Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations

Title

The Role of American Islamic Organizations in Intercultural Discourse and Their Use of Social Media

Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Media and Communication

First Advisor

Gi Woong Yun (Committee Co-Chair)

Second Advisor

Lisa Hanasono (Committee Co-Chair)

Third Advisor

Madeline Duntley (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Clayton Rosati (Committee Member)

Abstract

As the fastest growing population in the world and in the U.S., Muslims increasingly draw the attention of many researchers and scholars from diverse disciplines. Biased perceptions of Islam and Muslims that are based on “oriental” views have been fueled by different wars and conflicts involving Islamic countries or nations in different parts of the world. Driven by biased ideologies, perceptions and attitudes, along with political and socioeconomic forces of a capitalist system in the U.S., mass media, and other anti-Islam institutions played a significant role in spreading and perpetuating Islamophobia.

This dissertation addresses Islamophobia by reviewing its origins, definitions, and consequences, and investigates its dynamics through the theoretical frameworks of capitalism, hegemony, and agenda setting. By selecting certain topics to dominate daily news stories and talking points, major media outlets can significantly impact the public discourse and perceptions and prioritize these issues on people’s minds. In response to the negative media coverage, many Islamic organizations were established to counter such misperceptions and empower the Muslim communities in the U.S. through various methods including the use of social media.

This dissertation examines major Islamic organizations’ used of social media to communicate their messages, respond to Islamophobic portrayals and actions, support Muslim communities, set the agenda, and connect with local communities and social institutions. A total of 420 social media posts over the course of three months by five major U.S.-based Islamic organizations were gathered and analyzed using quantitative content analysis method. The organizations’ Facebook-page-likes networks and Twitter-mentions networks were drawn, analyzed, and graphed to supplement the findings of the main method.

The results show that the Islamic organizations adopted different and complementary approaches to promote their values, support their communities, and combat Islamophobic perceptions. Using offensive and defensive strategies, the organizations tried to correct misconceptions about Islam and to replace some negative stereotypes about Muslims with positive associations. The organizations varied in inclusivity and in passing their agenda to local and national media outlets. The dissertation concludes with some limitations and directions for future research, along with implications for the Islamic organizations, Muslims, and the general American public.

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