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Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World Revised Edition

63 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0679758907
ISBN-10: 0679758909
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

While the 16 years that have passed since the first edition of this book hit the stands have been marked by an increase in sensitivity toward many ethnic, racial, and sexual minorities, the easy acceptance of stereotypes and prejudices in the portrayal, depiction of, and reporting about Islamic peoples has remained largely constant. In this updated version of this rigorous but engaging volume Edward Said looks at how American popular media has used and perpetuated a narrow and unfavorable image of Islamic peoples, and how this has prevented understanding while providing a fictitious common enemy for the diverse American populace. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

From the Iranian hostage crisis through the Gulf War and the World Trade Centre bombing, the West has been haunted by a spectre called 'Islam'. As portrayed by the news media - and by a chorus of government, academic and corporate experts - 'Islam' is synonymous with terrorism and religious hysteria. At the same time, Islamic countries use Islam to justify unrepresentative and often oppressive regimes. In this landmark work, for which he has written a new introduction, one of our foremost public thinkers examines the origins and repercussions of the media's monolithic images of Islam. Combining political commentary with literary criticism, Edward Said reveals the hidden assumptions and distortions of fact that underlie even the most 'objective' coverage of the Islamic world. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Revised edition (March 11, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679758909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679758907
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

85 of 98 people found the following review helpful By slomamma on January 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most intelligent and thought-provoking books I've ever read. The gist of Said's argument is that academic studies of the Muslim world are (like all academic studies) influenced by the culture that produces them. Because the first Westerners to study Islamic culture came from colonial powers, they tended to view things through colonialist, ethnocentric eyes. Although the United States has never had colonial ambitions in the Middle East, we've inherited many of those European attitudes. More importantly, because Middle Eastern studies in American universities lead so many people into careers as government consultants, or oil company employees (and because so much of the funding comes from government and oil companies), those studies usually do not focus on Muslim culture as something of interest and value in and of itself, but are concerned rather with how it relates to American power and business interests. We are not concerned, in other words, with how an institution in an Islamic country effects the local people, but only with whether it makes them more or less pro-American.
According to Said, American journalists, who tend not to know the languages, or much about the culture of the places they report from, rely on such slanted academic studies for their understanding of the Islamic world, and allow it to color almost everything they write. As a result, reporting from Islamic countries is not only shallow, but often filled with insults and ethnic slurs that no editor would accept if the reporter were writing about any other group of people.
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 18, 1997
Format: Paperback
FINALLY!! NOW HERE'S A BOOK THAT PORTRAYS THE TRUTH...I recommend this book to anyone who has ever felt the media's portrayal of Islam and Muslims was anywhere near reality. This book takes on the long-feared task of exposing American media agendas and its sources, and how this portrayal has hurt and been totally unfair to the Second Largest Religion in the World where more than a billion Muslims live and practice a religion that has become the target of media distortion and the tool for American foreign policy and hidden agendas. An expose' of multibillion dollar campaigns to distort the image of a civilized, down-to-earth, honest religion, this book gives the real scoop on the high moral values of Muslim people, and their sincerety, and the media's distortion of them as terrorists and war-criminals.A must read for all political analysts
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50 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Christian Engler on January 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
Prof. Said's book is one that gets through the marrow of hackneyed, obtuse, sterotypical untruths that the media unfortunatelly often places on individuals of Arab decent. His work delves deeply into how pseudo-intellectual Hollywood and the'yellow' media often brand (most of the time) people of Middle East culture as the 'bad guy' or the one who 'must have planted the bomb,' etc... Covering Islam is a great book, not just in its clear-cut shining examples of how people often unconsciencely discriminate, but also in its well researched scholarship. Mr. Said explains and points out the subtleties of what is being taught in schools today, what is on the radio, television and movie screens. His fluid writing style and insights, I believe, will help people to become less subservient to the ideas and opinions expressed by the 'still-learning' media.
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51 of 62 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book should be read by all journalists who write anything about Islam and Muslims, and everyone who reads the foreign news section of the newspaper. Succinct, powerful, and poignant, Said, himself not a Muslim, exhibits his customary insight as he attempts to destroy the horrific portrayal of the world's fastest growing and second-largest religion by the American media.
New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post--stop publishing this trash about Islam that you call journalism and feeding the entertainment craze that evokes memories of Rambo-esque American bravery against fanatics, terrorists, and extremists. Life is not an action movie with a good guy and a bad guy, like you would want the American public to believe.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to get past the excessively simplistic, racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Islam, and anti-Arab (and thereby, anti-Semitic as well--no, Jews aren't the only, or even the most numerous Semites, Arabs are Semites, too...) views so completely represented by the American media.
My advice to those who want to learn about the Middle East, Islam, and Muslims in general--DON'T believe what you read in newspapers or in books by journalists (they represent a tiny fraction of what's actually going on those parts of the world, and even that is pseudo-intellectual rubbish). Read bona fide history books that have various viewpoints--American and non-American, Muslim and non-Muslim. And if you do happen to read the newspapers, keep a copy of Said's book next to you to help you expose the media's constant distortions.
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44 of 55 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
Some reviewers have criticized this book for wanting to cover up racism, misogyny and religious persecution in Muslim countries. This is completely false. Said is challenging the notion that because some Muslims are bad that Islam is inherently bad. One would not say Christianity was inherently bad even though Christian America once had legal slavery, lynching, denied women equal rights, locked Japanese Americans up in concentration camps, and persecuted the Irish, Italians, Mormons, Jews, and Chinese etc. The media does not blame oppression, misogyny, crime, poverty, extremist movements or racism in Peru, Mexico, Russia, Japan, and South Africa etc. on the predominant religion.
Media bias is helping to spread negatives stereotypes of all Muslims. For example, after 9/11 a few hundred Palestinians celebrated and it was shown all over the American media. Yet a million Palestinians held 5 minutes of silence in honor of the victims but this got no media coverage. ProOsama protests got huge media coverage, but the tens of thousands of Muslims around the world who held memorials were largely ignored. Muslim leaders and clerics all over the world condemned the attack but got little or no press. The problem is the Cold War is over and the media is looking for another bogeyman.
Another problem is that many American journalists don't know any Muslims, so they also write and portray things based on their own stereotypes. For example, if a study came out that 50% of Kuwaiti women are victims of domestic violence, the article would more than likely mention that Kuwait is a Muslim country. Yet if 50% of South African women were victims of domestic violence the predominant religion (Christianity) would not come up in the article.
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Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World
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