“You can hit an Arab for free, they are free enemies, free villains– where you couldn’t do it to a Jew or you can’t do it to a black man” -Sam Keen
Cinema has had a lengthy history of perpetuating prejudices toward ethnic groups that goes all the way back to its conception. Asians were seen as “sneaky”, Africans as “sombo”, Indians as “savages” and Hispanics as “greasy” and Italians as “Mafios”. As time has passed these offensive stereotypes and prejudices have dwindled away in cinema and by current times are no longer tolerated in cinema with the exception of the Muslims community. If anything as the decades went on Muslims and Arabs in cinema have been portrayed more as oil-rich, religious fanatics and hostile towards non-Muslims and westerners. A lot of this has to do with the long history of interaction with the Middle East dating all the way back to Middle Ages but the recent spike in anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobic propaganda ran by Hollywood has been a result of foreign policy, government influence, tension in the Middle East during the 80’s and 90’s leading to the Gulf war and the Sept. 11th attack.
[quote_box_center]The great enemy of truth if very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest but they myth, persistent, persuasive and realistic – President John Kennedy[/quote_box_center]
How Muslims are Perceived?
Throughout the history of Muslims in western cinema the majority of the time they are depicted as the enemy and a threat to non-Muslim western society. Since 1896 Arabs have been depicted as brutal, heartless,uncivilized religious fanatics bent on terrorizing the west. (Shaheen Pg.2) More current trends in cinema is depicting the Islamic faith with male supremacy, holy war, and act of terror and Muslim men as hostile alien intruder. When looking at themes surrounding these villains they tend to show hostility towards westerners. Common themes in these movies tend to show Arabs trying to rape, kill, or abduct fair-complexioned western heroines, Anti-Christian Arabs, Arabs invading the United States and terrorizing the innocent and Arabs intent on acquiring and using nuclear weapons Very rarely are Muslims and Arabs depicted in a positive light in cinema.
Arabland was created through Orientalism which generalizes the Middle Eastern. With the generalization of the region cinema has turned the Middle East into a homogeneous region where backwards thinking is common, Male superiority and women oppression is common along with intolerance and hostility towards towards westerner and other religious groups. In Arabland women wear the Burkas, they tend to be belly dancers maidens and at times terrorists. They also tend to be subservient and oppressed. Muslim men tend to have excessive sexual desire especially towards western women, Big black beards, wear turbans, dress in traditional clothing. They tend to be terrorist, Hagglers, incompetent They depict almost all Arabs as Muslims even though they only account for 12 percent of the Arab population. In Arabland all the stereotypes towards Muslims and Arabs become the reality in film and as a result leave lasting impressions in the way we perceive things.
Throughout the 100+ Years Arabs have been in films only a handful have shown Arabs and Muslims of Heroic. This means that the majority of the 900+ films representing Muslims have been made to disenfranchise the group . For Generations cinema have repeatedly instilled negative images of Arabs. For Generations films have regarded them as “Camel-Dicks”, Pigs, Devil-worshipers, jackels, rats, ragheads, towel-heads etc. For over a century these false ideas of Muslims have been embedded in U.S. society and as a result have created a detachment between what they consider Western “civilized life” and the Middle East which to them is a far away land full of uncivilized barbaric muslim who are inherently violent and fanatically religious. As a result we we no longer see them as ordinary people carrying on with their lives like we all do instead we percieve these people different from us. People start to see them as hostile and a threat to our way of living.
Here are some article of recently praised islamophobic movies which you might have recently seen: