Cultural Hegemony: Islamophobia

Many beliefs held by the people of westernised societies have been questionable and imposing these ideas on people through media plays on the idea of ‘cultural hegemony’.  Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci described cultural hegemony as “the spontaneous consent given by the great masses of the population to the general direction imposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group; this consent is historically caused by the prestige (and consequent confidence) which the dominant group enjoys because of its position and function in the world of production”(Lears: 568). The fact is western cultural influence in media is affecting how we view other portions of the world. Examples can be found in the many stereotypes, prejudiced comments and blatant ignorance for the genuine image of certain ethnic and racial groups.

Examples of this can be found in a recent phenomenon that goes by the name of islamaphobia. Before September 11th, 2001 it was not a term that had been used before. Due to the events involving the so called “War on Terror” George Bush started there rose a stigma revolving around the Middle East and it began affecting the lives of certain people of Arabic descent in the United States and even in Canada. Contemporary media did not aid the attacks on these people by using it as an opportunity to make countless parodies and jokes towards people who wore turbans or anything on their head besides a ballcap. What many people don’t understand is that not only the people of the Islam religion port headwear. Sikhs wear a version of a turban named a ‘dastar’, people of the muslim religion wear them as well. But due to the hegemonic views of the western populations they just all categorize them as “Arabs”

Image

The motion picture “The Dictator” contains countless racial, ethnic, class and gender based stereotypes that no matter how ridiculous area good example of how the media is poking fun at a people whose reputation has been tarnished by incidents that were performed by extremists. In the clip below it demonstrates a cultural stereotype from the movie that Americans are all islamaphobes.

Image     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dILmZn0I4Pw

This American Anti-Islamic stigma has moved its way into the schooling system and is turning into a unique form of bullying. With cases of verbal and physical abuse popping up across the United States it is inherent that the racial and cultural hegemonic views change in the following article it gives a few examples of children as young as elementary school being bullied for being associated with the Arabic culture. These views come as a result to the rising stereotypes being expressed through the media.

http://muslimmatters.org/2011/12/13/muslims-in-america-when-bullying-meets-religion/

Another example that was brought to my attention by Professor Jane Tolmie was Jeff Dunham, a skilled ventriloquist, and his act of Ahmed the Dead Terrorist. This comedy routine makes fun of the Muslim extremists and the religion in general, making comments on their approach to gender, other races and towards western culture. This demonstrates another example of contemporary media and their ignorance toward diversity of culture. The video on YouTube has over 5 million views and the following performances have brought in up to 20 million views. This means that millions of people are subject to this stereotyping and the image being portrayed is extremely negative. The mass societal views of the Islamic community have been tainted by shows such as this.

Image    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_jU3FdnNoc

The cultural hegemony that is being held up by these expressions of arrogance towards people of Arabic descent is just one example of the mindless influences of western beliefs on populations. Even the term the “middle-east” is derived from inferring we are the centre. If one were to make a parody movie on slavery in the U.S. or the holocaust it would be immediately discredited due to the fact that they are tabooed by their cruelty. Cultural hegemony can be way to open a populations eyes to an issue that is plaguing contemporary society.

 

Lears, T.J. Jackson. “The Concept of Cultural Hegemony: Problems and Possibilities.” The American Historical Review 90 (): 568. Print.

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5 thoughts on “Cultural Hegemony: Islamophobia

  1. This is an interesting blog! I have actually never heard of the term Islamophobia and was extremely intrigued. I think the picture of the man about to go through security at the airport does a great job of demonstrating your topic of generalization of people who wear a turban as Arabian. Even if they are American citizens, if you wear a turban you are somehow more likely to be a terrorist or be threatening to the States. I think people often forget that there are actually a lot of bad people ALL over the world, including the USA and Canada. In addition, I know this comes to a surprise for some people, but a lot of bad people are also white (gasp!). I haven’t seen the Dictatorship, so I don’t know how deep my comment will be, but on Tigers analysis of the Office, I thought it did a good job of demonstrating stereotypes that are produced, by almost mocking them. I am not sure if this was what The Dictator was trying to do. However, the last video of Jeff Dunham was quite disturbing. Instantly he starts saying how “messed up” “their” values are. Using discourse like this creates a binary that the West is superior and the East is inferior. Even if we do not always agree with different cultures, it doesn’t make them any less. Who knows they might not agree with ours either.

