Empathy and the Religious "Enemy" is an ongoing project of field work, public scholarship, and student engagement, organized by Dr. Hillel Gray. The project's objective is to increase critical-empathetic, non-judgmental understanding of radical oppositional religious groups, such as anti-Zionist Jews, some Black Hebrew Israelites, and Westboro Baptist Church.
Empathy brings emotions, emotional awareness, and perspective-taking into our understanding of human subjects. Empathy combines cognitive perceptions and affective understanding; it does not mean support, approval, or agreement. In times of conflict, the ability to empathize with one's opponents, religious or political, can diffuse potential tragedies like those that have too often scarred the history of religion in America.
Miami students can participate in this project through coursework and independent research, including study-away experiences. Financial support is available for students' independent research projects.
Since the 1960s, America has become more religiously diverse than ever before. But bias against religious minorities has kept pace with the diversification of the religious landscape. Hate crimes and microaggressions against those who wear visible religious dress have been especially pronounced since 9/11. Here in Ohio, we have large numbers of new Americans from Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Mauritania, Somalia, and Senegal, among whom are adherents of non-Christian religions such as Islam, Hinduism, and Sikhism. These new Americans might well fear the possibility of being misunderstood.
If you are an educator, the teaching modules offered here will help you
- Introduce students to some religious communities that have a history of being seen as marginal to mainstream Protestant Christian religious life in America.
- Guide students to analyze media coverage of visible religious communities, with an emphasis on minority religions and on religions in Ohio.
The modules include sample assignments and discussion questions. We hope that these materials will help to shift public perceptions of religious minorities and fill a gap in public education about religious diversity in American society today.
These modules were created by Miami University undergraduates in two linked courses taught in 2020: "Religion and the News," taught by Rosemary Pennington, a professor in the Department of Media, Journalism, and Film; and "Religion, Dress, and Status," taught by Liz Wilson, a professor in the Department of Comparative Religion. These courses were offered as part of a Humanities Lab funded by the Humanities Center at Miami University to promote student-engaged research.
Visible Religion: Catholicism
- Background on Roman Catholicism as a branch of Christianity
- On Catholic history, traditions, and beliefs
- On the seven sacraments
- On the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which outlines practices and beliefs of the Catholic faith
- WATCH: "History of the Church"
- READ: "The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church"
- READ: "The Basic Tenets of Catholicism"
- What would you say is the central belief of Catholicism? Why is the belief important to a person’s salvation?
- What has allowed the church to continue for so long? Consider factors such as money, political influence, continuous adherence to dogma, etc.
- How do the sacraments play into the Catholic faith? How do such performative actions affect practitioners of the religion? How do such actions create community?
- Students could select one of the seven sacraments to research. They would look into the ritual aspects, traditions, and clothing. The product might be a poster outlining the major actions and meanings of the sacrament.
- Students could select one major event in the past of the Catholic Church, such as the Protestant Reformation, Vatican II, etc. The product might be a two-page paper that outlines the event and the effect that it had on the church.
- On Roman Catholic religious dress
- On the structural roles characteristic of Catholicism
- On the form and function of the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church
- On the importance of the laity to the rest of the church
- On outreach to the laity and strategies for faith building
- On the duties of the laity as set out in Vatican II
- WATCH: "A Glimpse into the Life of a Cloistered Nun"
- WATCH: "A Day in the Life of a Priest"
- READ: "The offices of the Clergy"
- WATCH: "Do religious sisters still wear habits?"
- READ this article and WATCH the accompanying video: "The Importance of Dressing for the Occasion: What to Wear to Mass"
- WATCH: "The Role of the Laity and the Priest"
- READ: "The Purpose of the Lay Person"
- What role do the laity serve in the Catholic Church?
- How do the laity relate to the clergy? How does this relationship serve to progress the religion? Do you think that the laity help dictate the church’s teachings? Should they do so?
- Even though they are not dedicated religious, there are still expectations for the dress of the laity, especially when partaking in the sacraments. What are some expectations? Why do you think these expectations exist?
- What is attractive about the hierarchal structure of Catholicism? How might it benefit the practitioners of the religion? From your study of the history of the church, what are some of the problems that have arisen from the hierarchical nature of the church?
- How do the modes of dress worn by members of the clergy identify certain values? What portions of their clothing seem most significant to you?
- Reflect on how religious modes of dress (such as a nun’s veil and habit) might make a person feel. What would a nun say to someone who thinks that her dress is a sign of how oppressed she is?
