Interrogating the "Good" Muslim Challenging Representations of Muslims through Linguistic Analysis

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Haleema N. Welji


In this assignment, students learn to critique the frequently stereotypical and problematic depiction of Muslims in media sources. Based on their own linguistic analyses of TV shows, movies, or political speeches, students build arguments about the messaging and judgment of Muslims in the United States. Close linguistic analysis is a powerful method to practice critical-thinking skills as students select and analyze evidence in order to construct original arguments. I select sources that challenge students to question and critique not just Orientalist and racist stereotypes of Muslims but also representations that seem to be positive on the surface but subtly reinforce inequitable expectations of Muslims. This assignment allows students to explore some of the social justice issues facing Muslims in the U.S., such as the reinforcement of Islamophobia, the expectations to prove their allegiance to the nation, and the demand to conform to “good Muslim” expectations. Based on an exploration of their thesis statements, my analysis demonstrates that students used evidence from their sources to build arguments that condemn the perpetuation of stigma associated with Islam and Muslims. Additionally, many students critiqued media sources for subtly encouraging expectations that Muslims need to continually demonstrate patriotism and particular kinds of assimilation in order to be deemed “good” Muslims. Through this and similar assignments, students practice more critical perspectives on media and explore the challenges of representation through the perspectives of marginalized populations.

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Welji, H. (2022). Interrogating the "Good" Muslim: Challenging Representations of Muslims through Linguistic Analysis. Prompt: A Journal of Academic Writing Assignments, 6(1).