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Portrayal of Muslims in the Media: ‘24’ and the ‘Othering’ Process



The Hollywood media in general depict the image of Muslims and Arabs in a negative way. Drawing from Edward Said's understanding of Orientalism, the current study critically analyzes the television serial "24", which portrays stereotypical images of Arabs and Muslims, and aggravates the 'othering process'.
Volume: 7 Issue: 1 Year: 2010
Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the
‘Othering’ process
Abu Sadat Nurullah*
The Hollywood media in general depict the image of Muslims and Arabs in a negative way.
Drawing from Edward Said's understanding of Orientalism, the current study critically
analyzes the television serial “24”, which portrays stereotypical images of Arabs and
Muslims, and aggravates the ‘othering process’.
Keywords: Orientalism, Muslims, Arabs, terrorism, negative portrayal
* Department of Sociology, University of Alberta, Canada. E-mail:
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
The othering process or ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ paradigm is sharply reflected in the media discourse.
One common method of creating the distinction between us and them is to emphasize
differing characteristics such as race, ethnicity, and religion. Edward Said (2003/1978) uses
the term Orientalism, “a way of coming to terms with the orient that is based on the Orient’s
special place in European Western experience” (p. 1). He explores how Europeans have
developed and used an exteriority or representation of the Orient, not “natural depictions of
the Orient” (2003: 21). “Orientalism”, he affirms, “is fundamentally a political doctrine” (p.
204). Nonetheless, Westerners believe this representation to be objective. By standardizing
cultures of the Orient, these representations have developed into stereotypes. The technology
of the postmodern world, such as ubiquitous media, has accelerated and solidified this
process. Said explains how that this is particularly true for the way the Near East is
conceived. Said further argues that the West has misrepresented the East and has made the
Orient its ‘Other’. In this paper, I take the case of Arab and Muslim representation as ‘the
Other’ in the televisual media. For the purpose of analysis, I select Fox Network’s popular
series “24”. By applying the Orientalism framework developed by Edward Said, I argue that
the producers of media contents selectively choose a particular group to treat as ‘the Other’.
It has been observed that the Hollywood media depict the image of Muslims and Arabs in a
negative way. As van der Veer (2004: 9-21) points out, being a Muslim and being an Arab
has been historicized instead of being understood from some perspective as an essential
Islam or Arabness. This is due to the fact that some individuals with Muslim names or a few
scattered groups commit hijacking or suicide bombing in the name of Islam. At present, the
media in their reporting usually links any act of violence to Muslims and Islam based on pre-
conceived stereotypes devoid of justification. However, it should be noted that the cultural
clash between the West and the Muslim world is not a new phenomenon. Islam and Muslims
are historically looked down upon by the West. It is a fact that Muslims had hard times to
protect religion from the hand of the Crusaders from Europe during the 12
century. This
was felt acutely after the First World War and with the decline of the Ottoman Caliphate.
However, the negative portrayal of Muslims on media began intensively after the World War
II, and particularly 1960s onwards. With the development of sophisticated media technology
in the West, the misrepresentation of Islam and Muslims on media reached to masses around
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
the world, strengthening the phony propaganda. The media coverage of the Iranian
revolution is one of such examples. Edward Said has aptly pointed out this fact in his 1981
book Covering Islam.
In his book Covering Islam, Said (1981) argued that the Western media’s coverage and
interpretation of Islam is extremely influential and the success “of this coverage can be
attributed to the political influence of those people and institutions producing it rather than
necessarily to truth or accuracy” (p. 169). Another factor is that the collapse of the former
Soviet Union in the early 1990s helped the West (particularly the United States) to generate a
new enemy frontier they can fight against to claim their superiority. This idea was further got
into the academia with the writing of Samuel Huntington in his ‘Clash of Civilization’
hypothesis in 1993. Therefore, an act of terrorism happened anywhere in the world (e.g.,
Oklahoma City, Paris metro) was linked as with Muslims; although later many of those
attacks found out to be committed by Christian and Zionist fundamentalists. In addition, the
term ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ emerged into the scholarly as well as popular discussion,
whereas no such label has been associated with Christian, Jewish, or other religion.
A crucial point in the account of negative media portrayal of Muslims happened in the post-
9/11 era, where Islam has publicly been associated with terrorism, and Muslims as terrorists.
There are several television movies, drama serials, talk shows, cartoons, and news coverage,
where Muslims are portrayed as uncivilized, anti-modern, anti-democratic, and terrorists,
fundamentalists, radicals, militants, barbaric, and anti-western. Individual violent incident or
any extremist movement in Islamic countries is attributed to Islam by the western media. The
continuous negative portrayal of Muslims by the media has led many Muslims to perceive
the media as an enemy and conspirator against them (Siddiqi, 1999: 204). When it comes to
terrorism, the media most frequently link it to the Arabs or Muslims, often treating them as
the same group of people. Research has shown that terrorism is regularly connected to Islam
and as a result, Muslims and Arabs have been severely ‘othered’. Stereotypes and fear of
terrorists have led to drastic changes in governmental practices, such as civil liberty
restriction and increased support of racial profiling (Altheide, 2004; Cainkar, 2004; Norris,
Kern, & Just, 2003).
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
The television, for example, has become ‘the new state religion’ where religions role in
shaping and enforcing social values and ideas, and conveying the fundamental ideas of
culture has been replaced by the media (Hoover, 2006: 14). The world media is enormously
controlled and hegemonized by giant corporations and conglomerates based in the West
(particularly in the US). The industrial western world own major news agencies, press
unions, fully equipped movie-making studios, and television stations, many of which are
headquartered in other countries around the world. Majority of them are either run by the
Jews or are under powerful lobby of Jews and Christians who greatly oppose any positive
achievement on part of the Muslims. As Mahathir Mohamad (2002: 9) has noted, ‘The
almost absolute power of the western media corrupts almost absolutely’. The stereotypes
against Muslims had been in-build in the US media and it is really an unintelligent idea to
refute it (Julian Hollick, cited in Razak & Abdul Majeed, 2002: 102). Furthermore,
American media covers terrorism in a way that ignores what “we” do and focuses on the
behavior of “them” (Dunn, Moore, & Nosek, 2005).
Therefore, the paper explores the othering process as depicted in Fox Network’s television
series “24”. The key aspect guiding this paper is the question: whose point of view do we see
the world from? The central questions are: How the television series “24” portrays Muslims
and Arabs? To what extent this portrayal is unbiased? Is the othering process changing over
time? In addition, is there any link between the background of the producer and the kind of
content produced in media?
The Discourse of Orientalism
Edward Said’s Orientalism (2003) is a perspective that has transformed the ways in which
power relations between West and East can be understood. This explores the ideas that have
become embedded in Western culture through history that justify imperialism/colonialism on
the basis that the West is viewed as superior to the East. Said (2003) for example, has argued
that the concept of the ‘West’ as a social category became distinctive only when it
encountered the ‘East’. In the book, Said offers three major claims. First, he describes
Orientalism as an objective, disinterested and esoteric set of ideas, the overall function of
which is to serve political ends. These, for example, provided an ideological justification for
Orientalist scholars to allow Europeans to take over Oriental lands. Second, Said looks at
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
how these tools are important in helping Europe to define its image and to establish and
maintain opposites and others. On this basis, Europe was given its own cultural and
intellectual superiority over Islamic cultures, and this led the West to see the Islamic culture
as static both in place and time. Third, Said points out that Orientalism has produced a false
description of Islamic cultures, including a belief that that it is possible to unconditionally
define the essential qualities of a whole Islamic culture and the people within it.
Two other media theories reiterate Said’s (2003) framework: Agenda-setting theory and
Cultivation theory. The agenda-setting function of the media refers to “the media’s
capability, through repeated news coverage, of raising the importance of an issue in the mind
of mass people” (Severin & Tankard, 2000: 219). For example, repeated coverage of
Muslims as terrorists in the media leads to the belief in people they are really terrorists, and
thus hatred and discrimination against Muslims in general takes place. In this way, the
agenda-setting role of mass media causes an issue to be elevated in importance to the public
(Severin & Tankard, 2000). In addition, research has shown that the press or media is
strikingly successful in telling its consumers what to think about. The media not only set the
agenda for public discussion, but also they strongly suggest how readers should think and
talk about ethnic, cultural, and religious affairs (Van Dijk, 1991). Empirical studies have
shown evidence for agenda-setting perspective. For example, Wanta and Wu (1992) have
found that the more exposure individuals had to the news media, the more they tended to be
concerned about the issues receiving heavy media coverage. Thus, the media content has an
influence on the public perception of the importance of issues.
