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The Monsters Among Us: Exploring Muslim Stereotypes in Media

Press Release Date 
Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Provocative lecture series to include internationally acclaimed scholar, author Reza Aslan; renowned Bay Area playwright, lawyer Wajahat Ali
San Jose, Silicon Valey, CA, Tuesday November 8 Even before the events of 9/11, Muslims were the stuff of caricature and vilification. The “three B syndrome,” where Muslims – portrayed, erroneously as only Arabs – in TV and movies are depicted as bombers, belly dancers, or billionaires, spread unchecked. A July 1997 article in the Los Angeles Times rounded up the necessary elements to deliver the ultimate Muslim-bashing movie, offering thus: “the villains must all have beards,” “they must all wear keffiehs,” “they must all have names like Ali, Abdul or Mustapha” and “have them threaten to blow something up.”

After 9/11, media stereotypes became even more pervasive – with sometimes-tragic or demeaning results: This summer a 21-year-old student violently slashed a New York cab driver’s throat upon learning the man was Muslim. In Tennessee, two Muslim religious leaders were booted from a commercial airliner in Memphis and were told it was because the pilot refused to fly with them aboard. The issue isn’t particular to Americans, either: A 2007 study of the portrayal of Muslims and Islam in the British media revealed a torrent of negative stories was published the prior year. Research into one week's news coverage showed that 91 percent of articles in national newspapers about Muslims were negative.

On Sunday, November 13 at 2.p.m. at The Tech Museum, several of the foremost thinkers in the Muslim community will huddle to debate the challenging topic: “Stereotyping Muslims, Myths and the Media.” The wide-ranging exchange is expected to tackle a common belief that all Muslims – regardless of location – are the same, explain often misused terms – such as jihad, militant Islam and Islamic fanaticism – and study the varied reactions that result from fear and misunderstanding.

“Whatever is fearful, whatever is frightening, whatever is uncomfortable, is being tagged as Islam,” scholar and author Reza Aslan said. “It’s become a receptacle in which Americans are throwing their fears and anxieties about the economy, their fears about the changing political landscape, their fears about the changing racial landscape in this country.”

The panelists include:

Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, is the founder of, an online journal for news and entertainment about the Middle East and the world. Aslan has degrees in Religions from Santa Clara University, Harvard University, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, as well as a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities, and the Pacific Council on International Policy.

Wajahat Ali, is a local playwright, lawyer and humorist. Ali's play, "The Domestic Crusaders" is one of the first major plays about the American Muslim experience premiering at the Berkeley Repertory Theater to universal acclaim in 2005 and in New York on 9-11-09. Honored both as "An Influential Muslim American Artist" by the State Department and as a "Muslim Leader of Tomorrow," Ali also received the prestigious "Emerging Muslim American Artist" award. He is a frequent contributor to the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and other publications.

Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq are the co-creators of 30 Mosques in 30 Days, a Ramadan road trip adventure across the United States. Using Facebook and Twitter to fundraise over $18,000 for the project, the two have driven over 25,000 miles to every state with the mission of telling authentic stories about Muslims in America on their site, Their eye-opening journey explores what it means to be Muslim in America today, and serves as a powerful counter-narrative to the media's image of a monolithic Islam, receiving coverage on ABC News, CNN, BBC, TIME, PBS, NPR, Fox News, the Huffington Post and Aljazeera English.

Each interview, panel discussion, or lecture offers constructive dialogue on culture, religion, knowledge and beliefs, sparked by The Tech Museum's latest exhibition, Islamic Science Rediscovered.

For more information on the lecture series, click here.

Roqua Montez
Director of Public Relations

+1 (408) 795-6225