From CNN’s Glenn Beck to Comedy Central’s Daily Show, and from The Weekly Standard to The Nation, America’s political pundits hold wildly varying opinions on almost everything. But when it comes to Islam and Muslims, both ends of the political spectrum are too often equally comfortable with simplistic two-dimensional treatments that end up reducing Islam’s more than one billion followers to caricatures and stereotypes.
Whether it is news analysis, a political cartoon, an investigative documentary, a stand up comic’s 15-minute set, or a satirical take on the ridiculous Obama smears on the front cover of the liberal New Yorker magazine, one thing audiences are never offered is nuance.
The recent New Yorker “satirical lampoon” cover cartoon depicting the Obamas as projected through the lens of rightwing propagandists is not so troubling because of the images themselves – I get the joke. What I find troubling is the confusion inherent in the magazine’s clarification, which they issued to deflect the ensuing criticism.
That statement lists being Muslim as one of several equally evil accusations made by the right against Obama, alongside flag burning and support for Bin Laden. While the other “slurs” were easy to depict, “being Muslim” was captured in the cartoon via the help of what the New Yorker called an “Islamic outfit,” and “traditional Muslim garb.”
Such language and associations, which often go unchallenged, speaks to a deeply-rooted orientalist attitude that often manifests itself in simplistic pop culture depictions and articulations of what supposedly sums up “Muslim.”
In the minds of the New Yorker’s editors, sandals, a robe and a turban constitute “Muslim garb.” This is disturbing for a number of reasons. (MORE)