How the media can affect the way we see Islamic communities

Krystina Slack

There are over two billion practicing Muslims in the world today, yet the religion of Islam is commonly stereotyped and negatively talked about, especially since 9/11. In light of the recent Ukrainian refugee coverage in the media, it is important to consider how the media has portrayed other refugee groups, particularly Syrian refugees and how these portrayals may affect the way we see our Muslim communities.

Part of Augustana College’s purpose is “dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion, Augustana prizes interfaith engagement, commitment to justice, spiritual exploration, reasoned examination and vocational discernment.” Augustana strives to make the campus and community a welcoming place for everyone. 

“I have never come in contact with it [Islamaphobia] here at Augie, but I’ve definitely seen it in my boarding high school,” sophomore Saghi Rokneddini said. Rokneddini said she is one of Augustana’s first Iranian students.

Rokneddini has noticed that Augustana has a Muslim Students Association and a larger Muslim community than what her high school offered. But she believes more can be done. “I still feel that some things are just said and not done. I feel like there’s so much more that the community at Augie could do to help us practice our religion and have perspective,” Rokneddini said.

The most important thing we can do as students is to listen to each other. Here at Augustana, many people strive to hear one another out. One of the main ways Augie students hear each other out is by going to various cultural events that are held on campus. You can find out about various events happening on campus from Augustana’s events calendar or you can go to the Brew and take a look at the various posters advertising upcoming events. We need to hear and learn from each other and learn about one another’s experiences to get a better understanding of where other people come from.

There is a common misconception that all terrorists commit crimes in the name of Islam. Anyone can carry out acts of violence in the name of religion, and many people do. From Hinduism to Christianity to Islam, all of these religions have had members carry out acts of terrorism. A few people should not define the entirety of one religion.

One thing many people do not talk about is how much violence is caused in the name of Christianity. In 2020 alone, the National Abortion Federation reported a 125% increase in assaults and battery outside of abortion clinics. Many of these incidents are carried out by Christian nationalists.

“A lot of people feel justified to carry out acts of violence in the name of their faith,” Elizabeth Neumann, a formal official for the Department of Homeland Security, said.

The main reason we should be talking about the amount of Islamaphobia in the world is that you can see a vast difference in how the media is treating the Syrian refugees and the Ukrainian refugees.

Mass media companies portrayed the Syrian refugees as people we should fear and be careful around, while the Ukrainian refugees are people we should help and sympathize with. NBC’s correspondent Kelly Cobiells said, “To put it bluntly, these are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from Ukraine. They’re Christian, they’re white, they’re very similar to people who live in Poland.”

The impact of race and religion on media representation needs to be discussed more as we recognize the struggles of refugees. It is important to learn and spread awareness of inaccurate representation of other refugee groups as we discuss current Ukrainian refugees. “I think that people should study Islam as a whole. People should really have a better understanding of what Islam truly is and not for the different sides or for the tension that it has become known for,” Rokneddini said.

For students, the best way to fight misinformation about Islam is by learning and studying about the religion and not blindly believing everything on TV. You can learn about Islam by emailing and talking to the Muslim Students Association with any questions, and you can go to the Thomas Tredway Library and check out books on Islam. Another way you can learn about Islam and other religions is by taking the Sages, Mystics and Philosophers course offered here at Augustana.