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
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
ADVERTISEMENT