Cultivation theory was developed by George Gerbner and his colleagues to explain the
effects of television viewing on people’s perceptions, attitudes, and values (Severin &
Tankard, 2000). Gerbner et al. argue that heavy viewers of television are being monopolized
and subsumed by other sources of information, ideas, and consciousness; which produces the
cultivation or shaping of a common worldview, common roles and values most frequently
depicted on TV (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorelli, 1994). They have found out that
heavy television viewers often give answers that are closer to the way the world is portrayed
on television (Severin & Tankard, 2000). For example, most viewers of media in the West
would develop a disliking attitude towards Muslims based on the media portrayal of
Muslims as terrorists or otherwise bad people. In this way, media cultivate the impression on
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
people’s mind to look into the nature of reality based on the window of media representation
of issues.
Media portrayal of Muslims and Arabs
Cottle argues that the media hold a powerful position in conveying, explaining and
articulating specific discourses that help represent (and misrepresent) minority groups (see
Cottle, 2006). Most people’s perceptions of Islam and Muslims in the US are shaped by
media coverage through stereotyping in movies, TV shows, cartoons, and other media. In
general, Muslims are portrayed as an ‘alien other’ within the media. It suggests that this
misrepresentation can be linked to the development of ‘racism’, namely Islamphobia that has
its roots in cultural representations of the ‘other’ (Saeed, 2007). Hence, recent social and
political concern over Muslim minority groups can be understood as a form of cultural
racism (Modood, 1997). What we know of society depends on how things are represented to
us through media and that knowledge in turn informs what we do and what policies we are
prepared to accept (Miller, 2002).
Various studies have examined the specific relationship between media and Islam (Ahmed
1993); the representations of Muslim minorities in the West (Poole, 2002) and other on
Muslims/Islam in the global media (Poole & Richardson, 2006). Ideologically, these
constructions can be traced back the expansion of Western imperialism where a dichotomy
of ‘West’ versus ‘East’ was constructed (Said, 2003). As late back as 1993, Ahmed noted
that many Muslims voiced concern of the negative representation of Islam and Muslims by
the Western media (Saeed, 2007). However, following on from such incidents as the Rushdie
affair, the first Gulf War and 9/11, interest in media representations of Islam have grown. An
ever-increasing body of research has argued that on the balance the images, representations
and discourses relating to Islam/Muslims in mainstream Western media tend to be negative
and hostile (see Poole & Richardson, 2006). Similar findings that highlight the negativity of
Islam/Muslims have been found in media research conducted in Canada (Elmasry, 2002),
Australia (Manning, 2006) and throughout the European Union (Fekete, 2002).
One of the first systematic studies on the western media portrayal of Muslims was conducted
by Edward Said in his book Covering Islam. Said (1981) critically analyzes how the media
chooses to misreport or misrepresent Islam and Muslims. He provides a certain
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
methodological approach of how the press in the West deals with Islam. Said’s early work
Orientalism (2003/1978) provides the classical framework in understanding relationships
between the ‘West’ (and the ‘Rest’) and Muslims in particular. Said (1985) focuses primarily
on the Middle East – the territory occupied principally by Muslims. He argues that European
domination took not only political and economic forms, but also a cultural form. He further
argues that in this context, Islam was regarded as medievally backward. Islam comes to
symbolize, in Said’s words, “terror, devastation, the demonic, hordes of hated barbarians”
(2003: 59). Said (1981: xxii) asserts:
[…] much of what one reads and sees in the media about Islam represents the
aggression as coming from Islam because that is what “Islam” is. Local and concrete
circumstances are thus obliterated. In other words, covering Islam is a one-sided
activity that obscures what “we” do, and highlights instead what Muslims and Arabs
by their flawed nature are.
Said (1981) claims that he is not comfortable of speaking of ‘Islam’ and ‘Islamic’ as the
terms have been misused in Muslim and Western societies as a ‘political cover’ for much
that is not religious. In Covering Islam, Said (1981) looks at how the definitions of Islam
today are predominately negative saying that the West is radically at odds and this tension
establishes a framework radically limiting knowledge of Islam. In fact, Said argues that,
through ignorance, cultural hostility and racial hatred, the true nature of Islam is not allowed
to be known to others; it is ‘covered up’. However, it is the media that form ‘cultural
apparatus’ through which Europeans and Americans derive their consciousness (Poole, 2002;
Said, 1981). For example, this was highlighted when a Danish newspaper published
caricatures of Prophet Muhammad suggesting he was a terrorist, among other things. It could
therefore be argued that these publications suggest that Islam is the root of terrorism (Saeed,
2007). Various authors have noted that Islam and Muslims are treated homogenously in
Western media and depicted as the opposite of the West (Akbarzadeh & Smith, 2005; Poole,
2002). Saeed and Drainville (2006) argue that with the ‘other’ constantly described as
inferior, even barbaric, it is easily accepted by a Western audience that terrorism stems from
In Covering Islam, Said (1981) identifies three factors that inform the Western scholars’
perception of the Oriental world. First, Said points out that the view of Islam today is still
structured by remnants of the historical encounter where knowledge was produced within a
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
framework motivated by passion, prejudice and political interests. The second factor Said
levels against the mainstream discourses about Arabs is the ideology of modernization which
posits that the Third World could be saved from its underdevelopment only if it accepts
modernization. As the recent history of the US intervention in the Third World reveals,
modernization has been primarily about promoting United States trade, backing pro-US
native allies and fighting native nationalism (Said, 1981: 29). In this context, Said argues that
the discipline of Eurocentric Orientalism and the ideology of modernization fit together
nicely for Orientalists. The third factor Said points out is the role of Israel in mediating
Western and particularly US views of the Arab and Islamic world since its creation in 1948.
Israel, even though an occupying power, is heralded as the ‘only democracy’ in the Middle
East. Its security in American judgment has become identical with “fending off Islam,
perpetuating Western hegemony, and demonstrating the virtues of modernization” (Said,
1981: 34).
Amir Saeed (2007) argues that the media do indeed present negative images of Muslims and
Islam, and such images are transferred to the public at large; therefore the media is guilty of
reinforcing anti-Muslim racism. On the other hand, if one looks closer at the religion of
Islam one can find that it is interpreted in multiple ways in the universe of Islamic cultures,
societies and history, ranging from China to Nigeria, from Spain to Indonesia, etc. (Said,
1981: 56). Moreover, Said (2003: 286) notes that “if the Arab occupies space enough for
attention it is as a negative value”, that is, that ‘they’ are portrayed as a constant threat to the
Western’s free and democratic world. It is further argued (Said, 1981: 26) that “it is only a
slight overstatement to say that Muslims and Arabs are essentially covered, discussed,
apprehended, either as oil suppliers or as potential terrorists”.
Prior to the events of 9/11, Madrid bombing and the current ongoing War on Terror, Ahmed
(1993) argues that very often the news shown about Muslim centers around negative stories.
Van Dijk (1991; 1993) links the idea of ‘primary definers’ to the notion that media constitute
an ‘elite’ in society. In is obvious that issues such as the Rushdie affair and international
matters such as the 1991 Gulf War, a series of events brought Muslims into the media
spotlight and adversely affected the Muslim population of the world. In the process, new
components within racist terminology appeared, and were used in a manner that could be
argued were deliberately provocative to bait and ridicule Muslims and other ethnic minorities
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
(Saeed, 2007). Osama bin Laden has been associated as the sole representative of Muslims
all around the world by labeling Muslims as terrorists, whereas there are about 1.3 billion
Muslims living in the world. Gerges (1999) notes that Americans have quite readily accepted
the notion that acts of violence committed by some Muslims are representative of a fanatic
and terrorist culture.
