The very mention of the word “Muslim” generates in the minds of Americans the vision of a specter: gun-toting, bearded, fanatic terrorist, who is hell-bent on destroying its great enemy, America. Renaissance and Reformation metamorphosed the way the narratives were formed, with potent reliance on the metaphysical world, by declaring the physical world the epicenter of the universe. With God relegated to the background, the only option for people was to live life acquainting oneself with what the world is. And the best medium to know about the world is media.

Fredrick Hegel aptly summed this up by saying, “Reading the morning newspaper is the realist’s morning prayer”.Hence, the blame for the above-mentioned idiosyncrasies associated with the word “Muslim” must lie on the media because it has an overwhelming say in the building of stereotypes the way the Church had during the Dark Ages.

Though Islam vs. West thesis has its roots back in the era of Crusades, the “Islamic Revolution” of Iran precipitated rejuvenated wrath for Islam, in the intellectual circles of the West. Prior to the Revolution, the whole upheaval was dubbed an ascendancy of Islamic fundamentalism and rarely spotted in the broadcasts of Western media. And the credit for this stereotype goes to the so-called doyens of Western media, on Iranian affairs, with relentless zest to kowtow to the dictates of policy makers and government executives. Now, how can one’s status as a scholar be reconciled with demands made on one by different governments? During the Shah’s regimes, various funds were available for “Iranologists” from Pahlavi Foundation, and of course from American institutions, for studies that took as their point of departure the Pahlavi regimes importance to US militarily and economically. This became the idée recue of almost all studies and all media reporting of Iran. As for the Islamic revolution, it was consigned to dustbin with the perception that it was transient opportunism fueled by Islamic fundamentalism: ideology banking upon the ideals of sixth century Islam. No prime time broadcast allocated more than few seconds and sometimes few minutes to the opposition, Khomeini with his team.

Not only in the case of Iran alone but the same negligence has been made manifest in the case of Lebanon as well. During the civil war, which ran from 1975 to 1980, the experts, who monopolized Western media, harked back to the ”pluralistic“and “mosaic” culture of the past, which was the hallmark of Lebanon, while consciously shying away from the mainstreaming of ground realities. During sixties Lebanon was considered stable because the “inter-Arab” situation was normal and peaceful. So long as the equation was kept up, Lebanon would be secure. This portrayal conditions instability of Lebanon on “inter-Arab” discords, snidely eschewing Israel and US from any responsibility of atrocity and mischievousness.

In Lebanon, it was concisely those devastatingly organized forces that the experts never documented ---social dislocations, demographic shifts, confessional loyalties and ideological currents--- that tore the country apart. In Iran, it was precisely that indefatigable organized revolutionary party of Khomeini whose raison d etre the experts, with Western media, never documented--- a reaction to despotism, to servility to Western culture, toirrelevance to quotidian issues of Iranians.

In fact, conventional wisdom dominated on the expense of ground realities in both Lebanon and Iran. Moderate Lebanon and modernized Iran, to speak of American perception, both represented the reification of America’s efforts at modernization: adaptation to democracy, openness to secularism and reduction in religion’s interference.This excessive dependence on the official or the conventional picture of was a trap into which, in the over-all performance on prerevolutionary Iran, the media fell, claims Edward W Said in his book Covering Islam. Heaps and heaps of writings and reports that eulogized the virtues of modernizing traditional societies had acquired an almost unquestioned social and cultural authority in the United States. At the same time, on the contrary, this jihad of modernization has been attached with foolish spending, unnecessary gadgetry, corrupt rulers and ruthless United State’s meddling in the internal affairs of the weaker nations. In an effort to absolve the United State off its shenanigans, decried by Muslims, the media brings in the thesis that it is because of Islamic fundamentalism that Muslims prefer to impersonate everything binary to modernization of USA.

 From here onwards, there started a unique trend in the media to present Muslims to their Western audience as anachronistic with primitive ambitions to pulverize everything the Western civilization has stood for. Usually stories on the Middle East are often accompanied by a picture of a mosque or of large crowds praying, and below the pictures are narrations of heinous acts that are antithetical to Islam. In other words, by a majority of audience, the pictures attached are assumed to be caricaturing the fundamental traits which are best reflected by the narrations below.

In the wake of Charlie Hebdo, the ages-old zeitgeist of impregnable alliance between media doyens and government policy makers was dealt a lethal blow with the premieres of France, Germany and USA purporting a landslide change by disassociating the culprits of Charlie Hebdo from Islam; hence, placing extremism and Islam on opposite streams. French President Francois Hollandeappeared as a trail-blazer in this regard by declaring that, “These terrorists, these fanatics have nothing to do with the Islamic religion.”German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed him, saying that the perpetrators “have nothing to do with Islam.” Secretary of State John Kerry opined that “the biggest mistake we could make would be to blame Muslims for crimes…that their faith utterly rejects.”

But the Western media preferred to keep on with its stance of past: that of crass and petty generalizations.  Graeme Wood, prominent Islam-phobic commentator from Canada, exploited the wrath incurred by Charlie Hebdo first and, then, by brutal killings of Western journalists by ISIS in Iraq and Syria by claiming that extremism and brutality naturally inheres in Islam. However, he went so far to say that the real Islam is only synonymous with the Islam of ISIS; all others, liberal and moderate Muslims, he implied lack assiduousness and seriousness. Richard Dawkin, rebutting the stance of Markel, Hollande and Obama, said they shouted,” We have avenged the Prophet Mohammad… Some useful idiot will claim it had nothing to do with religion.”  

While consciously heedless of the stance forwarded by Obama when he says,”'We will never be at war with Islam”,” ISIS is not Islam”, Maher arrogantly opines,” The Muslim world… has too much common with ISIS”. Sam Harris noted on a post on his website, some “scholars and pseudo-scholars” cling to a ludicrous notion that the actions of jihadis like those of ISIS aren’t motivated by religion.  He has blithely condemned Obama’s stance by emphasizing on Jihadists mania for the “invocation of God’s names”, “martyrdom” and “paradise”.

In the nutshell, it can be confidently said that it is media that has sullenly promulgated the perception of a bipolar, compartmentalized world: one advanced, pluralistic and democratic; second, atavistic, exclusivist and autocratic. This is media that has weighed the Muslims and the West as binary to each other. Initially, this view was officiated by the government, obsequiously made viral be the media, at the expense of partiality, to curry favors. But, recently, it has become crystal clear that despite earnest efforts made by the government officials to counter the narrative of Islam and extremism and Islam and fundamentalism, the media seems resolute to cling to the narrative of the past, even if it costs the anger of the government. Media has occupied a place where it has power to make and break narratives.  Though Obama’s stance is appreciated, but it needs media support to become the conventional wisdom. The Western media needs to purge itself off partiality: favored parties airing, opposition parties’ denial, forming of prejudiced stereotypes vis-à-vis Muslims and Islam.