- Have the students as a class make a list of questions for someone who is in the religious life (priest, nun, etc.) If it’s possible to set up an interview, have students ask questions and follow up with a paper on what they learned.
- Arrange for students to interview a layperson from the Catholic church with the goal of learning how the laity express their religion as general members.
- Have the students research and present on the different modes of dress for different members of the clergy. Then relate those modes of dress to the higher ideals of Catholicism and show how the clothing represents those ideals.
- Students could research the priesthood shortage in the Catholic church and ask interviewees about consequences of this situation.
Visible Religion: Hinduism
- What similarities and differences are seen across each of the four branches, or denominations, of Hinduism? What makes each of them unique?
- Describe what Hindu India looked like under British rule.
- Have students visit a nearby temple (there is one located in Mason, Ohio). Or if there isn’t one near you, research a Hindu temple.
- Begin formulating a working list of definitions of at least 5 unknown words per denomination of Hinduism. If the unknown words are physical objects, include photos for reference.
- Hinduism in America - PBS, part 1
- Hinduism in America - PBS, part 2
- Hinduism in America
- Celebrating Diwali in America
- Origins of Diwali
- Americans and Hindu philosophy
- READ: Amanda Lucia, "Hinduism in America," Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion
- READ: "Religion in America: U.S. Religious Data, Demographics and Statistics," Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project
- A huge example of Hindu traditions being utilized in the US is yoga
- American Hindus are more men than women; mostly Asian overall; 87% immigrants over second, third, etc. generations
- What are common misconceptions about Hinduism in the US?
- How is American Hinduism different from Hinduism in other parts of the world?
- How have American ideals affected American Hindus?
- Interview an American Hindu and write a paper (3-4 pages or more) about what you've learned.
- Summarize two resources or readings in your own words. Then, compare them to find any major differences, and explain which viewpoint you prefer.
- "Hinduism 101: Women and Hinduism"
- "Women Gurus in Hinduism"
- "Subtle Effect and Importance of Dress Worn by a Woman"
- Naidu, Maheshvari. "Transgressive Subversions? Female Religious Leaders in Hinduism." Journal for the Study of Religion 26 (2013): 43-58.
This article analyzes the role that women have played as authority figures within Hinduism, and as gurus. It questions: how does the notion of a "guru" cater to gender norms, and what role does femininity play in Hinduism as a whole?
- Pintchman, Tracy. Women's Lives, Women's Rituals in the Hindu Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2007).
This book explores some distinctive rituals that involve women in particular. It is divided into two parts: "Engaging Domesticity," which includes the interpersonal private sphere, and "Beyond Domesticity," which speaks to diverse public realms.
- Pechilis, Karen. "Hindu Women Gurus." Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion (Springer, 2020), 1079–1082.
The history of gurus and how women began to participate in the role. The social expectations of female gurus in the public sphere, such as marriage and childbirth. Historically, women gurus were spiritual mentors to husbands and within the family. Over time, women gurus entered the public sphere due to figures like Queen Chudala.
- Naidu, Maheshvari. "Queering Women and Hinduism: Disembedding the Maternal Script from Woman and Earth." Journal for the Study of Religion 24, no. 2 (2011): 33–46.
In this article, Naidu examines gender roles within Hinduism and how they intersect with the notion of "bio-divinity." She references the Earth Mother (Prithvi) as a reference point for how Hinduism perceives maternity.
- What is the significance of worshipping God in feminine form? Are there differences of feminine roles because of this?
- How are societal expectations for women shaped by the historic perception of femininity as divine in Hinduism?
- Create a slideshow presentation about the sari and other aspects of dress typical of Hindu women, such as the bindi (or forehead mark).
- Write a short paper (1-2 pages) describing the role of women gurus in today's Hinduism.
Visible Religion: Islam
- The five pillars of Islam
- Salat (daily prayers)
- The schism between Sunnis and Shia
- An editorial on non-Muslims wearing hijab for solidarity
Suggested reading lists on Islam:
- WATCH: Islam, the Quran, and the Five Pillars
- WATCH: How Islam Began - In Ten Minutes
- WATCH: Wearing Hijab
- READ: Farheen, A. (2019). Discover the power of salah. Australia: Emaan Power.
- READ: Mattson, I. (2013). The story of the Qur'an: Its history and place in Muslim Life. John Wiley & Sons.
- READ: Muhammad, I. (2020). The proudest blue. Solon, OH: Findaway World, LLC.