Ahmad Yousif (2002) identifies several reasons for the prejudice against Islam in the
western media as well as in the Muslim media. For the western media, he contends that the
primary reason for this is the historical conflict between the three Abrahamic faiths. Since
the early period, Islam has been perceived as a threat to the political, economic, and religious
interests of the polytheists, Jews, and Christians, who continuously plotted and conspired
against Muslims (Yousif, 2002). The second reason is political. He asserts that the creation
of the state of Israel in the middle of the Muslim heartland, the subsequent struggle between
the Arabs and Israeli, the ability of the powerful Jewish lobby to influence western
politicians and policy makers, all have contributed to the negative image of Arabs and
Muslims in the media. The third reason is the stereotypes and prejudice based on pre-
conceived ideas, which has led to a misunderstanding of Islam in the western media.
Another term employed to describe discrimination, prejudice, and harassment against
Muslims is Islamophobia. It also denotes the non-reporting or non-disclosure of violent acts
committed against Muslims, and the failure to present the true teachings of Islam. Shaheen
(2000: 22-42) examines the stereotypes and biases used in the portrayal of Muslim Arabs in
American motion pictures and television programs by depicting Muslim Arabs as violent
religious radicals which unfairly affect policymaking, encourage hate crimes, and promote
divisiveness by exaggerating ethnic differences. Jack Shaheen (2003) presents an excellent
analysis of Arab portrayal in Hollywood movies based on his review of about 900 selected
movies. He shows how moviegoers are led to believe that all Arabs are Muslims and all
Muslims are Arabs. He asserts that the onslaught of the cinematic representation of Arabs
conditions, in his term “Hollywood’s reel Arabs – billionaires, bombers, and bellydancers”,
influences young Arabs and Arab-Americans to perceive themselves as bad people, since
young people learn from the cinema’s negative and repetitive stereotypes. In this way,
people do not know real Arabs. He argues that it is not saying an Arab should never be
portrayed as the villain, but rather that almost all Hollywood depictions of Arabs are bad
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
ones, which is a grave injustice. In hundreds of Hollywood movies, the western protagonists
call Arabs by slurs such as, ‘assholes’, ‘bastards’, ‘camel-dicks’, ‘pigs’, ‘jackals’, ‘rats’, ‘rag-
heads’, ‘scum-buckets’, ‘buzzards of the jungle’, and ‘son of whores’ (Shaheen, 2003: 11).
These repetitious and negative images of the reel Arabs literally sustain adverse portraits
across generations (Shaheen, 2003: 7).
Wagge (2002) examines the relationship between Hollywood fictional media and non-
fictional events based on the review of sixteen movies released in 1991 or later, which
contains the story of a terrorist event or a terrorist’s mission. She found that in some cases,
Hollywood movies closely resemble and even parallel terrorist events; in other cases, the
movies portray terrorists and terrorism as entities that have no basis in real-life events. In the
sample of 16 movies, the victims were Americans in 14 cases, Irish in one case, and British
in one case. This portrayal is inaccurate, because in reality, very few terrorist events actually
occur within the United States. In 1996, Europe was the location of more terrorist events
than any other region (121 out of 296), and in the same year, no terrorist events took place
within the boundaries of North America (Wagge, 2002). Therefore, she concludes that
Hollywood movies inaccurately portray both the ethnicities of the victims and locations of
On the contrary, there are others Orientalist scholars who assert that the Media portrayal of
Islam and Muslims is justifiable. One of them is Daniel Mandel, who argues that the
depiction of Muslims and Arabs is variable and not necessarily insensitive or untruthful;
since action films depicting Arab and Islamist terrorists reflect observed reality that accords
with the knowledge and experience of the viewing public and are not to be condemned on
that account (Mandel, 2001). He provided with seven observations to justify his claim that
Hollywood should not be blamed for portraying Muslims and Arabs as such. He also affirms
that to accept the criticisms against Hollywood movies is to demonize the U.S. government
and Jews while valorizing Islamism and terrorists (Mandel, 2001). However, in our view, his
ideas are shallow and unidimensional, which does not lead us to the reality. In Hollywood
depiction, Arabs’ humanity and culture is all erased; since more often than not Arab males
all ride camels and are out to abduct the blue-eyed blonde, while women in the Arab world
are seen as ‘bosomy belly dancers’ or ‘mute and submissive; and we never see Arab children
unless they are out to steal your wallet (Shaheen, 2000: 22-42). In reality, most Arabs have
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
never slept in a tent nor ridden a camel nor owned an oil well, and most Arabs are family
people (Shaheen, 2000: 22-42).
The selective representation of events and news in globalized media is clearly linked to the
US foreign policy in the pre-and –post-9/11era. Starting from the coverage of Gulf War in
the global (particularly American) media, the question of objectivity in journalistic report
reemerged in the press. There was general problem of war propaganda, media coverage as
‘cover-up’, and the orchestration of the news by the Pentagon (van der Veer, 2004: 9-21). It
was reflected in the spreading of disinformation or white lies, such as the famous story that
Iraqi soldiers have killed Kuwaiti incubator babies by stealing the incubators and bringing
them as war booty to Baghdad (van der Veer, 2004: 9-21). This was possible because of the
domination of mediascape by the West and thus the lack of challenges from Arab media (van
der Veer, 2004: 9-21). As one author noted, the Gulf War was local in terms of its battlefield,
but was a global war in terms of its representation and its textual and visual satellite
communication and perception among masses around the world (Virillio, quoted in van der
Veer, 2004: 9-21).
In any case, following 9/11 attack, words like ‘terror’ and ‘terrorism’ again started becoming
a linguistic staple in US broadcast media, particularly television (Munshi, 2004: 46-60).
Based on her account of being in the US just before the 9/11 incidence, Munshi (2004: 46-
60) notes that the war in Afghanistan was reported on US television very differently than
other television networks around the world. She mentions that in the US, media presented
‘grainy, green images’ of ‘precision’ air strikes with ‘little collateral damage’. While other
global media networks illustrated pictures of large parts of Afghanistan being bombed and
reduced to rubble, the civilian casualties caused by US bombing, the suffering of the Afghan
people with the chilly winter weather of 2001, and the United Nations help with food and
medicines being slow to reach them (Munshi, 2004: 46-60). In short, the media coverage was
once again ‘covered-up’ by the US media. The incident of 9/11 has strengthened the binary
concept of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Here the concept ‘we’ refers to the democratic, civilized world,
whereas ‘they’ indicates the uncivilized, terrorist, and Muslims in general. It is reflected in
the United States’ policy that ‘either you are with us or against us’. The world has nothing to
choose but to support the US or oppose it about the decision on war on Iraq. Thus, it is the
concern of the US of its superiority over others who do not support pre-emptive attack on
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
Iraq to destroy the weapons of mass destruction, which in reality does not exist. As
mentioned above, the war has resulted in the massacre of innocent civilians, including
women and children, in the name of the US-defined concept of justice and democracy.
Another point to note is the media extension of terrorism to all Muslims on earth. Taking few
scarred terrorist incidences committed by Muslim-named individuals, and appointing Osama
bin Laden as the representative of Muslims, the media has put a serious question mark on its
objective nature. In reality, majority of the world’s Muslims and Arabs are peace-loving
people, and denounce terrorism violence in all form. It should be emphasized here that
Osama bin Laden is not the representative of 1.3 billion Muslims around the world. There is
another failure of media in distinguishing the real teachings of Islam and the behavior of
people who are supposed to obey its teachings. At present there has been a huge difference
between Muslims’ behavior and Islamic principles. Many Muslims simply do not follow the
real teachings of Islam, but rather deviates from it, although they may have Muslim names.
The blame should not be on Islam as a religion, but rather the people who fail to follow the
principles of Islam correctly in their life.
Conte (2001) asserts that the British media have used value-loaded and inaccurate language,
portraying Osama Bin Laden as a ‘Muslim fanatic’ and Islam as a dangerous religion rooted
in violence and irrationality. The use of emotive language linked to racial and religious
identifiers has been prevalent in the media; for example, Osama Bin Laden and his followers
have been described at various times as ‘Muslim Fundamentalists’, ‘Muslim Extremists’,
‘Muslim Terrorists’ and ‘Muslim Fanatics’. Conte (2001) suggests that the media should
drop the word ‘Muslim’ in conjunction with any of these terms or at least explain that Bin
Laden’s beliefs fall well outside the scope of Islam. He argues that the Irish Republican
Army is not called Catholic terrorists; the Ulster Freedom Fighters are not called Protestant
terrorists; America’s White Aryan Resistance is not Christian terrorists; South Africa’s AWB
were not called Calvinist terrorists; and Uganda’s Movement for the Restoration of the Ten
Commandments was described as a cult by the media after it massacred 780 of its followers,
though its name alone points at Jewish influences. Conte (2001) goes on to argue that we
interpret Bin Laden’s distorted imaginings as ‘true Islam’ whereas other religious cults with
charismatic leaders are regarded as beyond the scope of Judaism and Christianity; and yet
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
American TV evangelists are derided as fraudsters but Bin Laden is regarded as a true
representative of Islam.
