An essay written by Wheaton junior Taylor Wilson ’16 for her Mediating Islam class was recently published on the website freearabs.com.
The essay, titled “America’s Unfounded Islamophobia,” discusses the role popular media plays in “reinforcing harmful stereotypes and broad generalizations” of Muslim people and culture. In it, Wilson mentions an article she read on a Christian news site about a middle school father who removed his son from school after discovering the boy was learning about Islam in class.
Wilson argues that learning about various cultures and religions in school actually benefits children and helps to counteract the negative way these cultures are portrayed in the media.
“The broad generalizations used by newscasters, headlines and other outlets cause one radical Muslim or organization to represent over 1.6 billion people across different nations and cultures, sects and beliefs,” Wilson writes. “We have never used the KKK to represent Christians or Americans, but somehow we do the same for a marginalized population that we simply do not know much about?”
She warns against engaging in this type of “polarizing discourse” about Islam.
“I ask that as intellectuals and active media consumers, we be mindful of the skewed messages we receive and challenge them to create an informed consensus of our own as opposed to a preconceived notion skewed by the countless American media outputs and their hidden agendas,” she writes.
Wilson is an anthropology major with a concentration in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies and a minor in peace and social justice. She will be studying abroad in Jordan during spring semester.
This fall, Mona Damluji, the Mellon Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow in Art and Art History, encouraged students in her Mediating Islam class to submit editorials written for class to websites and newspapers they read. At least two of her other students have submitted essays to be included in the Wheaton Words project this spring.
“I've gotten a lot of feedback from different people who both agree and disagree with my point and have been able to have some interesting conversation about the topic,” Wilson said of her essay. “Regardless of individual opinions, I am glad I've sparked some conversation about something I believe is very important to discuss.”