- Compare and contrast the two Islam branches, Sunni and Shia. How are they different? How are they similar?
- Discuss why Muslims face the direction of the Kaaba when praying. Explain the significance of the five times of prayer.
- Discuss how the five pillars can be performed even in constrained circumstances, such as traveling in the desert without water.
- Islam is a fast-growing religion. What are the causes of this? Do you see Islam becoming more prolific than Christianity?
- Research the five different times of prayer during the day. Research the process of prayer, and explain why prayer is important.
- Write about which pillar you admire the most from the five pillars, and why.
- Research the presence of Islam in different parts of the world, and write a short essay (1-2 pages) comparing the way that the religion is practiced in at least two different nations. Do you see any trends? What contributions to national cultures, customs, and institutions has Islam made?
- What's the difference between a hijab, niqab, and burka?
- Types of Islamic veils
- From hijab to burqa: A guide to Muslim headwear
- READ: "What's the difference between a hijab, niqab, and burka?
- READ: "The legal attire in Islam"
- WATCH: "Different Muslim Head Coverings Explained"
- WATCH: "Hijab & Me"
- WATCH: "Not Every Headscarf Is a Hijab"
- Compare and contrast the rules that regulate male and female dress in Islam. Do you see any significant differences? What are they?
- Do you think that men's dress has less constrictions or requirements compared to women's dress? What are the historical and religious reasons that may contribute to this difference in gender?
- Compare different styles of dress from different parts of the world. What are some similarities and differences that you see? Why do you think these differences occur?
- Discuss freedom in the context of modest dress. Explain how modest dress provides or diminishes freedom of expression. Give some supports for your argument.
- Have students locate two or three specific passages regarding men's dress in the Quran or from a prominent imam. Likewise, have students locate two or three specific passages regarding women's dress.
- Students who have Muslim friends or acquaintances could interview them with a set of questions focusing on clothing worn when festivals are celebrated, everyday clothing practices, special rules or restrictions regarding clothing and presentation of self, and the like. For interviewees who come from immigrant families, it would be useful to hear about how men and women dressed in the old country, and any changes or adaptations that have been made to fit American norms.
- Have students find and summarize articles about controversy surrounding the dress of male and female Muslim athletes.
- Have students find and summarize articles about controversy surrounding girls and women wearing headscarves in schools in places like France.
Visible Religion: Judaism
- READ: A Brief Introduction to Hasidism
- READ: Hasidic Movement: A History
- READ: A Fresh Perspective on the History of Hasidic Judaism
- WATCH: What is Hasidic Judaism? A Brief History of the Movement
- What are some of the unique Hasidic practices? Do you have any unique practices in your religion or culture?
- How do Hasidic Jews relate to non-orthodox Jews around the globe? How are they similar and different?
- Based on the articles and the video, how did Hasidic communities arise in America? Why is there such a large Hasidic community in New York?
- Have students discuss their current knowledge of Hasidic Judaism. Then have them research Hasidic Judaism and discuss what they learned from their research.
- Research some of the specific practices and rules that the Hasidic community follows and offer two or three paragraphs of explanation of those rules and practices. How do they benefit the community? Compare the feeling of solidarity that those who perform such rituals together might have to those who engage in team sports together.
This book is an overview of the history of Judaism in America, highlighting areas like colonial beginnings, the revolution in American Judaism, union and disunion, two worlds of American Judaism, an anxious subculture, and the renewal.
This book is an overview of Judaism in America, highlighting what American Judaism is; beliefs, festivals, and life cycle events; a brief history of Judaism in America; institutions and organizations; and the future of Judaism.
- READ: "History of Jewish People in America"
- READ: "American Jews Face a Choice: Create Meaning or Fade Away"
- How do you think non-Jewish Americans typically view American Jews? Why do you think Americans have these views, biases, etc.?
- How does the perception of Jews change based on religion? For example, how do Evangelical Christians view the Jewish population in America, as compared to Catholics?
- What is the relationship between American Jews and other Jewish communities around the globe? What factors influence these relationships?
- Have students look up facts about events that have affected contemporary Jewish communities in their area and come back to class to discuss their findings. Discuss how these events have positively or negatively impacted Jewish practices.
- Research some prominent events in Jewish history in the United States that have impacted the way in which American Jews regard their communities.
Within this chapter, the author addresses beliefs about God, revelation, Torah, Jewish law, and covenant/chosenness.
This is a comprehensive list of all of the holidays that are celebrated in Judaism and what the purpose of these holidays is.
