The Art of Stereotypes

July 6, 2018 Religion

Stereotypes are the generalization of a person or group of people” (Grobman). Stereotypes have been around for centuries. During the late 20th century, stereotypes about Muslims increased in Hollywood movies considerably. They revolved around Muslim men who are all bearded, cold-blooded and enjoy hijacking airplanes. As for women, it is believed that they are odalisques and slaves who have no voice and are fully controlled by men. A film made by Alaa Eldin El Dajani called “The art of jihad” discusses these stereotypes.

Dajani is a Muslim who probably didn’t like the Muslim stereotypes like any other Muslim, so he decided to make film to inform Westerns about Muslim people, their lives and their religion. The film involves three main characters; an artist “Sandow Birk”, a scriptwriter “Karman Pasha” and a poet “Mohja Kahf”, who all have one thing in common with Dajani which is raising awareness against Muslim stereotypes; each in his own way. I believe this film might be informative to all Hollywood movie makers and would correct the wrong ideas they perceive about Muslims because it uses sympathy and logic.

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Firstly, in “The art of jihad” (Dajani), Pasha a Muslim scriptwriter wrote a script of a show that presents what Islam is about. For example, stating some of their traditions and how not all of them are terrorists like some people might believe. A trailer of the show revealed that “the greatest jihad for Islam wasn’t fighting the unbelievers, but rather fighting evil and any bad thoughts that occurs to you” (Pasha). The part about the greatest jihad in the show was said by a Muslim FBI agent.

This explains that Muslims are not like what some movie producers think; bearded terrorists who like to bomb anyone who they dislike or have difference in opinion or religion with. Distorting the image of Muslims is depicted in movies such as “Death Before Dishonor” (1987) where Muslims are shown as terrorists bombing the American embassy and kidnapping American soldiers. Some people argue that Americans have made prisons such as Abou Gharib and Guantanamo Bay just to torture Muslims who are terrorists in their point of view.

There is an ironic contrast, where Americans who allege they are the good guys are the ones who use inhumane methods against Muslims, while some of the Muslims who also say they are the good guys are in fact terrorists. Dajani wanted to clarify his point of view that some Americans and some Muslims are actually terrorists for using violence by displaying pictures of people during the 9/11 bombing act in the beginning of the film and pictures of torturing in Abou Gharib at the end of the film.

Another example of stereotypes is when in some movies the African Americans are violent, criminals and gang members. In addition to this, a poet named Mohja expressed her perspective about Muslim women stereotype. “In western movies, the western guy comes to take the Muslim women and saves her from Islam under which women suffer because of the lack of democracy and freedom” (Kahf). It is believed by some western people that Muslim women don’t enjoy freedom and are controlled by their harsh and heartless husbands.

Mohja also stated that “she received letters from people saying that they’ve never seen Muslim women poets before” (Kahf), this might also be because of the stereotypes and the ideas some western people have in their minds about Muslim women. Mohja gave this example of herself to gain people’s sympathy. Even in mid 20th century, in movies like Arabian nights, women were seen as odalisques and slaves taking baths.

The women stereotypes are the same till now, however, men stereotypes have changed from being the heroes riding horses and being brave in battles, in early 20th century, to being the terrorists in movies such as “Death before dishonor” (1987) attacking Americans and any undesired people on their land. Dajani previewed both movie trailers to show that the stereotypes have changed to a worse one as Muslims are the villains now in modern movies but were the heroes in movies 60 years ago.

Dajani also filmed a happy American soldier wearing his uniform and standing beside Mohja to show that some Americans support her and do not like these stereotypes and refuse torturing Muslims as if all of them are terrorists. Furthermore, an artist named Sandow Birk translated Qur’an into English and painted pictures that describes the words written. He painted the paintings to show Americans how Qur’an resembled their everyday life. He hoped that “when Americans read the Qur’an they would not just see that it is similar to Muslims living in their neighborhood, but he hoped they would see how it strongly resembles their lives” (Birk).

Many Muslims should appreciate the painting of the Qur’an because his goal is to educate western people who don’t know about them. Birk wanted to convey the message that “Muslims aren’t much different than them and that their lives are similar and even though the religion might be different” (Birk). The film’s title doesn’t indicate what the film will talk about. Titling the film by “The art of jihad” makes you predict that it is talking about Muslim terrorists while it is talking about Muslim stereotypes and how some Westerns have certain beliefs about them.

The title rather could have been “The art of stereotypes” which implies that the film will discuss the issue of Muslim stereotypes. However, the background picture of the title expresses and matches what the film has to say clearly; a woman wearing veil and holding a rifle conveys a message that the film is going to address Muslim stereotypes. Finally, “stereotypes are sort of an image formed in anyone’s mind due to lack of information about someone or a group of people that allows us to fill in the blanks” (Grobman).

Dajani wanted to correct the view of how Americans see Muslims by making this film and raising their awareness as they are his main audience. Generally, the film was informative and might eliminate some of the stereotypes that are made in Hollywood movies. However, the film lacks some scenes that picture Muslim women or men to fill in the blanks which confuse some westerns. For example, it could have included a scene of normal unveiled Muslim women at home having their freedom and living their lives happily not as slaves.

In that way, the title could have been a less misleading one. Work cited “when Americans read the Qur’an they would not just see that it is similar to Muslims living in their neighborhood, but he hoped they would see how it strongly resembles their lives” (Birk). “Muslims aren’t much different than them; their lives are similar and even the religion is similar and originating from the Middle East” (Birk). “The art of jihad” (Dajani) “Stereotypes are the generalization of a person or group of people” (Grobman) http://remember. org/guide/History. oot. stereotypes. html “Stereotypes are sort of an image that one has due to lack of information about someone or a group of people that allows us to fill in the blanks” (Grobman). http://remember. org/guide/History. root. stereotypes. html “In western movies, the western guy comes to take the Muslim women and saves her from Islam under which women suffer because of the lack of democracy and freedom” (Kahf). “the greatest jihad for Islam wasn’t fighting the unbelievers, but rather fighting evil and any bad thoughts that occurs to you” (Pasha).

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