In fact, as a Muslim, I find them nauseating nowadays.
I used to relish on them. I used to believe those feelgood stories would help tackling anti-Muslim bigotry; even if they didn’t, they would give the bigots the finger.
But, slowly, I started to feel uneasy about such stories. Then, I realise they can be problematic for two reasons.
Reason one: they exacerbate some Muslims’ denialism
There are some Muslims (focus on the word SOME) who genuinely believe the Muslim world is inherently problem-free. Consequentially, those particular Muslims dismiss Islamic extremism a conspiracy by the CIA and/or Mossad. Either that or they see it as harmless expressions of faith, hated only by “fake Muslims” and “Islam-hating infidels”.
The more they encounter those saccharine stories, the more they feel entitled to praises just for doing the bare minimum.
Reason two: they are infantilising
Oh, a group of Muslims behave like decent human beings? So fucking what? How is people doing the fucking bare minimum worth the news?
If our decent behaviours are worth the news, it means you are still surprised by our ability to be virtuous. Therefore, regardless of how “woke” you claim to be, you still see us as mere stereotypes. You still expect the worst from us.
So, should we keep the negative media coverage, then?
Well, yes…. with a big but.
On one hand, we have to keep making a big deal out of Islamic extremism. We have to keep reminding everyone -especially Muslims- that it is not something to be tolerated, let alone embraced.
It is also something which does not feed on attention-seeking. Its growth will continue regardless of our (in)attention. Unless you are one of the Muslims who care more about our image than our moral integrity, you would want the negative coverage to continue.
But, on the other hand, many western media outlets (which are unfortunately globally influential) seem incapable of reporting extremism without pigeonholing the Muslim world. They don’t always interview Muslims. When they do, they interview extremists and present them as good representatives. When they do interview peaceful Muslims, they often treat the peacefulness as a bombshell; worse, they also accuse those peaceful Muslims of being complicit to extremism, simply for sharing a religious label with the extremists.
Obviously, journalists must suppress their preconceived beliefs. Unfortunately, we are talking about humans here; it is easy to succumb to prejudice. Even if they try their best, they have prejudiced higher-ups to bow down to.
But, regardless, those saccharine narratives are still the wrong way to go. As mentioned earlier, they belittle our ability to be dignified human beings and they encourage some Muslims to exaggerate the goodness of the Muslim world, discourage them from acknowledging the problems.
Whether we like it or not, the negative coverage must go on. Because feeling good all the time benefits no one.
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