Religious clothing spreads fear

Imagine telling a young handball player, an eleven year old, that she can’t join the game unless her hijab is taken off. Playing handball with hijab in Norway back then was fairly new, and could cause safety issues. The confused eyes showed no resistance and she ended up not playing the game at all, thinking it was because she was Muslim. Now, ten years later CNN reports that an airline kicked two imams of a plane, because passengers felt uncomfortable with their presence in Islamic attire.

Media’s presentation on the issue of Islamic clothing touches on an ongoing issue of how to not misrepresent muslims. The CNN host goes straight to the point on what happened on the flight from Memphis to Charlotte, whilst interacting with the field reporter. There are no images shown about this, but instead the CNN host’s seriousness in studio. When the Atlantic Southeast Airline report appears in the screen, a black and white image of a plane is used for a visual effect. This picture and the use of red can be provocative as it may cause reactions, when it automatically links Islamic clothing to 9/11.

This media representation of islamic clothing is also seen in the CBC News article on France when it became the first country to ban religious symbols and apparel in public school, in 2004.

In both media pieces, Muslims’ neutrality disappears and what the viewer is left with is a confused image about the Islamic attire. The publisher might be unaware of what this focus on religious attire in media really does with an audience, and it may contribute to feed the spread of fear. As flight and religion together in the twentieth century is becoming an issue, in what way should media represent religion without causing a fear factor?

Posted under: Blogging, Media ethics
Dated: May 10 2011


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