Robert Samuels

Anti-Islamophobia: A nuanced portrayal of Syrian refugees in the heart of red-state America

Anti-Islamophobia: A nuanced portrayal of Syrian refugees in the heart of red-state America

Stereotypes plague so much news coverage of Muslims in Donald Trump's America.

I'm talking about negative pieces that attempt to turn every conservative state into a bastion of hatred toward Islam and its followers.

These are the type of stories that take a single case — or a few random incidents — and scream, "Islamophobia!" See examples here, here, here, here and here. Too often, these articles rely on squishy generalizations when what readers really need — and deserve — are hard facts.

So what's the antidote to such poor journalism?

Well, reporting that focuses on real people — with real context and real nuance — would be a nice place to start.

Speaking of which, the Washington Post (for which I occasionally freelance) featured just such a story on its front page Monday.

Post national writer Robert Samuels both enlightens and surprises — both nice traits for a newspaper story — as he paints a portrait of Syrian refugees in a state where nearly three out of five voters supported Trump:

OMAHA — The rice and chicken were steaming on the stove. The twins chased each other around the apartment and the 2-year-old watched Mickey Mouse on the donated television.
Their mother, Fatema Aljasem, 29, sat at the kitchen table with two women from the local synagogue. Since the Syrian was granted asylum in September, the women had been helping her learn English. She pulled at her hijab and pointed at the words, mouthing ways of conjugating the verb “to go.”
“Shadi goes to school. Ahmad goes to work.”

Please respect our Commenting Policy