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Newsweek’s ‘Muslim Rage’ does not reflect reality

Published: Monday, September 17, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 11:09

Newsweek is only adding to detrimental, inaccurate stereotypes of Islam with its dramatic cover image and story this week: “Muslim rage.”


The issue’s cover depicts angry men, presumably of Islamic faith, yelling and gripping an American flag. It is accompanied by the text, “How I survived it; How we can end it.”


Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s accompanying article provides a strikingly tunnel-vision view of Islam — one that sees the religion as overwhelmingly extremist and violent.


Her views touch the American people in a fragile time — a time when those who are not familiar with aspects of the Islamic faith may take her words to heart.


Newsweek should have shown better judgment when selecting a column for this controversial topic — or a columnist. Hirsi Ali, a Dutch-Somali activist and politician, is known for her outright criticisms of Islam.


After protests broke out in Libya, Yemen, Sudan and other countries in the past week, commentary from a critic of Islam is not the most intelligent way to prompt discussion about First Amendment issues and American foreign policy.


The main worry that Hirsi Ali’s column brings is the negative stereotypes of Islam that are propagated throughout her writing.


Hirsi Ali has no basis for her claims that intolerance has “become the defining characteristic of Islam” and extremists are “not a fringe group.” She also said that Muslims who condemn the attacks are “marginalized.”


These statements are far from the truth and only succeed at furthering misconceptions about Islam.

According to a Pew Research Center poll released in April, only between 2 percent and 21 percent of Muslims in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey, and Lebanon view al-Qaida favorably. And in the U.S., only 1 percent polled said suicide bombing and other violence is often “justified to defend Islam from its enemies.”


According to the Wall Street Journal, most people interviewed in Libya said they were against the attacks. Crowds gathered in Benghazi on Wednesday to sympathize with the U.S., shouting “Free Libya, terrorists out!”


The picture of Islam this column paints is one of oppressed women, violence and overreaction. Hirsi Ali portrays Islam as a religion to shy away from, since some of its followers are extremists.


But the veracity and humor of Twitter users’ quick response to Newsweek’s prompt for discussion by using the Twitter hashtag #MuslimRage reflects the opposite side of the extremist spectrum.


Users teased the cover story in tweets posted Monday night, such as, “Memo to those few violent MidEast protesters, this is how you fight Islamophobia. You make fun of it.”


It is important to realize that people propagating these attacks are extremists — a fringe group — and should not represent an entire group of people.

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