American Fear of Muslims
The majority of Americans’ opinions about Islam and Muslims were formed after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and even more so by the subsequent tragic events of 9/11. Prior to this, the American general public knew little about Muslims. Six months after the 9/11 tragedies, 2,652 attacks against Muslim Americans were reported, which was an unprecedented number.
After 9/11, the media’s role was significant in molding the opinion of the general population in regard to Muslims and cannot be understated. Studies have found that even watching a small portion of the media stories that negatively portray Muslims can lead to prejudice. Some of the news stories include portraying Islam as being “backwards,” by associating it with oppression of women and honor killings. One psychologist described the media’s portrayal of Muslims as “dehumanizing.”
Christians have their own form of media targeted specifically toward them in the forms of Christian radio, television programs, movies, books, and blogs. Many books that vilify Islam have been marketed toward Christians.Christian media outlets, have not always been helpful either. Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) actually pulled Hal Lindsey’s program from its station in 2005 because they felt it would derail evangelism efforts to Muslims. The president of TBN, Paul Crouch, said that he was unaware of any instances where, “Making inflammatory, derogatory anti-Muslim statements has led a single follower of Islam to Christ.” It is also important for Christians to realize that these programs are not just directly damaging to Muslims, but they also taint Christians’ perception as well.
In the end, certain influential Christian leaders have painted a negative and even derogatory picture of Muslims, but other Christians have resisted this approach. When one Christian leader referred to Muhammad as a pedophile and demon-possessed, Kidd reports, “Southern Baptist missionaries in Muslim countries anonymously pleaded with American leaders to ‘concentrate on sharing Christ in love…instead of speaking in a degrading manner about [Islam or the] prophet.’”