For political interests of the United States, a group of Middle East/terrorism ‘experts’ have
made careers out of demonizing Islam and Arabs for America, whose ‘expertise’ was simply
formulation of the thesis that the Muslim and Arab world is waging a ‘jihad’ against the
West (Akram, 2002). Mahathir Mohamad (2002: 3) notes that terrorism by others, by ethnic
Europeans, by intolerant Christians and Jews, by Buddhists are never linked to their
religions; because there are no Christian terrorists or Jewish terrorists or Buddhist terrorists
or Orthodox Christian terrorists. Regarding the negative labeling Mahathir Mohamad (2002:
3) argues, “Hindu attacked Muslims in the name of Hinduism (in Gujarat and elsewhere in
India) but they are not called Hindu terrorists. Aum Shinrikyo, a Buddhist sect in Japan
poisoned people with gas but is not called Buddhist terrorists. The Catholics and Protestants
in Northern Ireland terrorized each other but are not called Christian terrorists. But if
misguided Muslims attack non-Muslims or other Muslims they are labeled Muslim
terrorists.” Edward Said (2000) has pointed out:
Never mind that most Islamic countries today are too poverty-stricken, tyrannical and
hopelessly inept militarily as well as scientifically to be much of a threat to anyone
except their own citizens; and never mind that the most powerful of them – like
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan – are totally within the U.S. orbit. What
matters to ‘experts’ like (Judith) Miller, Samuel Huntington, Martin Kramer, Bernard
Lewis, Daniel Pipes, Steven Emerson and Barry Rubin, plus a whole battery of
Israeli academics, is to make sure that the ‘threat’ is kept before our eyes, the better
to excoriate Islam for terror, despotism and violence, while assuring themselves
profitable consultancies, frequent TV appearances and book contracts. The Islamic
threat is made to seem disproportionately fearsome, lending support to the thesis that
there is a worldwide conspiracy behind every explosion.
The media report of the bombing of the Federal Government Building in Oklahoma
City in 1995 is a clear example of how media can be prejudiced. The media immediately
announced that Muslims are the perpetrators of this action, since it was the preconceived
idea that the terrorists who placed the bombs must be Muslims. For example, CBS
newswoman Connie Chung declared, “US government sources told CBS News that it (the
bombing) has Middle East terrorism written all over it” (Allen, 1995: 20-24). However, later
it was found that the perpetrator was two non-Muslim Americans (named Timothy McVeigh
and Terry Nichols), and Muslims were judged by the media as being “guilty until proven
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
innocent” (Yousif, 2002: 119). In this way, the media practices dualism instead of being
objective to the situation.
“24” and representation of Muslims
The popular television series “24”, broadcast in the Fox Network in the US, is analyzed here
to illustrate the media representation of ‘Others’ — in this case the Muslims and Arabs.
Directed by Jon Cassar, and produced by Joel Surnow, Howard Gordon, and Robert
Cochran, “24” takes place in ‘real time’ (including advertisement time). This Emmy Award
wining series portrays the story of a day (24 hours) in which terrorists plan to attack (often
with nuclear bombs and bio-weapons) on the United States, and the attempt made by a
fictional Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) based in Los Angeles to stop the attack. In each
season, the lead CTU agent Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland) attempts to protect the
nation from terrorist threats, and tries to unravel the conspiracy of the terrorists, often
resorting to torture as a method of interrogation. In each season, either the president of the
United States or/and the innocent civilians is the target of the terrorist attack. However,
Bauer usually violates the direct order from CTU in the process of unraveling the plan of the
Jack Bauer rings his cell phone
Bauer: Did you tell anyone at CTU where we are supposed to meet him?
O’Brian: No! What are you doing Jack? Driscoll just announce you operating outside her
Bauer: We don’t have a choice. She [Driscoll, CTU director] is not handling this the right
O’Brian: What if you are wrong?
Bauer: I’m not. This is the best chance to find Secretary Heller.
O’Brian: Jack if anything happens to Andrew…
Bauer: Chloe, I’m doing the best I can, but right now we need to find these terrorists.
O’Brian: So why the hell are you calling me?
Bauer: Our hostage headed to the canyons, I’m gonna need satellite surveillance without
being tracked by anyone.
[“24”, season 4, 9:00 am to 10:00 am]
“24” first aired on November 6, 2001, about two months after the September 11 attack by the
terrorists. In the show, the world is observed through the eyes of Jack Bauer, with the help of
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
other CTU agents, government officials, and terrorists associated with the plot. This real-
time nature is highlighted by an on-screen digital clock appearing before and after
commercial breaks, with a discrete beeping noise for each second. Each one hour episode
(24 in total for a season) ends with a climax in the narrative of the story. “24” frequently
uses split-screen action to follow multiple plots, phone conversations, and shots leading into
and out of commercial breaks. Currently, the series is in its seventh season (as of April 19,
In season one, which depicts the day of the California presidential primary, the narrative
revolves around the assassination plot of Senator David Palmer. Jack Bauer becomes
professionally as well as personally involved when his wife Teri and daughter Kim are
kidnapped by the people behind the assassination. At one point, Bauer is forced by the
terrorists to assassinate Senator Palmer, but managed to protect him. This season shows the
involvement of Senator Palmer and Bauer in killing of Victor Drazen (who was working for
former president Slobodan Milosevic) in Kosovo two years earlier.
In this paper, “24” season four is analyzed critically. The season four was premiered on
January 9, 2005 on Fox, and ended on May 23, 2005. Unlike previous seasons, which
focused on a singular threat, multiple enemies, and conspiracies, this season is based around
one main enemy: a terrorist named Habib Marwan who controls a chain of Middle Eastern
terrorist cells that launch a series of nuclear attacks on the United States. The story begins
with the terrorist attack and assassination of Secretary of Defense James Heller and his
daughter Audrey Raines. The terrorists manage to kidnap Secretary Heller, and plan to
broadcast of the execution of the Secretary of Defense. In the meantime, the group manages
to bomb a commuter train which allows the theft of a device known as the ‘Dobsen-type
Override’ which could be used to take control of United States nuclear power plants.
Afterwards, a young computer hacker named Andrew Paige who discovers a secret
transmission code on the internet which as being used by the terrorists to melt-down the
nuclear power plant of the US. Later, the terrorists kidnap him. The terrorist who was
carrying Paige on the car engaged in the following dialogue:
Omar [terrorist] driving a car, and Paige is handcalfed at the back seat.
Omar: I’m gonna pull over; so that we are gonna talk. Ok?
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
Paige: [nods his head with fear]
Omar: Good. There’s something’s I need to know. Today is not about me… or you. It’s
about something’s bigger. What I need to know with certainty is that whatever you saw on
the Internet will not interfere with what have planned. [his face is filled with rage and
Later Omar and his men torture Paige for telling CTU about the secret codes.
[“24”, season 4, 9:00 am to 10:00 am]
At the same time, the Iranian Araz family is shown to be responsible for helping the
terrorists accomplish the mission. Behrooz, the son of Dina Araz, discovers that his mother is
willing to kill his girlfriend Debbie ensure that the secret mission is successful. However,
Jack Bauer uses Dina to get to Marwan. When they reach Marwan’s place, Marwran kills
Dina Araz: We weren’t followed, I was careful.
Marwan: You are a good liar Dina.
Dina Araz: What?
Marwan: Fayed martyred himself. The men who are following you are dead.
Dina Araz: What men?
Marwan: Enough for the lies. [pointing gun at Dina]
Dina Araz: [crying voice] Marwan, please believe me. I did not betray you.
