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Stereotypical Depiction of Muslims in Hollywood Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Feb 11th, 2022

The Arabs seem to be the most insulted group in the history of Hollywood. They are depicted in movies mainly as subhuman. The term “subhuman” was used by the Nazis to denigrate Gypsies as well as other minorities. Such depiction has been around for more than a hundred years. Even places of worship have become sites for the expression of hatred and exclusion. In addition, elected officials and policymakers legitimize the differential treatment of Arabs and Muslims (Bahdi, 2019). These discriminatory experiences can be frequently based on the stereotypes gained from Hollywood films. This paper is intended to reflect on the issue of how those stereotypes eliminate, dishonor, and overburden Muslims in the USA and Canada.

Increasingly growing social science studies documented the ways in which Muslims are portrayed as violent people (Sandefur, 2015). The studies show images of Arabs and Muslims in the Hollywood contexture both declarative and constitutive of this trope (Sandefur, 2015). Men from these communities are depicted as driven to conflict with the West, terrorists, dictatorial and violent fathers and husbands, and, occasionally, rapists of white women (Badhi, 2019).

Hollywood almost always portrays characters from the Middle East in the context of evil, despite the latter being often immigrants and having to adjust to the new social structures in Northern America (Bauder & Shields, 2015). Therefore, the findings from the studies mentioned above have demonstrated that Muslim women can be depicted merely as mothers who give birth to terrorists.

A Fathers’ Day cartoon exemplifies the stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims mentioned above. The cartoon depicts an Arab man with exaggerated features and dresses gleefully receiving a Fathers’ Day gift (Kassam, 2018). A child gazes, mesmerized, at the father who is proudly showing off his Father’s Day gift: sticks of explosives lashed together on a belt. The capital letters D-A-D-D-Y appear on several of the sticks of explosives worn by the want-to-be suicide bomber father. The card that reads “Happy Father’s Day” turns out to be on the floor.

The cartoon posits Arabs as inherently inimical to Western values. The explosive belt gifted from child to father is a perversion of Father’s Day in North America, which is intended to celebrate love and gratitude (Badhi, 2019). The Arabs in this cartoon pass on a different set of values: their families are formed to breed violence and hate. However, the reality is that the majority of Muslims are non-violent refugees that would seek shelter and support in other countries that would not prosecute them (Friesen, 2017; Amin-Khan, 2015).

The English script and the Fathers’ Day theme suggest that whatever evil the family plans to propagate, they will do so in Canada (Badhi, 2019). The child is happily showing his own propensity for violence at a very early age and conveys the impression that he is thoughtlessly destined to follow in the footsteps of his immoral father. The father’s eyes are wild, suggesting his untethered delight at receiving (and giving) the gift of violence.

Overall, the basis of this study demonstrates the need for greater awareness and education among legal professionals of the three common Arab and Muslim stereotypes, so that they can better recognize and analyze stereotyping experiences. The social science literature and reports by community organizations conclusively demonstrate that Arabs and Muslims face plenty of stereotypes, despite Canada’s commitment to equality. Lawyers who argue cases for their clients, human rights commissions, legal support centers, and reviewing courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada and the US, can all help advance stereotype literacy. Some members of marginalized communities avoid the legal system because they know too much about the system’s ability and willingness to hear and understand them.

References

Amin-Khan, T. (2015). Security and its impact on migrants and refugees. In H. Bauder & J. Shields (Eds.), Immigration, integration and the settlement experience in North America (pp. 118-143). Canadian Scholar’s Press.

Bahdi, R. (2019). All Arabs Are Liars: Arab and Muslim stereotypes in Canadian human rights law. University of Windsor.

Bauder, H., & Shields, J. (2015). Immigrant experiences in North America. Canadian Scholar’s Press Inc.

Friesen, J. (2017). Syrian exodus to Canada: One year later, a look at who the refugees are and where they went. The Globe and Mail. Web.

Kassam, S. (2018). Standing on guard for thee: The Acceptable Muslim and boundaries of racialized inclusion in Canada. University of Toronto.

Sandefur, R. (2015). Bridging the gap: Rethinking outreach for greater access to justice. Little Rock Law Review, 37(4). Web.

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