Lesson Plan: Is All Press Positive?
Analyzing Media and Propaganda about Muslims in Post 9/11 America

Activities and Procedures

1. Warm-up/Conversation Starters

The follwing questions were asked in a 2006 Washington Post Poll:

  1. Do you feel you do or do not have a good basic understanding of the teachings and beliefs of Islam, the Muslim religion?
  2. Would you say you have a generally favorable or unfavorable opinion of Islam?
  3. Every religion has mainstream beliefs, and also fringe elements or extremists. Thinking of mainstream Islam, do you think mainstream Islam teaches respect for the beliefs of non-Muslims, or not?
  4. Do you think mainstream Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims, or is it a peaceful religion?
  5. Compared to other religions, do you think there are more violent extremists within Islam, fewer, or about the same number as in other religions?
  6. Have you recently heard other people say prejudiced things against Muslims, or not? IF YES: Have you heard that kind of thing a lot, or not much?
  7. Do you have any close friends or relatives who you'd describe as prejudiced against Muslims, or not?

According to the 2006 Washington Post poll where the above questions were posed, 46 percent of Americans have a negative view of Islam. This view has been sharpened since the attacks of 9/11.

Prompt your students to answer the questions asked in the 2006 Washington Post poll with one of the following responses: (a) Yes (b) No (c) No opinion. You may choose to conduct the poll by having students raise their hands in response and by keeping track of their responses on the board, or by asking students to answer the questions on a separate piece of paper and tallying their responses.

Share the Share the results of the poll with students. Ask: Why do you think this might be the case? Tell them how their responses measure up against this national poll.

Ask students to reflect on the possible sources of the public’s negative perceptions about Islam:

  • Are they fact-based?
  • Are they based on something they saw in the news, in a film, or on television?
  • Are they based on current events?
  • Or, are they based on something that a loved or trusted person has told them?

Use this conversation to get students thinking and talking about the connection between perceptions and the representation of Islam and Muslims in the media since 9/11.

2. Questions for Class Discussion

As a class, read and discuss the related chapters in This Is Where I Need To Be, focusing on the following:

  1. Make a list of the words and “stereotypes” that the authors of these oral histories feel are repeatedly used to describe them. What event, in their opinion, spurred such depictions?
  2. What symbol of peace is “stripped of its intended meaning,” according to Adam? Why might this be so upsetting to him?
  3. On page 48, Sabeen Sheikh expresses her frustration with “the news.” What is it about the news that bothers her?
  4. On page 57, Hagar Omran says that he thinks “that Muslims are not depicted correctly here in America, especially through the media.” What is the effect of such depictions, according to him?
  5. On page 15, Hussein talks about his dream of becoming an international journalist. What does he hope to accomplish through this dream?

Related resources for this lesson.

Muslim While Flying
Award-winning short video by Ali Ardekani, a video blogger, about stereotypes and media generalizations towards Muslims.

Negative Perception of Islam Increasing
Washington Post article about Washington Post/ABC News 2006 survey results.

Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)
The website of CAIR provides a thorough look at the rise of Islamophobia—unfounded fear or and hostility toward Islam—in the US post 9/11.

Five reasons to teach, This is Where I Need to Be.
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