Representations of Islam, Muslims, and Middle Eastern people in popular media often distort the lived experiences of these communities. Although these negative representations have a centuries-long history, many of them resurfaced and came to dominate popular understandings of Islam and the Middle East after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. This resource guide showcases how these stereotypes operate in media, discusses their impact upon Muslim and Middle Eastern communities, and demonstrates how to combat these biases in pursuit of inclusive & diverse learning environments.

Islam 101

​News Articles

The following four articles discuss the work of Nour Kteily and his colleagues on the psychology behind stereotyping, dehumanization, and Islamophobia:

Three articles by social scientists writing for the Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog:

Reporting from the The Guardian (UK) on anti-Islamic sentiment in the United States:

The following two articles were published by The Atlantic. The first article, by Caner K. Dagli, a professor of Islamic studies, is titled "The Phony Islam of ISIS." It is a response to The Atlantic's March 2015 cover story, "What ISIS Really Wants," by Graeme Wood. Educators can read and assign these articles in any order. One approach would be to read Graeme's lengthier article first and then analyze Dagli's response. To save time, educators could also have their students read Dagli's response first and then review only the portions of the Graeme article that Dagli quotes, paraphrases, or references. Reading and analyzing these articles affords students the opportunity to examine, engage, and question the idea that ISIS' -- or other extremists' -- interpretation of Islam stands at the core of Islamic history, experience, and tradition:

Lesson Plan: Using Multiple Sources to Understand Media Representations of Muslims and related readings:

Historical Newspaper Articles for Analysis and Decoding

Lesson Plans, Teaching Frameworks and Guidelines

Modules from Teaching the Middle East: A Resource for Educators

Teaching the Middle East: A Resource for Educators is comprised of 14 modules written by some of the best scholars in the field of Middle East and Islamic studies. It was created in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities and three University of Chicago units: the Oriental Institute, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and the eCUIP Digital Library Project.

Note: Most of the content on this website has not been updated since its initial launch in 2010. There are a lot of broken links.

  • The Middle East as Net Exporter of Religion - Investigate the religious ideas of the ancient people of the Middle East, some of which became core elements of four major religions: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
  • The Golden Age of Islam - Trace the background and areas of achievement of classical Islamic civilization from 610 to 1258 CE.
  • Writing and Literature  - Explore the development of the Qur’an and Qasida, the rise of Arabic verbal arts, the renaissance of Persian and Turkic languages, and literary engagement with the challenges of colonialism and modernity.
  • The Middle East as Seen Through Foreign Eyes - Learn about America’s continued imagining and stereotyping of the Middle East in the context of the political machinations of the cold war and with advances in telecommunications, which changed the ways people observed and perceived the post-war world.

Teaching Tolerance: PBS Films on Muslims and Islam for the High School and College Classroom 

The role of Islam and Muslims in American society has been at the forefront of public attention for several years. Many teachers are eager to generate informed discussion on this issue, tying it to larger themes such as constitutional freedoms and current events. The core mission of Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) is to share stories of different faiths and cultures, particularly Muslims, in a wider societal context. What are the histories and motivations of this diverse group? How have other cultures impacted it and what influence has it had on the world? These are some of the critical questions UPF explores through its films.

UPF is eager to expand its offerings to more teachers at the high school and college level. Having been broadcast on PBS stations nationwide, UPF's aim is to make history and social studies topics accessible, engaging, and entertaining, while consulting with scholars to keep them authentic. For more information and resources on using UPF films in the K-12 or post-secondary classroom -- including lesson plans and discussion guides -- visit:

Additional Reading and Resources

Articles from Peer-Reviewed Academic Journals

  • Darker Demons of our Nature: The need to (Re)Focus Attention on Blatant Forms of Dehumanitzation (Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2017)
    Abstract: Although dehumanization research first emerged following the overt and conscious denials of humanity present during war and genocide, modern dehumanization research largely examines more subtle and implicit forms of dehumanization in more everyday settings. We argue for the need to reorient the research agenda toward understanding when and why individuals blatantly dehumanize others. We review recent research in a range of contexts suggesting that blatant dehumanization is surprisingly prevalent and potent, uniquely predicting aggressive intergroup attitudes and behavior beyond subtle forms of dehumanization and outgroup dislike, and promoting vicious cycles of conflict.
  • Backlash: The Politics and Real-World Consequences of Minority Group Dehumanization (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2017)
    Abstract: Research suggests that members of advantaged groups who feel dehumanized by other groups respond aggressively. But little is known about how meta-dehumanization affects disadvantaged minority group members, historically the primary targets of dehumanization. We examine this important question in the context of the 2016 U.S. Republican Primaries, which have witnessed the widespread derogation and dehumanization of Mexican immigrants and Muslims. Two initial studies document that Americans blatantly dehumanize Mexican immigrants and Muslims; this dehumanization uniquely predicts support for aggressive policies proposed by Republican nominees, and dehumanization is highly associated with supporting Republican candidates (especially Donald Trump). Two further studies show that, in this climate, Latinos and Muslims in the United States feel heavily dehumanized, which predicts hostile responses including support for violent versus non-violent collective action and unwillingness to assist counterterrorism efforts. Our results extend theorizing on dehumanization, and suggest that it may have cyclical and self-fulfilling consequences.
  • The Fringe Effect: Civil Society Organizations and the Evolution of Media Discourse about Islam since the September 11th Attacks (American Sociological Review, 2013)
    Abstract: Numerous studies indicate that civil society organizations create cultural change by deploying mainstream messages that resonate with prevailing discursive themes. Yet these case studies of highly influential organizations obscure the much larger population that have little or no impact. It is therefore unclear whether civil society organizations create cultural change by deploying mainstream discourses or if they become part of the mainstream because of their success. [The author] presents an evolutionary theory of how discursive fields settle after major historical ruptures that highlights framing, social networks, and emotional energy. To illustrate this theory, [the author] uses plagiarism detection software to compare 1,084 press releases about Muslims produced by 120 civil society organizations to 50,407 newspaper articles and television transcripts produced between 2001 and 2008. Although most organizations deployed pro-Muslim discourses after the September 11th attacks, [the author] shows that anti-Muslim fringe organizations dominated the mass media via displays of fear and anger. Institutional amplification of this emotional energy, [the author] argues, created a gravitational pull or “fringe effect” that realigned inter-organizational networks and altered the contours of mainstream discourse itself.