GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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The Gulf in Western Hearts and Minds: The Dilemma of Stereotypes and Perceptions
Paper Proposal Text :

The last decade has witnessed a significant change in relationships between the West and the MENA nations, especially since the Arab uprising of 2011. Therefore, numerous Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE, have hired firms and PR companies from the West to improve the image of themselves within Western communities. Huge investments and efforts have been made to deal with this image and with the stereotypes that have arisen. In general, when it comes to visualising perceptions of Arabs and Muslims, particularly the GCC states and their reputations in the West, it is clear that they are still perceived as fanatical and radical. Moreover, they are under the international spotlight for various political and social matters, and their image(s) is/are still being debated and questioned in Western societies, especially after the negative effect of the ISIS group, the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq and the accusation that several GCC countries support various terrorist groups in the region. To a great extent, Arab/Muslim stereotypes are conceived to have different kinds of effects on Arabs and Muslims. Having begun by defining the history of Arab and Muslim stereotypes and showing how the idea of Arab and Muslim stereotypes has spread and evolved over time, this paper gives a set of indicators of how negative Arab Gulf State image(s) and stereotypes have derived from different cultures. We then turn our attention to a number of different types of image(s) and stereotypes produced by the Western media, focusing on how the mainstream media, particularly newspapers, have adopted these Arab/Muslim image(s) and stereotypes, on the influence of the media in this respect and on how the Western media targets certain groups.
From an Arab Gulf perspective, it is not surprising to find a negative presentation when following certain news network, such as the Fox channel, when reading newspaper or magazine columns, or when watching a film dealing with Arab and Muslim matters. The Western mainstream media preserve unanimous stereotypes for the Arabs and Muslims in general and make a huge effort to legitimise these prejudices and give them a sense of credibility. Western newspapers are a major player in infusing and inculcating Western communities with biased and fabricated preconceptions about Arabs.
The question is: if the Western media changed their minds regarding Arabs, would they get a reciprocally mutual response from their communities? This paper, therefore, examines perceptions of the Arab GCC region and Muslim image(s) and stereotypes across the mainstream Western media. The study aims to improve upon previous studies by analysing the content of articles in some of the most well-known Western newspapers, such as The New York Times (USA), The Independent (UK) and Le Figaro (France) relating to the Arab Gulf States. The aim of this study is also to fill the gap in literature and research on the catalogue of efforts that the Arab Gulf States have made to win the hearts and minds of Western societies by providing a current assessment of how the main Western newspapers portray Arabs. A total sample of 2,219 newspaper articles has been selected, based on a purposive sample from January 1st to December 31st 2016. Articles were specifically filtered based on issues related to the Qatar World Cup 2020, JASTA, the role of Saudis and Qataris in the Syria war and Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen. Results revealed that these “newspapers” have created hostile image(s) and stereotypes of Arab Gulf States using aggression, misrepresentation and distortion of facts. The Arab Gulf States are perceived as being anti-women’s freedom (Saudi Arabia) and extremist in their culture and religion.