Communication and Human Development

The Portrayal of Muslims in Selected American Newspapers and the Perception of this Portrayal by Islamic Center Directors in the United States

Fall, Mohammad M., Ph.D. Howard University, 2001. 244 pages. Adviser: Nwanko, Robert N. Publication Number: AAT 3030628.

The research problem addressed in this study derives from the fact that accusations of negative western media reporting of Muslims and their religion, Islam, have become a hot issue for many Muslims in the United States and abroad. For many Muslims, the western media tend to cover their religion from a negative point of view that stems from preconceptions and stereotypes. Some scholars have also attributed the negative coverage of Muslims to already established patterns of portrayals, preconceptions and stereotypes in the minds of westerners about this religious group. It has been argued, for instance, that incidents such as the bombings of the World Trade Center in New York and in the Murrah Federal Building Oklahoma City were widely covered by the media in a way that insinuated a negative image of Muslims. The major aim of this study is to examine if there is a correlation between the size of a U.S. Muslim community and the nature of the local and national press portrayals of Muslims in that community. The study also attempts to find out how the press coverage of Muslims is perceived by Muslim community leaders, specifically, the directors of the Islamic centers in the U.S.A.

There are two primary research techniques used for this research, mail survey and content analysis. For the survey part, data were collected by questionnaires mailed to a sample of 250 Islamic center directors in the U.S.A. After a final total of one hundred and sixteen (116) complete and usable questionnaires were returned after a follow up mailing. Stories that were used for the news content analysis part of this study were selected from eight national and local American newspapers. Descriptive and inferential analysis of the data was conducted. Based on the findings and their interpretations, the study concluded that the national press coverage carries coverage of Muslims that is significantly more positive than the local press coverage. The findings show no statistically significant associations between the type of Muslim community and the nature of press coverage. The survey participants were mostly unsatisfied with the press coverage of Muslims, but were evenly split in their satisfaction with local press coverage. The results show no statistically significant differences between the perception by the Islamic center directors of the coverage of Muslims and the actual coverage by the press.


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