Examining Western Perceptions of Islam and the Middle East
Teacher: Michelle Mitchell
School: North Dorchester Middle School, Hurlock, Maryland
Subject/Grade Taught: Social Studies- Grade 8
These lessons would also be appropriate for Social Studies and Language
Arts classes in grades 7-9.
Teaching Time: Three class periods of about 65 minutes
Big Idea: Breaking the Mold -- Stereotyping and Misconceptions
Essential Learner Outcomes:
- Students will use geographic concepts and processes to understand
location and its relationship to human activities
- Students will understand the diversity and commonality, human interdependence,
and global cooperation of the people of Maryland, the United States
and the World through a multicultural and historic perspective. Students
will understand how people in Maryland, the United States and around
the world are alike and different.
Identify personal stereotypes of Muslims
Identify stereotypes of Muslims in movies and news articles
Discuss negative effects of stereotyping
Identify and appreciate the contributions that Islamic culture has had
on our society.
There is a tremendous amount of stereotyping about Muslims and the peoples
of the Middle East in American popular culture. At the same time, many
history classes tend to focus on either the ancient civilizations or the
Renaissance in Europe as the basis for learning and cultural developments
throughout the world. The Islamic culture with its major contributions
to the Renaissance in Europe is overlooked. The purpose of these lessons
is to help students identify and dispel inaccurate stereotypes about the
Muslim culture and begin building students’ awareness of the great
Warm-up: Students will define the term “stereotype” and
discuss common examples, such as “fat people are lazy”.
They will also consider why stereotyping a person is not productive
- Students will take a survey designed to identify Muslim stereotypes.
(Survey is separate) (To be Completed)
- After students have completed the survey, show the 10 minute computerized
video from the Ibn Baz Foundation at www.binbazfoundation.org/english/msrwa-alislam.html,
entitled Misconceptions and Myths on Islam. *The end of this
video clip mentions male and female circumcision and you may want to
stop the video prior to this segment. Also, download the video before
class so you are prepared.
- Ask students where stereotypes come from? Elicit answers that include
other people, TV, movies, books, newspapers.
- Show video clips from Disney’s Aladdin (1992) pointing out
the line in the opening song, “It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s
home.” Also include shifty, disreputable storyteller and the saber-wielding
villains, etc. which reinforce that Aladdin’s home is “barbaric”.
Not to mention, that the villains all have dark-hooded eyes and large
hooked noses. Other videos that Arab/Muslim stereotyping and that may
be appropriate for this age group include Aladdin’s sequel, The
Return of Jafar (1994), In the Army Now (1994), Kazaam (1996) and Father
of the Bride, Part II (1995). (see resources for additional information)
As students view parts of these films, discuss the stereotyping. Possible
questions to address may include: Did they ever notice the stereotyping
before? How might Muslims feel when they see these movies? How could
the movies have had less stereotyping?
Independent Practice: Students will watch one additional clip and identify
stereotyping of Arabs and/or Muslims independently.
Assessment: Students will complete a short answer question about the
stereotyping they found in the movies and why it is unfair. (To be developed)
Closure: Using a magazine or newspaper cartoon, students will identify
Arab/Muslim stereotyping in another medium.
Warm-up: Students will work in small groups to try to determine which
people from a small group of photos are Muslim and possibly their employment.
The pictures come from a cross section of society. (All of the pictures
are of Muslims.) Discuss the pictures and share biographical information.
Elicit from students that you can not identify Muslims just by their
looks. With 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, they come in all shapes
and sizes and can be found in all professions. Traditionally, Muslims
are stereotyped as either billionaires, bombers or belly dancers.
- Review stereotyping found in the movies from day 1. Notice that Arabs/Muslims
were not given dignified professions.
- Pass out a current news article to read with students and identify
any stereotyping of Islamic cultures. We will also examine the tone
Independent Practice: Students will work in pairs or small groups to
identify stereotyping in a current news article. They will also determine
the tone of the article toward Muslims.
Assessment: Groups of students will summarize their article and
present their findings to the class.
Closure: Discuss how stereotyping affects the tone of the article
and influences the reader.
Warm-up: Provide students with a world map and model for students
where Islam began and the major regions of the world that are Islamic.
Students will color their maps.
- Explain to students that the Islamic culture was much more advanced
than Europe for 1000 years and that the Europeans “borrowed”
many ideas from the Muslims. Since the Europeans brought the ideas to
the New World, American culture has benefited from Islamic ideas. Give
a couple of examples, such as glass blowing and algebra.
- Instruct students that they will work in pairs to identify pictures
of various contributions to society. They will separate the pictures
into two groups, those that were Muslim ideas and those that were not.
Students will get an opportunity to use their prior knowledge and common
sense to predict which ideas or items came from the Islamic culture.
Provide pairs with an envelope of pictures.
- Discuss the pictures and/or ideas. Hopefully students will be surprised
and willing to discuss reasons for misconceptions. (All are from the
Assessment: Students will write a brief paragraph about the most surprising
thing they learned while doing this activity. Why was it surprising?
Closure: Examine pictures from magazines or other sources to see if
Islamic influences can be found.
George, Linda S. The Golden Age of Islam. (Marshall, Cavendish,
New York: Benchmark Books, 1998.)
Council on Islamic Education. Teaching About Islam and Muslims in
the Public School Classroom. (Fountain Valley, California: Library
of Congress Cataloging-in-Publications Data, 1995).
Ten Things Everyone Needs to Know About Islam http:/arabworld.nitle.org/texts.php?module_id=2&reading_id=62&print=
Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture http:/www.ciaonet.ort/wps/shj01/
Misconceptions and Myths on Islam http:/www.binbazfoundation.org/english/msrwa_alislam.html
Movies: Aladdin, The Return of Jafar, Kazaam, In the Army Now and
Father of the Bride, Part II.
Pictures of Muslims and/or non Muslims
News articles with stereotyping
Pictures of items or ideas from Islamic Culture
Keywords: Stereotyping of Muslims Islamic Culture Islam;
Muslim Stereotyping in the Media; Student Survey about Islam