American Orientalism: How the Media Define What Average Americans Know about Islam and Muslims in the USA

Hajer Ben Hadj Salem


On September 11, 2001, Americans awoke to the nightmare of a well-coordinated and devastating terrorist attack conducted on their soil. Given the unprecedented magnitude of the event, there was an especially strong need among average Americans for information to know about the identity of the perpetrator(s) of the attacks and the reasons behind them. They relied heavily on the media, mainly TV and the press, for information. Unprepared for such a public information crisis, the media had to rush to the American Muslim communities to get much-needed answers to pressing questions about the teachings of Islam and Muslims. For the first time in American history, American Muslims were allowed to speak directly to Americans nationwide about themselves and their religion.

This paper studies the extent to which increased media reporting on Islam and Muslims in the US after 9/11 represents a step forward in combating century-long Orientalist stereotypes and segmented narratives about this world religion and its followers by analyzing the news and newspaper transcripts of Fox News, CNN, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Sun-Times covering Islam and American Muslims during the first two years of America’s war on terrorism.



American Muslims, Orientalism, US media, September 11, war on terrorism, stereotypes.

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