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Considering that we are living in the century of information, modern mass communication media present one of the most significant powers that are capable of shaping people’s opinions. The impact of media presents a significant problem when it comes to the perception of the most popular religions in the world and people who live in accordance with religious values. When speaking about the way that modern media shape and change the views on the most popular traditional religions, it is necessary to pay increased attention to the media representation of Islam and Muslims as the aggressiveness of the latter is often exaggerated. In fact, it is a known fact that there are many people who demonstrate internal conflicts and commit serious crimes even though they consider themselves to be following their religious commandments. In the modern world, there are numerous cases when people, who practice different religions or consider themselves to be atheists, commit indiscretions and do much harm to animals, property, or other people. Nevertheless, the problem of the impact that media has on the global society needs to be studied with regard to Islam and Muslims as a large group.
There is an assumption that modern media that have an impact on the entire world (especially those in North America and Europe) tend to attract a lot of attention to the crimes of those people who consider themselves to be Muslims. At the same time, the religious identity of those people who practice other religions is not usually brought a focus on; therefore, non-Muslims’ perceptions of Islam and common people related to the Muslim world can be distorted. Taking these concerns into account, the proposed study is going to define whether the tendency to “demonize” Islam and Muslims exists in modern media. Also, the proposed research paper is aimed at defining whether this tendency impacts the perceptions of Islam that common people in non-Muslim countries have.
The problem of the representation of Islam in media has been studied by numerous researchers who are concerned about the impact of the negative image of Islam on common people who practice this religion. Language can be listed among the key tools helping to manipulate the masses, and this problem is extremely important when it comes to the image of religions that sometimes run counter to the values of Europeans and Americans. In particular, modern researchers from different countries are interested in the tendency to associate Islam and Muslims with terrorism and aggressive behavior based on religious differences (Bazian & Leung, 2014).
According to the most recent studies in the field, numerous tragic events (especially the September 11 attacks) and the way that they are represented in Western media have become the reason to associate Islam and Muslim culture with terrorism and religious discord (Yusof, Hassan, F., Hassan, M., & Osman, 2013). The researchers state that strong associations between physical aggression and Islam have become more common recently due to the impact of the international media. According to the results of their research, there are numerous negative stereotypes about Islam that became more widespread after the September 11 attacks. Among them, there are the perceptions of Islam as a sexist religion in which women are regarded as the property of their male relatives or husbands. Also, modern researchers note that Islam is often represented as a religion that is based on violence and oppression. Importantly, the results of the analysis indicate that Western media tend to represent Muslims as irrational people who are guided by religious fanaticism and incapable of contributing to scientific progress (Ogan, Willnat, Pennington, & Bashir, 2014). It is pivotal to study the impact of such statements on common people in non-Muslim countries.
The proposed study is aimed at fulfilling two goals. It is expected to define whether the tendency to demonize Islam and Muslims still exists in the most recent articles in American and European magazines. In addition, the study is to define if negative references to Islam and people who live in accordance with Islamic values have a significant impact on the opinions of non-Muslims. The proposed research is going to focus on the analysis of quantitative data. As for the first part of the research, it will be aimed at studying the current magazine articles (not more than five years old) that mention Islam and Islamic culture. Having collected enough magazine articles that relate to Islam and Muslims as a group (at least 30 articles), it will be necessary to conduct a content analysis to identify the things that modern authors associate with Islam. The perceptions of Islam in modern media will be thoroughly analyzed in order to define the key tendencies (either positive or negative).
Within the frame of the second part of the research, an anonymous survey will be conducted to define the degree to which modern media shapes the opinions of non-Muslims about Islam. The participants will be proposed to share their opinions about Islam, choose the key things that they associate Islam with, and identify sources that have shaped their opinion. Having indicated their ethnicity, age, and religious background, the respondents will have to evaluate the excerpts from the analyzed magazine articles that illustrate the key associations with Islam in Western media. The respondents will have to evaluate these statements, agree or disagree with them, and explain their choice. Based on the survey results, it will be possible to define the impact that Western media has on the perceptions of Islam in the world.
Bazian, H., & Leung, M. (2014). Editorial statement: Islamophobia: An electoral wedge issue! Islamophobia Studies Journal, 2(2), 7-12.
Ogan, C., Willnat, L., Pennington, R., & Bashir, M. (2014). The rise of anti-Muslim prejudice: Media and Islamophobia in Europe and the United States. International Communication Gazette, 76(1), 27-46.
Yusof, S. H., Hassan, F., Hassan, M., & Osman, M. N. (2013). The framing of international media on Islam and terrorism. European Scientific Journal, 9(8), 104-121.