American views on islamic beliefs get mixed reactions from different geographies, although there are multidimentional perspectives that are involved, the key factor that comes into play is the way the Islam is percieved and dealt with. Global issues like terrorism are widely discussed across the world but while dealing with Islam there is a perception based approach which is questioned at times.
In this paper we will see that Telhami comments in his book The Stakes: America in the Middle East, the Consequences of Power and the Choice for Peace, about how the Americans are dealing with the “supply side” of the of terrorism and are simply ignoring the “demand side”, there is a clear ignorance of the reasons behind the humiliation and the well known Arab and Muslim despair that actually is the cause of terrorism.
Similarly, Edward Said is clear with his ideas in his book Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World, he takes perception into account to explain the way culture replresentation works with media and impacts us, Tariq Ali brings another view to the discussion by giving the perspective of fundamentalisms, hence we will look at the various perspectives that are discussed to explained the way the American Polity differentiates between the use of power in order to maintain a healthy perception and will also put across conclusions with regards to the arguments from the above three.
“There is little doubt that stereotypes of the United States as arrogant, self-indulgent, hypocritical, inattentive, and unwilling or unable to engage in cross-cultural dialogue are pervasive and deeply rooted.” , actually the involvement of the demand and supply concept simply creates a differentiated approach in the way America perceives the Islamic nations like Middle east and the way these nations look at America.
It is a real fact that despite all the reasons that America may have to show, the arrogance and consider Islam as a terrorist threat, these political strategies will never help to solve the global issues and if really America has to uproot these issues, the perception of America in the minds of Islamic country like Middle East has to change and till the time the issues like arrogance, pro-Israel strategy and support to Saudi Arabia etc. exist, the seeds of terrorism can be expected to germinate every now and then.
If we look at the above explanation from Ali and Said’s perspective we will realize that Said rather explains the perception of Islam from they way media has presented it and he somehow agrees that all the misunderstanding and mistrust in the religions is caused by the way it was presented, on the other hand Ali concentrates on the clash of fundamentalism and he talks about the rise and fall of Islam since the beginning, if we compare the arguments from we will realize that according to Ali the Imperialist powers like Britain and US are responsible for the formation of South Asian country like Pakistan and the spread of Islam in Palestine, North-Africa and Spain. Actually in this context if we look at the argument from Telhami we can say that the idea is not very convincing as the imperial treatment remained the same but the terrorism as a concept is not that old.
Media and the perception based issues: An Edward Said approach
Said once again brings a very nice set of thoughts related to the way Islamic Culture has been covered by the American media in different circumstances; on one hand the basic concepts and genuine understanding is missing from the presentation moreover it enhanced the perception of Islamic culture as “Fundamentalist Screwballs” and people with “bizarre mentality”. The coverage of extremely important incidents like “Princess Episode” and “occupation of the American embassy in Teheran”, were not very intelligently covered and led people to mistrust the Islamic community as a whole and not see these events as an individual’s act.
Similarly Said feels that media is responsible for the perception that the American community has developed for the Islamic Culture, firstly it presents as if Islam is against even the idea of Modernization, Secondly there is almost no coverage given to initiatives like a social change, social involvement, human nature and Islamic religion with respect to Islam and therefore the positive picture is missing from the minds of American people.
Lastly, several issues happen in the Middle East and other Islamic countries however due to bad interpretation and lack of Journalist’s expertise all these were presented in such a way that the entire Islamic population appears to be Anti-American, Anti-democratic, anti-modern, irrational and dangerous. Now, again if we look at Said’s arguments from the perspective shown by Ali and Telhami, it will be easily visible that from Telhami’s discussions, Ali mentions in his book that “The result of all this is a tame US media, which barely reports the daily sufferings of the Palestinians. There is more critical coverage of Israeli actions in the US press than in Israeli press” , hence we can understand that its not that always the US media is facing an issue due to which the perception of Islamic culture gets hampered however it is more of a choice than mishap. Telhan also mentioned his view that, the display of arrogance is quite visible from the imperialists and he finds this to be the reason behind the troubles like terrorism.
The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Tariq Ali with his views
Tariq mentions during his discussion of the Imperial powers that “The social democracy that appeared as an attractive option during the cold war, no longer exists. The powerlessness of the democratic parliaments and the politicians who inhabit them to change anything has discredited democracy” .