Marwan: [pointing gun at Dina’s head] Prove it to me. Kill him [Jack Bauer]
Dina Araz: [tries to shoot Jack Bauer, but can’t, and then rather points the gun to Marwan]
Marwan: Just what I thought. [and then shoots her on the head]
[“24”, season 4, 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm]
The main antagonist, Habib Marwan, who is the mastermind behind the terrorist attacks of
season four, has maintained and funded a number of terrorist sub-cells in nearly five years,
primarily in Los Angeles. Marwan is shown as a Middle-Eastern Muslim terrorist, similar to
Osama bin Laden. Marwan used his funds and position in a company named McLennan-
Forster to create sleeper cells and acquire technology needed to implement his plans. Besides
placing himself at the defense contractor, he puts several personnel in successful completion
of a nuclear attack on the US soil. Habib Marwan plans to attack a nuclear weapon on US
soil. He talks to one of his men over the phone:
Marwan: [on phone] Is the [nuclear] warhead in place?
The man: Yes, but I have a problem. I can’t jam their satellite.
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
Marwan: You assured me that you could handle it.
The man: The CTU must have just installed a new software. This wasn’t in place last week.
Marwan: We are gonna have to move our schedule forward [nuclear attack] by now.
The man: There won’t be many as casualties if people aren’t at work [this is happening
between 3 am and 4 am]
Marwan: If you can’t jam this satellite signal, they’ll find us. We can’t let that happen.
The man: I understand.
Marwan: I’m going to upload [on computer] a new location.
The man: Ok, go ahead.
Marwan: [types on computer a new coordinates for nuclear attack]
The man: Alright, we’ll reprogram the sequence for the unload [of nuclear warhead]
[“24”, season 4, 3:00 am to 4:00 am]
Through information gathered from Navi Araz at the beginning of the day, Marwan
and his terrorist cells have been planning for the day’s attacks for nearly 5 years. Each attack,
starting with the train bombing in Santa Clarita early in the day, is diversions for larger, more
devastating attacks against the United States. The train attack is a cover for the kidnapping of
James Heller and Audrey Raines. The kidnapping is cover for the nuclear power plant attack.
In a series of events, Secretary Heller and his daughter manage to escape from the terrorist
group’s cell controlled by Omar, a Middle-Eastern terrorist. Marwan manages to convince
Anderson to blow up the Air Force One.
Marwan: [on phone to Anderson]
Marwan: It’s time for you to go. Are you ready?
Anderson: Yes, of course.
Marwan: Proceed as planned. The president of the United States is on a tight schedule. We
can’t be late….
Marwan: [on phone] How long will it take?
Anderson: I don’t know yet.
Marwan: Resolve this now. It’s time to earn some money Mr. Amderson. The window of
opportunity closes within an hour.
Anderson: I understand. [both turns off the cell phones]
[“24”, season 4, 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm]
Anderson successfully steals a stealth fighter from an Air Force base in Southern
California, and in the process shoots down Air Force One, which crashes into the Mojave
Desert, almost killing President Keeler in the process and elevating the Vice-President
Charles Logan under the 25th Amendment. Later, Terrorists manage to steal the nuclear
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
football from the Air Force One crash site. At the end of the day, Bauer manages to stop the
terrorists from launching nuclear warhead by shooting down the missile.
Marwan has one of his cells hijack a train to acquire the Dobson Override, a device which
would bypass security codes and melt down each reactor while changing the kill codes. The
goal is to melt down 104 separate nuclear reactors in power plants around the country.
During the execution of this plan, Navi Araz contacts Marwan with help in finding his wife,
Dina, and son, who have betrayed the group. Marwan detests this distraction but had one of
his subordinates give Navi the requested personnel and resources needed to silence the two.
When CTU shuts down all but six of the reactors, Marwan poses as an IT technician, snicks
into IDS Data Systems, and tries to personally work the override into melting the remaining
cores. He is stopped by Jack Bauer and Curtis Manning however, when they arrive at the
office building and spot him, Marwan fires his gun to create a panic, and uses the resulting
chaos to escape. Marwan kills a field agent and puts on his gear to pose as the agent to
escape from the building.
When CTU has found another lead to Marwan, Joseph Fayed, Bauer decides to use a sting
operation to get his location by letting Dina Araz and Fayed take Bauer hostage and bring
him to Marwan. He catches onto the plan, however, and abducts Jack and Dina while Fayed
makes a martyr of himself. While captive at a nearby warehouse, Marwan, suspecting that
Dina is working with CTU, tests her loyalty by giving her an unloaded gun and telling her to
shoot Bauer. When she pulls the gun on Marwan, however, he has one of his men kill Dina
and restrain Bauer. Marwan, needing another distraction to sway CTU from his next planned
attack, calls Michelle Dessler. He offers CTU an exchange of Bauer for Behrooz Araz.
While being captured, Marwan tries to cut a deal with Bauer:
Marwan: I have a few simple questions. If you answer there is a chance you might survive
Bauer: [grins] You are wasting your time.
Marwan: You located me through a man named Joseph Fayed, who you would be interested
to know, has since martyred himself. He was the only link to me.
Bauer: Whatever you plan next today is going to fail. Just like everything else you tried
Marwan: Fail?! Almost 40 dead in the train crash, many more near the Saint Gabriel nuclear
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
Bauer: [laughts at Marwan] That wasn’t really a plan, was it? We managed to stop the other
103 power plants from melting down. That’s what America will remember that we stopped
Marwan: No, they’ll remember the image of Secretary of Defense Heller held hostage on
your own soil. And it will burn in their psyche. This country will forever be afraid to led
their leader’s be hated in public.
Bauer: For all the hatred that you have for this country, you don’t understand it very well.
Whatever you throw at us, I promise you, that will never happen.
[“24”, season 4, 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm]
With the wreckage of the plane included the nuclear football, a briefcase that contains all the
firing codes for the US nuclear warheads. Marwan gets to the football in time to take one of
the codes from the briefcase, but has to leave the Football behind, as he was being perused
by Bauer. After escaping and returning safely back to Los Angeles, Marwan goes in a back
room of The Hub nightclub. There, he records a tape to be leaked to the media in which he
explains the meaning of the day’s attacks, including the nuclear warhead attack that will
happen before the end of the day, to the American public:
People of America, you wake up today to a different world. One of your own nuclear
weapons has been used against you. It will be days and weeks before you can
measure the damage we have caused. But as you count your dead, remember why
this has happened to you. You have no concern for the causes of the people you
strike down or the nations you conquer. You follow your government, unquestioning,
toward your own slaughter. Today, you pay the price for that ignorance. ... Unless
you renounce your policies of imperialism and interventionist activities, this attack
will be followed by another... and another after that. [“24”, season 4, 1:00 am to 2:00
Marwan next places some calls to Robert Morrison in Iowa, where Sabir Ardakani and
another sub-cell secured the nuclear warhead tracked by Marwan’s stolen nuclear football
intelligence. Morrison and Ardakani successfully launch the warhead. He then met with his
helicopter pilot at the Global Centre parking lot, where he planned to escape LA with Mandy
and Gary, two of his mercenaries. Because Mandy gave up this location for a full
presidential pardon, Bauer and CTU agents engaged him in a running gunfight in the parking
structure. When faced with his own capture, he moved to martyr himself and avoid
interrogation concerning the target of his missile, which was threatening Los Angeles.
Marwan believed that American people should see their enemy and refused to have his face
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
covered when he made the video about the day’s attacks. At the end, when Jack Bauer finds
Marwan’s location and gets him, and points his gun at Marwan, he replies:
Marwan: You are too late.
Bauer: [shoots him]
Marwan: Kill me. I won’t stop the [nuclear] missile. …
Marwan: Agent Bauer, after this day, every elected official and citizen’s of America will
know that America cannot intervene in our [Arab] lives, in our countries, with impunity. You
saw it. Your president sees from one dimension Evil.
Bauer: Yes you see us.
Marwan: Yes, and vulnerable.
Bauer: [asking CTU agents] Take him back to CTU now.
Marwan: Doesn’t matter where you take me
Bauer: Yeah, we’ll see about that.
[“24”, season 4, 4:00 am to 5:00 am]
Habib Marwan is one of the three Muslim main antagonists in any season of “24”, along
with Syed Ali of Season 2 and Abu Fayed in Season 6. In season six, it is shown that United
States has been targeted coast-to-coast in a series of suicide bombings. A man named Abu
Fayed agrees to give the U.S. the location of Hamri Al Assad, the supposed terrorist
mastermind of these attacks, in exchange for CTU Agent Jack Bauer with whom he has a
personal grudge.
