Skip to main content

Media don't get #MuslimRage

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
September 20, 2012 -- Updated 0240 GMT (1040 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Newsweek's cover story about Muslim rage turned into satire on Twitter
  • Dean Obeidallah: The media need to be less sensational in their coverage
  • He says a small number of protesters should not define the entire Muslim population
  • Obeidallah: Let's hope media can focus more on accuracy and facts

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog "The Dean's Report" and co-director of the upcoming documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- Newsweek's cover story "Muslim Rage" has inspired a comedic rage.

The magazine's newest issue features an article by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who purports to lecture the West on how to best handle Muslim rage. Newsweek, in an effort to promote the article, turned to Twitter, asking people to tweet their thoughts on the article, followed by the hashtag #MuslimRage.

What happened next was not what Newsweek or Ali could have anticipated or wanted. Instead of an academic discussion about the article, or hate-filled diatribes by Islamophobes, it turned into something extraordinary.

Opinion: Should Google censor an anti-Islam video?

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

Thousands of tweets bearing the hashtag #MuslimRage filled Twitter, showcasing satire at its best -- the type, by definition, which uses "wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly."

The tweets -- posted mostly by Muslims it seems -- are a comedic roast of the specious proposition that was peddled to us by Newsweek and Ali. Here are just a few samples:

Danya Hajjaji ‏@DanyaHajjaji

Pakistani Muslims protest against an anti-Islam video in Peshawar on Tuesday.
Pakistani Muslims protest against an anti-Islam video in Peshawar on Tuesday.

When everyone in history class turns to you once 9/11 is brought up. #MuslimRage

Protesters furious with anti-Islam film

AidWorkerAfghanistan ‏@petey_jee

Where is the 'Arab Spring' heading?

I told my shrink I was feeling suicidal and he reported me to the FBI #muslimrage

Actress: I was misled about movie

Dalia Mogahed ‏@DMogahed

When I wear a white hijab to a TV interview with a white backdrop. #floatingHead #MuslimRage

Juan Cole ‏@jricole

Television 'experts' saying Iran is an "Arab" country. #MuslimRage

Efe Ozturk ‏@Efe_Ozturk

Couldn't toss football around since the ball was made of pigskin #MuslimRage

And as University of California professor Reza Aslan poignantly and instructively tweeted:

Reza Aslan ‏@rezaaslan

Memo to those few violent MidEast protesters, this is how you fight Islamophobia. You make fun of it. #MuslimRage

We know that some Muslims were truly outraged by the anti-Islam video uploaded to YouTube that sparked protests in the Middle East. Some of those protests were peaceful, while others turned violent and deadly.

We also know that plenty of Muslims were horrified by the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Libya. The U.S. government is looking into whether this atrocity was premeditated or not.

What is disheartening is that some of the media coverage of the protests embodies the worst form of sensational journalism. There were headlines and stories that made it seem as though millions of Muslims across the world had taken to the streets, with Muslim countries in riots and businesses closed.

Free speech or incitement? French magazine runs cartoons of Mohammed

One of the most outrageous comments came from MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, who said on Monday that Muslims hate us because of the religion itself. Scarborough, to the deafening silence of his co-hosts, further commented, "If you gave every street vendor, from street vendor to prime minister in that region, a chance to throw a rock at the U.S. Embassy, they would."

How is this different from a radical Muslim cleric telling his followers that every American hates them -- from street vendors to the president -- because of their faith?

Scarborough would be right if a majority of Muslims in the world had been protesting. But that is far from the truth.

In Indonesia, a nation of over 200 million, several hundred people took part in protests. Just a few months ago, 50,000 Indonesians bought tickets to see a Lady Gaga concert before it was canceled. So, what does this say about Muslims in Indonesia?

In Egypt, a nation of over 80 million, about 2,000 people protested on Friday. Of those protesters, a few hundred were arrested by the police.

In Lebanon, no protests occurred until Monday. Why? Because the pope had been visiting the country, and the leader of Hezbollah, which the U.S. has labeled as a terrorist group, didn't want to do anything to interfere with the pope's historic three-day visit.

A small number of protesters should not define the entire Muslim population of over a billion. The media should know this and report the truth accordingly.

Reaction to anti-Islam film fuels debate on free speech versus hate speech

Let's look closer to home. Monday was the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It was marked by protests in a number of cities. In New York City alone there were over 1000 protesters, with 185 getting arrested. Do these protests imply that all Americans are protesting? Of course not.

And remember the Chick Fil-A Appreciation Day this summer, which was held to support the fast-food chain amid a debate over its president's opposition to same-sex marriage? It set sales records for the chain and attracted over 600,000 supporters on its Facebook event page. Would it be fair for a foreign news media outlet to report, "Americans rage against gay marriage"? No.

The U.S. media -- and we're not just talking about Newsweek or Joe Scarborough -- need to act in a more responsible way. It appears that our media are more focused on ratings than facts and accuracy. While the media jump on the story and then quickly move on to another story, their impact in defining a people and a culture can be lasting. Let's hope the wave of #MuslimRage responses prompts the media to think twice before they react.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1119 GMT (1919 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says control of the Senate will be decided by a few close contests
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1212 GMT (2012 HKT)
The response of some U.S. institutions that should know better to Ebola has been anything but inspiring, writes Idris Ayodeji Bello.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1619 GMT (0019 HKT)
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2235 GMT (0635 HKT)
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
The Swedes will find sitting on the fence to be increasingly uncomfortable with Putin as next door neighbor, writes Gary Schmitt
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
The Ottawa shooting pre-empted Malala's appearances in Canada, but her message to young people needs to be spread, writes Frida Ghitis
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 0148 GMT (0948 HKT)
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
ADVERTISEMENT