Hafez, Kai (2000) The West and Islam in the Mass Media: Cornerstones for a New International Culture of Communication in the 21st Century. ZEI Discussion Papers: 2000, C 61. [Discussion Paper]
While Samuel Huntington has forecast a "Clash of Civilizations" for the 21st century, problems between Islam and the West are often more the result of a "lack of communication." While traditional stereotyping and problems of perception between both spheres are old and the result of a problematic history of crusades, expansion and religious rivalry, the 20th century has generated and reinforced distorted perceptions on a large scale. With the development of technology and economy in the post-Fordist era, information and communication have become prime resources for all states and economies. The mass media have helped to transform the world into a "global village," bridging distances and tearing down all sorts of walls of ignorance and prejudice. However, the media also portray many erroneous or one-sided images that misrepresent the West in the Islamic world and the Islamic world in the West. The large-scale dissemination of worldviews that are deeply rooted in the stereotypes and ideologies of religious and cultural conflict poses a serious threat to peace in the globalized world of the 21st century. After the Gulf War of 1991, criticism of problematic aspects of foreign reporting was raised by many scholars and intellectuals in the Islamic world, in Europe and the United States alike. The European Union has repeatedly pointed to the problems arising from erroneous international and intercultural reporting. In 1991 it demanded a revision of the negative image of the Islamic world as projected by European mass media (Conseil de L'Europe, Doc. 6497, Recommendation 1162), and in 1995 the Forum Civil Euromed following the Barcelona-conference repeated that the economic and political ties between the European Union and the Mediterranean would flourish only if cultural stereotypes could be diminished and media performance on all sides improved. The Gulf War was a turning point for a number of intellectuals, scholars, media-watch groups and critical journalists. The dehumanized form of electronic warfare, where the bombing of Baghdad was a mere flash in the programs of CNN, has started to generate a silent revolution. Not all conflicts can be solved by improving international communication but many problems will be understood much more clearly, and since knowledge and understanding are vital for positive relations between Islam and the West, the improvement of media performance must be considered a prerequisite for future development in this field.
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