Fayed: I’ll keep the end of the deal, you keep mine. I’ve [Hamri al]Assad’s location. …
Fayed: CTU is about to kill the wrong man. Assad isn’t behind this attack. He’s come here to
stop them [attacks]. He’s come here to stop me.
Fayed’s man: We have to go.
Fayed: Not until we find Bauer.
Fayed’s man: We are not here to kill one American, we are here to kill thousands.
Fayed: But he knows the truth.
Fayed’s man: It doesn’t matter. By the time he’ll [Bauer] find out, it’ll be too late. Assad will
be dead and we’ll be free to finish what we started. Fayed, listen to me, if we don’t leave
now, we’ll jeopardize the mission. Yallah…
[“24”, season 6, 7:00 am to 8:00 am]
However, while under torture from Fayed, Bauer finds out that Assad is actually
trying to stop the attacks, and Fayed is the true mastermind. Jack manages to escape, and
saves Assad from being killed in an air strike. Jack and CTU, with Assad’s help, discover
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
Fayed’s true intention: to detonate nuclear bombs on U.S soil. President Palmer wants to use
the Middle-Eastern ambassador to request Assad for appearing on television to make
comments about Fayed’s plan. President Palmer says to his cabinet members:
President Palmer: The American Muslim community is our best line of defense against these
[“24”, season 6, 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm]
Taken together, there is a change in narratives in season six of “24”. Hamri Al Assad who
committed terrorist activities before, now comes to stop terrorism in the United States. Assad
is initially suspected of instigating the wave of suicide bombings that have plagued the
United States at the beginning of season six, but Bauer comes to trust that Assad has
renounced terrorism and works with him to track down the real terrorist, Abu Fayed. Assad
receives a Presidential pardon and agrees to make a televised statement with the President in
which he will make a plea to Muslims across the world to seek peace with the West.
However, before the telecast occurs, Assad spots a bomb in the Presidential podium and tries
to push the President away; the bomb detonates and kills Assad. At the end, the Russians and
the Chinese are found to be conspiring against the United States. One of the former Russian
General, named Gredenko, mediates the terrorist operation to destroy the relations between
Arabs and the West:
Gredenko: If we succed today, the Arabs and the West will destroy each other.
[“24”, season 6, 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm]
On the other hand, as the attacks continue to worsen, Karen Hayes, the Head of the
Department of Homeland Security, agrees with President Palmer’s Chief of Staff Tom
Lennox, proposing to create detention centers for anyone of Muslim descent. When asked by
Bill Buchanan, the CTU director, why Muslims must be placed in the detention centre,
Karen Hayes replies that, “precisely because they are Muslims”.
In season six too, Nadia Yassir is one of the Arab-Americans designated to be
victimized by racism and prejudice. Though a U.S. citizen who apparently has high level
security clearance, her Middle Eastern background subjects her to tenuous suspicion of being
a spy. Special controls are imposed on her alone in the CTU office because she is of Arab
descent. However, Nadia Yassir is not just a “good” Arab-American, but a top
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
counterterrorism agent dedicated to protecting the United States against terrorists (Yin,
Clearly, the season four of “24” portrays Arabs and Muslims as terrorists. However,
at the beginning of season five, after a January 2005 meeting with Council on American-
Islamic Relations (CAIR), Fox aired a commercial in which the show’s star, Kiefer
Sutherland, urged viewers to keep in mind that the show’s villains are not representative of
all Muslims, saying:
Hi. My name is Kiefer Sutherland. And I play counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer on
Fox’s “24”. I would like to take a moment to talk to you about something that I think
is very important. Now while terrorism is obviously one of the most critical
challenges facing our nation and the world, it is important to recognize that the
American Muslim community stands firmly beside their fellow Americans in
denouncing and resisting all forms of terrorism. So in watching “24”, please, bear
that in mind.
Together with this discretion, there is a change in the storyline in the following season five.
Although in season six, Arabs and Muslims are portrayed as terrorists as well as patriotic.
Beginning from 24: Redemption and season seven, the narrative portrays a terrorist in an
African country named Sangala. Therefore, it can be assumed that the pressure from the
Islamic Council has an effect on the misguided portrayal of Muslims and Arabs to shift
However, Tung Yin (2009) argues that with regard to the portrayal of Arabs and Arab-
Americans, “24” may not be as negatively biased as some critics complain it is. The
terrorists are not always Arabs; in fact, even in the seasons when the terrorists are Arabs,
there are usually other, non-Arab villains as well (Yin, 2009). Yin (2009: 295) asserts:
In short, the problem with the depiction of Arabs as terrorists in 24 lies less in that
Arabs have in fact been cast as the villains. Rather, the problem lies in the one-
dimensional nature of the Arab terrorists as nihilistic ciphers—they are essentially
dehumanized, which in turns makes the torture inflicted upon them by Bauer more
palatable than if they were seen as persons.
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
For all its narrative structures, “24” appears to be one of the major television serials to
portray Muslims and Arabs as terrorists. The series depicts Islamic terrorists as the villains
who launched a stolen nuclear missile in an attack on America. For all its fictional liberties,
“24” depicts the fight against Islamist extremism much as the Bush Administration has
defined it: as an all-consuming struggle for America’s survival that demands the toughest of
tactics by waging war against Muslims. It comes no coincidence as the show’s producer Joel
Surnow is an outspoken Republican, and even John McCain has done a cameo appearance in
the series. Furthermore, “24” appears just after the 9-11 attack, which further strengthens the
hatred against Muslims in America and other parts of the world.
I argue that there is a need to separate out the distinction that, though there are Arabs and
Muslims who are terrorists, and yet not every Muslim is a terrorist. Imposing the fact the
Muslims are terrorists lies the problematic. As a result, “24” has also come under fire from
various groups for its portrayal of Arabs as stereotypical crazy terrorists and Arab-Americans
as not altogether trustworthy and insufficiently patriotic. Arabs or Arab-Americans have
been the show’s primary villains in three of its seven seasons.
How well does “24” fare in terms of its portrayals of Arabs and Muslims? Seasons two, four,
and six do involve Middle Eastern terrorists intent on setting off nuclear devices in Los
Angeles—Syed Ali (season two), Habib Marwan and the Araz family (season four), and Abu
Fayed (season six)—thus appearing to fit the common stereotype of portraying Arabs or
Muslims as the villains (Yin, 2009). Furthermore, the terrorists are shown torturing innocent
men and women [“24”, season 2, 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm], poisoning a teenage girl to death,
where Dina Araz gives her son’s girlfriend poisoned tea after discovering that the girl had
followed the son to the secret location where Marwan’s men were holding the Secretary of
Defense [“24”, season 4, 10:00 am to 11:00 am], and torturing Bauer and a CTU computer
technician [“24”, season 6, 6:00 am to 7:00 am, and 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm].
Of course, ruminations on “24” would be just an entertaining diversion if it were not for the
fact that the show has slowly seeped into the national debate on antiterrorism tactics (Yin,
2009). Former Office of Legal Counsel attorney John Yoo referenced “24” in his recent book
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
defending the Bush Administration’s interrogation policies (Yoo, 2006). During a debate
among Republican presidential candidates in 2007, Republican Tom Tancredo answered a
hypothetical question about the appropriate response to a captured would-be suicide bomber
with, “I’m looking for Jack Bauer at that point, let me tell you” (Page, 2007: 149). Homeland
Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has said that “24” “frankly, …reflects real life” in
presenting scenarios with “no clear magic bullet to solve the problem” (Chertoff, 2007: 160),
and former CIA Director James Woolsey has said that “24” is “quite realistic” about the
threats that it depicts (Woolsey, 2007).
Another aspect of “24”, the use of torture during interrogation, is widely debated, although
beyond the scope of this paper. Scholars argue that Jack Bauer is a criminal (Yin, 2009).
Bauer, the counterterrorism agent, is also viewed as an archetype of the Bush years. Bauer
invariably chooses to some rather extreme methods of interrogation, insisting that torture is a
necessary tool to combat terror. With unnerving efficiency, suspects are beaten, suffocated,
electrocuted, drugged, assaulted with knives, or more exotically abused; almost without fail,
these suspects disclose critical secrets.
