to flee their country following the 1979 revolution. The report says the film constructs a "negative description of the revolution, without enabling any detailed or balanced analysis of the event”.
  • Mustafa is an Egyptian American Muslim just wanted to do is to live the “American Dream.” Turn his small New Jersey falafel shop into a fancy restaurant, raise his two motherless children as good Muslims and Americans, insure his sister married in a proper and arranged Muslim marriage to his first cousin, and possibly, if there is time, even find a wife himself. But Mustafa’s American Dreams, like the American Dreams of many Arabs living in America after Sept. 11, 2001, don’t come easy, and his story, really the story of the Arab American experience today. “American East” touches on many aspects of Arab American life, From the challenges that even face Arab American actors in Hollywood who can either play terrorists in films or not play anyone at all. It explores the reality of a family that lives in the West and embraces Western culture but that still believes it is okay to marry off young single women to older men they have never met and only meet weeks before a marriage ceremony is held. The film also explores how young Arab American children face the challenges of being singled out because of their race and religion? “Dad, why am I a Muslim? Why is my name Muhammad? Why don’t we celebrate Christmas?” all questions many Arab Muslim children eventually ask their parents. “American East,” is a film made by two professional Arab American actors and producers, was never released into the American movie theaters. “American East” is in fact one of the great films that you must see to enjoy, to learn and to understand.
  • Hamza Yusuf was born as Mark Hanson in Walla Walla, Washington and was raised in Northern California in a Greek Orthodox family, the son of a US academic father, veteran of World War II, and activist mother. At the age of 17, in 1977, Hanson converted to Islam in Santa Barbara, California, after having a near-death experience in a car accident which led him to read the- Qur'an and eventually become a Muslim. Shortly after converting to Islam, he changed his name to Hamza Yusuf. Hollywood persistence of these images over time has served to naturalize harmful attitudes toward Arabs and Arab culture.
  • American Muslim Culture

    1. 1. Muslim American Culture Prepared by Eman, Ghassan, Mica, Yasu AES 251
    2. 2. What image do you want to be associated with?
    3. 3. How do Americans Perceive Muslims? CAIR SURVEY: 2005
    4. 4. Islam is not… <ul><ul><li>An Eastern religion. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>An Arabic religion. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A “black” religion. </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. What is Islam? <ul><li>The religion of approximately one billion people worldwide, Islam is the second largest religion in the world. </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;Islam&quot; is an Arabic language word that means &quot;peace&quot; or &quot;submission&quot; - specifically, submission to the will of God. </li></ul><ul><li>The Arabic word &quot;Muslim&quot; means &quot;one who submits&quot; - a Muslim is a follower of Islam. </li></ul>
    6. 6. Considered to be the holist site in Islam The name of the Islamic holy book Literally place for prostration, the Arabian word for mosque The Arabian word for &quot;curtain / cover&quot; Ka’aba Quran Masjid Hijab Hijab Hijab Hijab Quran Hijab The name of the Islamic holy book Quran Hijab Important Terms
    7. 7. Current American Muslims
    8. 8. 76.6% 1.3% 0.5% 21.7% Muslims in Americans Population
    9. 9. American Muslims from Various Places
    10. 10. Age % American Muslims are Younger
    11. 11. % American Muslims are Well-Educated
    12. 12. American Average Annual Income % $42,158 American Muslims are Richer
    13. 13. American Muslim’s Job
    14. 14. How Does Hollywood Portray Islam? <ul><li>Image makers =Hollywood </li></ul><ul><li>Structural image </li></ul><ul><li>The myth of Arab land </li></ul>
    15. 15. Islamic Countries <ul><ul><li>Desert? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Palm trees? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Magic Carpets? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Arabian Nights? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Aladdin? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Camel? </li></ul></ul>
    16. 16. Male <ul><ul><li>Bombers? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Keffiyehs? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Flowing robes? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sunglasses? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scimitars? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Limousines? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>On the Camels? </li></ul></ul>
    17. 17. House of Sand and Fog (2003)
    18. 18. Female <ul><ul><li>Belly dancers? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Veils? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mysterious? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Victims of male oppression? </li></ul></ul>
    19. 19. Aladdin (1) <ul><ul><li>Sexualized belly-dancer ? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Even Princess Jasmine is sexualized in </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>similar terms ? </li></ul></ul>
    20. 20. Aladdin (2) <ul><li>A menacing palace guard. </li></ul><ul><li>A hateful Arab merchant swinging a sword. </li></ul>hooked nose heavy brow thick lips missing teeth
    21. 21. After 9/11 <ul><ul><li>Producer of mass destruction weapons, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Global threat, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Terrorists, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>An extremist religion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Suicide bombers </li></ul></ul>Muslims as Terrorists in Hollywood movies
    22. 22. Reel Bad Arabs (2007)
    23. 23. Messages from Movies
    24. 24. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
    25. 25. The Siege (1998)
    26. 26. House of Sand and Fog (2003)
    27. 27. American East (2007)
    28. 28. Conclusion
    29. 29. References <ul><li>Allied Media Corporation.(2007).American Muslims Demographic Facts. Alexandria. Retrieved Apr 30, 2009, from </li></ul><ul><li>American Factfinder. (2008). Population Data: 2009. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from U.S. Census Bureau database . </li></ul><ul><li>Blauvelt, C. (n.d.). Aladdin, Al-Qaeda, and Arabs in U.S. film and TV. Retrieved May 3, 2009, </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Hanania, R. (January 26, 2009). American East: Movie review-a powerful portrayal of Arab Americans after Sept. 11. Arab Writers Group Syndicate . Retrieved April 27, 2009, from, </li></ul><ul><li>Islam in the United States. (no date). Retrieved April 27, 2009, from </li></ul><ul><li>Robinson, B.A.(2007). Religious identification in the U.S: How American adults view themselves. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from </li></ul><ul><li>Shaheen, J. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2009, </li></ul><ul><li>Shulman, L. E. (September 13, 2006). What is Islam? Retrieved April 28, 2009, from, </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Ward, L. (January 25, 2007). From Aladdin to lost ark, Muslims get angry at ‘bad guy’ film images. The Guardian . Retrieved April 28, 2009, from </li></ul>