  2. I thought this was an excellent topic for our final blog because it can be discussed from so many different angles. First of all, I haven’t seen the movie The Dictator but I thought that scene was quite interesting and relevant to today’s pop-culture. I personally believe that the United States has an interesting complex. Although this is overgeneralizing, for the sake of my point, just go with it haha. Citizens of the states are known for their strong patriotism, but they are also known for their ignorance to diversity. Where Canada is seen as a country that values diversity, the United States is seen as a melting pot that mixes people in to create people who are solely Americans, leaving any previous cultural identity or heritage forgotten. As a result of this strong patriotism, Americans are often blatantly ignorant to other cultures. It can be seen everywhere from their knowledge of other countries on game shows, to interacting with them when you go on vacation at a resort. This is why the world for a large part does not get along with Americans. I believe that this built the foundation for Islamaphobia. Obviously Canada is incorporated in the Western Culture and sadly does have Islamaphobics but Bush used the pre-existing foundation of America, combined with the attacks of 9/11 to spark Islamaphobia and create almost irreversible damage.

  3. Oh wow, this was very interesting. I have seen that first picture of the male with the turban on the internet so many times and am so disgusted every time. You did well explaining the relationship between that picture and the concept/term “Arabian.” Many people seem to be oblivious of other cultures, possibly leading them to believe that their culture/race is higher on the hierarchy scale. This leads to more problems to arise. As littlebunn10 stated, I wouldn’t just limit it to Americans, but there are many people of different race, residing in different countries, that believe they are better than others because of their colour or their culture. Furthermore, personally, I was never a huge fan of George Bush. He brought unnecessary terms to surface, such as Islamaphobia, and as stated above, this has caused more damage than can be repaired.

  4. “..poking fun at a people whose reputation has been tarnished by incidents that were performed by extremists..” This line was extremely well put. It’s upsetting how an incident by one particular group of individuals can put a whole new label, which holds many, many implications, on an entire population of people. Essentially, it just homogenizes an entire nation of people, leaving them all with a bad reputation.

    Like eeyorehastheblues mentioned, how Dunham speaks, using terms like “their extremist views”, “beliefs”, “one of those guys” comes off quite offensive. Either way, I’ve never been a big fan of this form of “comedy”. It merely perpetuates stereotypical views and promotes these problematic ideas, further engraining them into viewers mind. (i.e., throughout that clip, the puppet, who represents a dead suicide bomber, constantly makes jokes about killing people).

    Also, I think this homogenization of people is also influenced by the fact that many aren’t actually informed to the world outside of their own societal bubble. For example, even though someone can be Japanese or Korean, people often just seem them as “some Asian” and automatically assume their all the same (similar to when people see someone wearing a turban and quickly associate them as an Arabian, or whatever, etc.).

  5. I saw an amazing Ted Talk today given by a Nigerian novelist named Chimamanda Adichie that relates beautifully to why so many North Americans have this homogenized view of Islam and the Middle East. In summary, she accredits these shallow beliefs to what she calls the “single story”. This means anytime Middle Eastern countries are represented to us through the news, film, comedy or other forms of media, we see a selective, one-sided story that is repeated until it is ingrained in our minds as normal. The lack of fair representation is what causes our cultures stereotypes, prejudices and acts of discrimination. I also think it’s harmful to play of these stereotypes as comedy, as seen in the Ahmed the Dead Terrorist act. This sketch was actually quite well known in my high school and surprisingly I found that most of the appreciation for it came from those of Middle Eastern descent. This worries me because it shows how strongly North Americans of all backgrounds tend to differentiate ourselves from people of foreign nations.

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