However, “24” is unlike other television series, such as Little Mosque on the Prairie or
Aliens in America. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s new situation comedy series,
Little Mosque on the Prairie” shows a small group of Muslims in a prairie town in
Saskatchewan where the group was trying to establish a mosque in the parish hall of a
church. A passer-by, seeing the group praying, rushes to call a “terrorist hot line” to report
Muslims praying “just like on CNN,” which touches off a local firestorm. Hoping to avoid
making a swirl in the town, the group hires a Canadian-born clean-shaven-jeans-wearing
imam from Toronto who quits his father’s law firm to take the job — career suicide. On the
way, he is detained in the airport after being overheard on his cellphone saying, “If Dad
thinks that’s suicide, so be it,” adding, “This is Allah’s plan for me.” Overall, the series
portrays life of a Prairie Muslim community by using comedy.
Therefore, it can be argued that the US media depicts Islam and Muslims negatively by
linking them with terrorism and violence based on a few accounts of individuals who
commit suicide bombings in the name of Islam. Another obvious evidence of ignorance is
that many movies and television shows, and undoubtedly many Americans, make the
Nurullah, A. S. (2010). Portrayal of Muslims in the media: “24” and the ‘Othering’ process. International
Journal of Human Sciences [Online]. 7:1. Available:
mistake of equating Arabs with Muslims (Goodstein, 1998). In fact, only about 12 percent of
the world’s Muslims are Arabs, and far more Muslims live in Malaysia, Indonesia and India
than in the Middle East; while contrarily many Arabs, particularly Palestinians, Lebanese
and Egyptians, are Christians (Goodstein, 1998). The portrayal of Muslims can be expressed
in the following equation by the media:
Muslims = Arabs = fundamentalists = terrorists = Muslims
The media is linked to religion in the way that it portrays the expression of religion to its
devoted adherents as well as to the people ‘out there’. It also enhances the understandings of
a particular religion through meaningful manifestation of it. As such, the media are the
channels through which the principles and message of religion gets perceived to the public.
In this process, the media can play two roles in the representation of religion: to positively
portray it or depict it negatively to the masses. Hence, it depends on the gatekeepers or
editors who select the contents to be broadcasted in the media. The ideologies and
worldviews of those gatekeepers strongly affect the choice of news and events. As
mentioned earlier, acts of terrorism committed by individuals of other faith are not linked to
their religious identity. According to the media depiction, terrorism in modern times has
become the sole business of Muslims. This wholesome attribution of Muslims as terrorists
has resulted in Islamophobia, racial hatred, massacre, and violence. Therefore, John L.
Esposito (1992: 261) asserts,
Today new forms of orientalism flourish in the hands of those who equate
revivalism, fundamentalism, or Islamic movements solely with radical
revolutionaries and focus on a radicalized minority rather than the vast majority of
Islamically committed Muslims who belong to the moderate mainstream of society
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communities in the United States. In J. Tirman (Ed.), The maze of fear: Security and
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... In another study, Nurullah argues that the phenomenon of 'Othering' i.e. the process of 'us' versus 'them' in the media portrayal of Islam and Muslims is predominantly evident. The media emphasize and highlight the differing traits and attributes like race, ethnicity and religion to create dichotomy of 'us' versus 'them' (Nurullah, 2010). ...
... So, as it was confirmed by previous studies (Ashcroft, Griffiths, & Tiffin, 2013;Creutz-Kämppi, 2008;d'Haenens & Bink, 2007;Elund, 2007;Nurullah, 2010;Ottosen, 1995;Poole, 2016Tsagarousianou, 2016) the study at hand provides an overt evidence of the 'othering' discourse regarding Islam and Muslims in the Australian press during the time period under study. ...
Social media and its usage are one of the essential activities of this century. Many social media sites are there in the world, and they have millions of users. This research aims to explore the effects of social media usage on parents and children interpersonal relationships. Relationships among parents and children are an essential factor in having excellent bonding of family. The total numbers of respondents were 384, who were selected according to Morgan and Krejcie’sformula. Islamabad was the city where the survey was conducted. Probability sampling was used for this study. The study was based on the theory of Time displacement by Robert Putnam (1970). He argued that when we give more time to our virtual world, our time to our real-world will be less. Two hundred children and 184 parents were the respondents of this study. Results showed that most of the users are heavy users; they use social media more than 4 hours on a daily basis. The outcome revealed that Facebook is much admired social media site among users. According to results, 65% of respondents elaborated that social media unite families, and the rest of 35% said that they are against this statement. Furthermore, 73% of the total population responded that social media decreased face-to-face interaction between parents and children. On the other hand, 14% were neutral, and 11% were against this statement. According to results of hypothesis it has been found that both parents and children support positive aspects of social media usage. This study also finds out that heavy social media usage causes many troubles like sleeplessness, interest in the virtual world, and face-to-face interaction between children and parents. This study recommends the less usage of the virtual world and social sites to make strong relations in real life.
... In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, Manipur films have been churning out in different parts of the globe. With the hypothesis that Muslims are portrayed in a negative way, Nurullah (2010) analyzes the television serial "24" to highlight how Muslims and Islam are depicted in the famous Fox Network series using Edward Said's "Orientalism Theory." The author took "Mulism and Arab" as "Other" in his critical analysis. ...
Cinema, since its inception, has played a pivotal role in representing culture, people, and society. Moreover, the medium has addressed various social issues through its narratives and brought social change. From Edward Said's Orientalism Theory to Laura Mulvey's Male Gaze Theory to Roland Barthes' Semiotics, many researchers have implemented numerous theories to mine various forms of representation in the film and other mediums of media. For this study, the Oscar-winning film, Parasite, has been selected for the analysis with the aim of understanding the social issues the director has embedded in various scenes, shots, and sequences of the film. To achieve the aim, the researchers have applied the Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough, 1995) to analyze how social issues are portrayed in the film. In addition, the study has taken the Representation Theory (Hall, 1996) as a theoretical guide. The filmmaker, through the film text, portrayed myriad social issues, the study reveals. This analysis discloses many issues a large number of low-income families have been facing every day. Moreover, the study discovered the modus-operandi of low-income families to survive in the modern world, highlighting the massive gap between the poor and the rich.
... For instance, African Americans have consistently been portrayed as 'criminals ', 'lazy', 'violent', and 'troublemakers' (Staples, 2011) but Asian Americans are viewed as the perpetual foreigners who are 'exotic', 'non-American' and 'unassimilable foreigners' (Zhang, 2010). Post 9/11, terms like 'Muslim extremists', 'Islamic terrorism' and 'Islamic fanaticism' emerged as the most frequent descriptions of Muslims (Nurullah, 2010). ...
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We conducted a randomized controlled experiment to investigate the role of descriptive captions (positive and negative valence) and ideological beliefs (Right Wing Authoritarianism-RWA and Social Dominance Orientation-SDO) on viewers' emotional response towards 'people of color' in ambiguous photographs. We manipulated the caption conditions to suggest that the person's actions were either 'positive' or 'negative' while keeping the visual stimuli consistent. Participants included 211 American and 201 Pakistani undergraduates who were randomly assigned to one of the four experimental conditions: (1) a positive caption, (2) a negative caption, (3) no caption, or (4) both positive and negative captions. For each experimental condition, the same images were presented and only the caption condition varied. Outcomes were recorded as emotional ratings towards the person in the photograph. We found a significant effect of caption manipulation even after a one-off exposure. Post hoc comparisons indicated that caption manipulation was caused primarily by the positive and negative caption groups. Positively worded captions predicted more favorable ratings whereas negatively worded ones accounted for less favorable ratings towards the pictured individual. We also found that the No Caption and Both Captions groups resulted in similar 6/22/22, 10:01 AM Descriptive captions and ideological beliefs as predictors of emotional response towards people in ambiguous photos-Media Psychology Rev…… 2/17 Citation Authors W ratings. Dr. Anita A. Azeem, MS/Mphil Clinical Psychology, PhD Psychology was born and raised as a religious minority in Pakistan. She was highly intrigued by the understanding of social identity and group processes and therefore studied these related phenomena for her PhD. She is also interested in childhood sociodevelopmetal issues. Dr. John A. (Jackie) Hunter, BSc DPhil(Ulster) is an Associate Professor and has taught social psychology at the University of Otago since 1994. He continues to research issues relevant to social psychology. He has authored over 40 papers and supervised over 40 PhD, masters, and honors students. Prof. Ted Ruffman, BA(York Can) MEd PhD(Tor) examines social understanding in infants, children, and in young and older adults. He has authored over 60 articles on these topics. He has 20 years of university lecturing experience, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.
