Our generation’s intimate connection with social and mass media makes threats against global humanity visible in a way that was never before attainable. Social and mass media have become a way to catalog the world’s injustices in the name of our own awareness. However, we fail to thoroughly interrogate our positions in sharing and consuming this content. From 9/11 to ISIS, our generation has been raised shouting in the name of justice while Islamophobia bleeds from our gums. On the one hand, we are innocent citizens trying to raise awareness of wrongdoing. But on the other hand, we are consumers in a machine that facilitates the genocide of Brown bodies.
While we are conditioned to believe our constant consumption and creation of media makes us aware of what is going on in Muslim countries, the truth is that this notion has brainwashed the country into a state of unshakable Islamophobia. Our reproduction of countless news articles on terrorism makes those whom we perceive as enemies to humanity (ISIS, pro-rape groups, Boko Haram, etc.) household names. Throughout the years, increased visibility and discussion of ISIS has galvanized Islamophobia in the U.S., despite the fact that American Muslims are not to blame. So when we share these articles detailing the latest atrocities committed by ISIS, we are inadvertently contributing to the group’s success. ISIS implicates the machine of Western media into its mission to dominate Muslim countries. Together, we fan the flames of Islamophobia that have destroyed our ties with Muslim nations, their ties with our allies, their economies, their cities and their hope.
For Muslims worldwide, navigating this schism is indescribably difficult. A vast majority of Muslims reject the actions of ISIS, most obviously, among other reasons, because ISIS is responsible for an exorbitant amount of Muslim deaths. Yet, tragically, young Muslims themselves internalize the omnipresent Islamophobia. Islamophobia does ISIS’s dirty work for it, making sure Muslims are attacked during every moment of their lives. Whether it be through micro-aggressions, physical or even lethal harm, in the U.S. we do a pretty good job of making Muslims feel unwanted. The U.S. has a long history of denied citizenship, targeted policing, and foreign policy that have spread Islamophobia. ISIS takes advantage of this by appealing to and recruiting from the many young and misguided Muslims who feel rejected by the rest of the world. This strategy skews people’s interpretation of the religion so that the only Islam recognized for its strength and sustenance is ISIS’s extremism.
ISIS and the U.S. attack Muslim people in a similar manner. The only difference is that the U.S. does so in the name of national security. From the drones we use to bomb them (see: the entirety of Obama’s foreign policy), to the measures we take to deny them citizenship, to the propagation of Islamophobia for capitalist gain through the media, the U.S. has implicitly sworn allegiance to ISIS.
It may be hard to gauge where we stand in this system. Unfortunately, there is no way for American citizens to remove themselves from the tragedies surrounding Islamophobia. The manipulation of mass media by ISIS has made sure that all Americans are socialized to be deeply Islamophobic. Accordingly, the only way Muslims have been able to successfully combat this hatred is also through the use of social media. Campaigns such as #NotInMyName make it possible for Muslims to control their own narrative and reject the notion that ISIS is in any way holistically representative of Islam. Social media has granted our generation with an amazing tool, one that can humanize the face of those blamed for all the world’s evil. It lies in the laps of us everyday citizens to spread that narrative and support it.
Chance Ward is a sophomore Critical Theory and Social Justice major. They can be reached at [email protected]