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Religion Portrayal in Society and Media
In today’s society, religion is a large topic to be discussed in media every day. Often, there are several daily stories of terrorism or some sort of uncivilized act by people all around the world. If you haven’t noticed, every time a story is covered the first thing reporters state is the persons religious affiliation. For example, a recent news report stated “Muslims attack Buddhist temple.” But why must their religious affiliation be stated first? Why does it matter in violent attacks? Their religious beliefs do not justify why they do what they do. Does the media and society choose to state the religion of terrorist to downgrade or purposely put down a certain religion being that it is on the rise all around the world? In Stewart M. Hoover’s book, “Religion in the Media Age”, he states “The new millennium has ushered in a new conversation both at the intersection between religion and media, and about religion and media. Religion has seemingly re-entered public life and public (and thus media) discourse at a whole new level in the years since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.” The modern day news reports from ABC to CNN usually cover a horrific story of an attack in a country far away from the western hemisphere. If you haven’t noticed, majority of these stories do not cover people of Christian or Jewish faith. Over 70% of crime that takes place in America is committed by someone of Christian faith. But you never hear stories on the news in America read “Christians attack Jewish temple.” Why is that?
In recent years, society has conformed to certain norms. These norms are very unbiased opinions, stereotypes, and discrimination against certain religion. The media gives a lot of negative effects on religion such as encouraging stereotyping and discrimination against certain religious groups. Media and society coincide. Usually the media broadcast the most controversial and debatable stories on television, the radio, and in newspapers just to get a certain response from society. That’s why most story headlines are either shocking or outrageous. This causes disagreement and disapproval between religions, thus dividing them more apart from one another. Not all media is negative though. Aside from the constant division the media causes in society and religion, there are just a few positive aspects coming from this. Most people do not see the unity that it brings sometimes. For example, the Million Man March which is an event that was held 17 years ago by the Nation of Islam.A Muslim celebration that received over one million men in attendance. But not all of these men were Muslim. There were Christians, Jews, Buddhist, and many others that were present that day. This was shown and broadcasted through the media to society and it supported the religious views and gatherings of communities. In today’s era, it is better to have a full understanding of the people around you because this helps promote harmony and peace within society. In the book “Political Islam, Iran, and the Enlightenment”, Ali Mirsepassi writes “In the dialect between structure and agency, moreover, the modality of culture is a dualistic combination of constraints and enabling functions involving an ongoing negotiation of norms.” Our culture is so tainted and wrapped around segregating and disowning one another that this country is ruining itself. The media is the main source for blasphemy. Islam isn’t the only religion that gets downplayed. For example, the film “The Last Temptation Of Christ” was
boycotted and picketed by Christian groups when it was first shown in British cinemas. Society takes these portrayals from the media and run with them instead of looking more into the stories themselves or even thinking more about it. Minds become corrupted and tainted and even cause persuasion on the minds of young adults and teenagers. As I continued my studies on this heavy topic, I conducted two separate interviews. One with a Christian minister and the other with a Islamic minister. Although these are separate religions they both come together in many ways. In the first interview with Robert Jeffries, the Christian minister, I asked him did he see any major connection with today’s media and religion. His response was “Of course. The media tends to only show you the bad things in religion. They never separate the person from the religion. It’s always the religion then the person. The religious affiliation that they have has nothing to do with what they themselves choose to do. They have their own mind.” This is a very true and powerful statement. During the second interview with Yusef Muhammad, the Islamic minister, I proceeded to ask the same question to see if I would get the same response. Their responses were almost identical. Yusef stated “Religion isn’t what it used to be. You could be a Muslim and a Christian all in one. Today, that’s almost impossible. The media tries to make it to where you have to choose. It’s like deciding to be a part of the crowd that fits in or the reject crowd. Why can’t we all come together and be one? Why must the media divide us? It is a shame how the media gives you a story of a bomb attack that happens in another country by what they call an “Islamic radicalist” but fail to realize that they have a mind of their own and conduct themselves in a certain way separate of their religion.” To be two men of two different faiths and have one common consensus and agreement is remarkable.
During this research I have come to the realization that this world has succumb to the media’s scrutiny. In order to have more peace in this world we need to come together. As one. No religion is higher than another. As long as there is a belief in one God. There is a broad difference between personal and biblical acts and the media mostly gives you the religious and biblical aspects instead of personal.