... Moreover, Nurullah (2010) claimed that the US news media tend to depict Islam and Muslims negatively by associating them with militancy and terrorism for the actions of a few Muslims who commit violence in the name of religion. In this regard, Shadid and van Koningsveld (2002) argued that the western media tend to portray a negative image of Islam through the choice and construction of news content. ...
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Islam is often portrayed negatively through manipulation of news content. Thus, a growing number of scholars have expressed concern over how Islam-related news is constructed. Therefore, this study aims to address the question of what influences Islam-related news content from the media experts' perspectives. The study employed a qualitative approach in which interviews were used as a data-gathering instrument. The participants consist of experts in the field of media and communication. Altogether, six experts were selected based on their intellectual ability and willingness to respond to the interview questions. The interview data were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis. The findings revealed that journalists' prejudices, inadequate training, as well as media ownership are critical in the process of Islam-related news formation. These influences represent a serious problem that constitutes an obstacle to a good reporting of religion. It was envisaged that this study would be useful to journalists, media owners, governments, media policymakers, and other responsible bodies particularly in the process of news gathering, production, and dissemination. This study could also advance our understanding of the complex factors shaping Islam-related news content.
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This article deals with the dominant themes that emerged in the Bollywood Cinema about religious minority groups Like Muslims, Christian, and Sikhs. The research utilized the structure provided by the Clerk and Brown 2006 in terms of thematic Analysis. Thirty movies were selected through purposive and random sampling. Ten movies were represented by each minority Group. The dominant themes found with regard to the Muslim community in Bollywood movies were Islamic terrorism, Islamophobia, economic, education backwardness, and Muslim identity, Sikh dominant themes were found as Comedian, Sikh Identity, Brave, and truthful. Similarly, Christian themes were Westernized, Christian Identity, erotic, and Prostitute. Based on Historic and the critical thematic analysis as well as theoretical grounds of Hall’s representation, Said's Concept of Orientalism, and Noam Chomsky’s propaganda model concept, the research clearly indicated that the Bollywood Cinema blurred the identity of religious minority groups and decorated them as others, for example, it distorts the religious concepts, promotes Islam phobia and connecting Islam with the terrorism, in terms to Muslims treated as brutal, extremist, shelter provider, the danger for the state, etc and Sikh as a painted comedian, drinkers and their culture in merged with the Hindus rituals as well as Christian minority female painted erotic object, westernized and Hypersexual. The research clarifies that the Bollywood cinema articulates the content of the movies under the umbrella of the elite political mindset.
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The current paper, that investigates representing Muslims in Western TV talk shows (particularly CNN) from 2014-2018, is a real challenge to tackle these controversial issues at the time of associating Muslims with most dangerous crimes all over the world. In the present study, van Leeuwen's framework of the representation of social actors (2008), ideological square of van Dijk (2004) and discursive strategies of Wodak (2009), powerful tools of enquiry within CDA, are adopted and adapted to analyzing data gleaned from CNN talk shows; Fareed Zakaria's GPS episode why they hate us. It has found that Muslims who are negatively associated with crimes around the world are the most killed and injured group in such terror attacks that are unjustably associated with them because of their religion, Islam, and at the same time because of their inferiority.
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This paper looks at how the British media addressed the issue of migration in Europe between 2015 and 2018, four years when the topic was high on news and political agendas, due to the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ and the UK’s debate on Britain’s relationship with the European Union and free movement of people. Based on a sample of 400 articles from two national newspapers, The Guardian and The Times, the paper compares the content and discourse between the left-wing and right-wing press. The paper argues that media representations turn refugees into ‘migrants’ and portray them as either a threat to the national economy and security or as passive victims of distant circumstances. The study historicizes these media narratives and reveals that the discourse they employ advances the racialised mix of knowledge and historical amnesia and reproduces the age-old hierarchies of the colonial system which divided humans into superior and inferior species. Migrant voice is largely missing from the coverage. History, that could explain the causes of ‘migration’, the distant conflicts and Britain’s role in them, is also nowhere to be found. The paper considers the exclusion of history and migrant voices from stories told to the British audience and reflects on their domestic and international implications.
This article proposes the field perspective as an approach to explain organizational activities in sustainability transitions. It applies this framework to analyze environmental activities of religious organizations in Germany and Switzerland. Religious organizations can become important actors in transitions by drawing on their extensive membership, material resources, and public visibility. However, to date, research is dearth about the conditions that facilitate transition activities of religious organizations. The empirical insights of this study show differences in the activities (a) between religious incumbents and challengers and (b) between the supra-local and local scale. The field perspective allows for explaining these differences as outcomes of the organizations’ power positions and diverging institutional logics on the supra-local and local scale. Rather than religious beliefs, the interplay of power and scale-specific logics shapes activities of religious organizations.
During the last two decades, the world witnessed a meteoric rise in the role played by the media in influencing human perceptions of other people, places, and things. This tremendous influence has had both beneficial and detrimental consequences for individuals and communities across the globe. Muslims have experienced firsthand the harmful impact of the media and its ability to negatively influence public opinion. How has such a state of affairs come about? Why is Islam so misunderstood in the global media, and more importantly, how can this situation be remedied? This paper will examine some of the reasons for the media’s misunderstanding of Islam, first in the Western world and second in the Muslim world. Subsequently, it will propose various strategies for enhancing the Western and Muslim media’s understanding of Islam.
Terrorism now dominates the headlines across the world-from New York to Kabul. Framing Terrorism argues that the headlines matter as much as the act, in political terms. Widely publicized terrorist incidents leave an imprint upon public opinion, muzzle the "watchdog" role of journalists and promote a general one-of-us consensus supporting security forces.
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Looking at the everyday interaction of religion and media in our cultural lives, Hoover's new book is a fascinating assessment of the state of modern religion. Recent years have produced a marked turn away from institutionalized religions towards more autonomous, individual forms of the search for spiritual meaning. Film, television, the music industry and the internet are central to this process, cutting through the monolithic assertions of world religions and giving access to more diverse and fragmented ideals. While the sheer volume and variety of information travelling through global media changes modes of religious thought and commitment, the human desire for spirituality also invigorates popular culture itself, recreating commodities - film blockbusters, world sport and popular music - as contexts for religious meanings. Drawing on research into household media consumption, Hoover charts the way in which media and religion intermingle and collide in the cultural experience of media audiences. Religion in the Media Age is essential reading for everyone interested in how today mass media relates to contemporary religious and spiritual life.
Live images on big screen and television go beyond a thousand words in perpetuating stereotypes and clichés. This article surveys more than a century of Hollywood's projection of negative images of the Arabs and Muslims. Based on the study of more than 900 films, it shows how moviegoers are led to believe that all Arabs are Muslims and all Muslims are Arabs. The moviemakers' distorted lenses have shown Arabs as heartless, brutal, uncivilized, religious fanatics through common depictions of Arabs kidnapping or raping a fair maiden; expressing hatred against the Jews and Christians; and demonstrating a love for wealth and power. The article compares the stereotype of the hook-nosed Arab with a similar depiction of Jews in Nazi propaganda materials. Only five percent of Arab film roles depict normal, human characters.
John Yoo, the key legal architect of the Bush administration’s response to 9/11, delivers a fascinating insider account of the War on Terror. While America reeled from the cataclysmic events of September 11, 2001, Yoo and a skeletal staff of the Office of Legal Counsel found themselves on the phone with the White House. In a series of memos, Yoo offered his legal opinions on the president’s authority to respond, and in the process had an almost unmatched impact on America's fight against terrorism. His analysis led to many of the Bush administration’s most controversial policies, including detention at Guantanamo Bay, coercive interrogation, military trials for terrorists, preemptive attacks, and the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program. In fascinating detail, Yoo takes us inside the corridors of power and examines specific cases, from John Walker Lindh and Jose Padilla to an American al-Qaeda leader assassinated by a CIA pilotless drone in the deserts of Yemen. In a midterm election year, when the controversies over the president’s handling of the War on Terror are sure to wage more forcefully than ever before, John Yoo’s War by Other Means is set to become one of the fall’s most talked about books.