Arabs and Muslims in the Media

Race and Representation after 9/11

239 pages

21 halftones

August, 2012

ISBN: 9780814707326



Also available in


American Studies


Evelyn Alsultany is Associate Professor in the Program in American Culture at the University of Michigan. She is co-editor of Arab and Arab American Feminisms and of Between the Middle East and the Americas. She is also guest curator of Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Arab Stereotypes.

All books by Evelyn Alsultany

After 9/11, there was an increase in both the incidence of hate crimes and government policies that targeted Arabs and Muslims and the proliferation of sympathetic portrayals of Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. media. Arabs and Muslims in the Media examines this paradox and investigates the increase of sympathetic images of “the enemy” during the War on Terror.
Evelyn Alsultany explains that a new standard in racial and cultural representations emerged out of the multicultural movement of the 1990s that involves balancing a negative representation with a positive one, what she refers to as “simplified complex representations.” This has meant that if the storyline of a TV drama or film represents an Arab or Muslim as a terrorist, then the storyline also includes a “positive” representation of an Arab, Muslim, Arab American, or Muslim American to offset the potential stereotype. Analyzing how TV dramas such as The Practice, 24, Law and Order, NYPD Blue, and Sleeper Cell, news-reporting, and non-profit advertising have represented Arabs, Muslims, Arab Americans, and Muslim Americans during the War on Terror, this book demonstrates how more diverse representations do not in themselves solve the problem of racial stereotyping and how even seemingly positive images can produce meanings that can justify exclusion and inequality.


  • "A major, skillfully constructed, must-read book …. It should be required reading for all Americans who care about and seek to eradicate injurious stereotypes of the evil Cultural Other."

    —Jack G. Shaheen, author of Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People

  • "This important book makes a significant contribution to the burgeoning scholarship on the post-9/11 cultural and political history of the United States. Drawing on a rich understanding of the representations of Arabs and Muslims in the last century, Alsultany helps us to understand what has changed, and what has not, in the last ten years."

    —Melani McAlister, George Washington University

  • "While Asultany states that the issues of human rights in the post 9/11 period are of greater concern than the media's representations of them, she seems hopeful that an increase in diverse representations of Arabs and Muslims as human beings rather than simply as 'terrorists' or 'not terrorists' may help to usher in a positive cultural environment in which the human rights of American Muslims and Arabs will be given greater consideration." 

    —Jason Archbold, Media International Australia

  • "A lucid and persuasive work, Asultany's book shatters the illusion of a post-race, postfeminist United States, forcing the reader to confront the role popular representations play in troubling American policies."

    —Gretchen Head, Women's Studies Quarterly

  • "Alsultany's Arabs and Muslims in the Media is a welcome intervention in the discourse on media representations of Arab and Muslims in the United States."

    —Umayyah Cable, New Wave Arab American Studies

  • "[A]s a critical account of the ways in which racialized minorities are represented in the Western media in contemporary times, Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11 is a further valuable contribution to the field.  In particular, it provides a vital critique of what appear as 'positive' and progressive representations and the actual 'reality' of Muslim and Arab, and South Asian experience in the United States.  Alsultany has produced a detailed yet highly readable and accessible book of value to students and researchers alike, and even general readers interested in the media's implication in the War on Terror."

    —Anamik Saha, Popular Communication

  • "Alsultany’s work provides a…level of refinement in that she argues, like Islam, media discourses cannot be treated as a homogenous entity.  Instead of simply examining news media and political discourse as representative of the range of debates being held about Arabs and Muslims in America, she considers a broader selection of media.  In doing so, she recognizes that discourse is not just about hard news, but also about the multiple and complex array of voices that contribute to any given debate.  This is an important turn in the scholarly material on Muslims if you consider that a popular television series will gain many more viewers than a typical current affairs news programme.”

    European Political Science

  • “[…] Alsultany’s book is of great value to those interested in contemporary cultural studies, politics, race and ethnic studies, or feminist representational analysis.  It is straightforward and capable of supplying both the details and the larger principles to those interested in investigating our ‘postracial’ social movement.” 

    Cinema Journal