- Jewish Holidays & Traditions (calendar)
This resource provides dates for important holidays in the Jewish religion: major holidays, minor holidays, and modern holidays.
- READ: "During the Jewish High Holidays, there’s a growing awareness that not all U.S. Jews are white"
- WATCH: "American Holidays- Hanukkah"
- What do you believe are some major challenges facing Jews in America regarding celebrating holidays?
- Living in a Christian-based country, many individuals who practice other religions have to give up time with family and friends on holidays because they don't align with Christian holidays. If you were able to determine public school policy and shape the norms of other institutions, how would you help to make Jewish individuals feel less marginalized? Are there changes that can be made to school calendars? What other changes would be useful?
- Have students research ways in which the typical holiday calendar in America affects Jews within America.
- Have students discuss traditions they practice on important holidays, and have them compare their traditions to those that Jews practice in America.
Visible Religion: Minority Religions in the News
- Religion in America: U.S. Religious Data, Demographics, and Statistics (Pew Research Center)
- The Buddhist Network of Central Ohio
- Our Hindu Neighbors (Ohio History Connection)
- Islamic Council of Ohio
- OJC (Ohio Jewish Communities)
- READ: "11 Facts About World Religions"
- READ: "What Americans Know About Religion"
- READ: "Enchantment, Orientalism, and Modern Mysticism"
- How much do you know about non-Christian minority religions, and where did you learn about them?
- Have you ever seen the symbols of minority religions being appropriated? Why do you think this happens?
- Have you ever attended a service or ceremony for a religion that is not your own? What impressions did you get?
- What do you associate eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism with?
- Do you follow or know anyone on social media who belongs to a minority religion? In what ways do they talk (when they speak) about their beliefs?
- Do a little digging to find out about minority religious communities in your area. Where is the nearest mosque, synagogue, temple, etc.? Did you already know about them, or is it a surprise? Write a few paragraphs explaining and reflecting on your findings.
- Find two articles about one minority religion: one piece that covers the religion shallowly and one that goes into more depth. Write a short analysis of each, and reflect on the different impressions of the religion each article gives.
- Do a short interview with a friend or family member who is a member of a minority religion, and talk to them about how they see themselves portrayed in the media. Write about your findings.
- "Extremism takes many forms: Experts weigh in on fanatical believers" (Dayton Daily News)
- "Amid a holy war" (The Columbus Dispatch)
- Local news reporting on the Abdul Razak Ali Artan attack (10 WBNS Columbus): 12/1/2016, 6/1/2017, 11/28/2017
- READ: "Most Americans say media coverage of religion too sensationalized"
- READ: "Local Islamic Center Working To Push Back Against ISIS Recruitment Drive"
- WATCH: "CAIR-Cincinnati Says DHL Fired Muslim Workers over Prayer Breaks"
- Why do you think the Islamic faith is often portrayed as controversial in the media?
- How much do you know about the Islamic faith, and where did you learn this information? (School, self-practice, news, social media, etc.)
- What trends can you see in the media's portrayal of the Islamic faith? Are the themes more positive or negative?
- What could be done to change the perception of the Islamic faith away from being controversial?
- Find an article about the Islamic faith from before 2010, and another article from 2010 until now. Take notes on the themes from both before and after 2010 and compare the two. Is there a noticeable difference between the timeframes? If not, or if so, explain why this might be the case.
- Write a paragraph about how the Islamic faith is portrayed in the media, and explain why it might have gained that frame.
- What is Judaism?
- Example of an Ohio Jewish community
- New York Times breakdown of anti-Semitic incidents
- Polls and numbers
- READ: "The Holocaust: States require education about it as anti-Semitism, hate crimes surge"
- READ: "Anti-Semitism spiked in Arizona for the third year in a row. How do we stop it?"
- READ: "Obama might be planning harsh parting shot at Israel"
- READ: "How American anti-Semitism reflects the centuries-long struggle over the meaning of religious liberty"
- Is there a Jewish presence in your local community? Do you interact with those members of your community? In what ways?
- How do you see Judaism represented in the media you consume? This could be on the news, in articles, or social media apps on your phone.
- How does reporting of anti-Semitism shape how non-Jewish people view this religion? What do you think is the overall view media creates of the Jewish religion?
- How does reporting on anti-Semitism help combat it across America?
- Find an example of reporting on anti-Semitism near where you’re from. Write a short paragraph on how this represents the Jewish community.
- Compare a news article from before 2010 with one from after 2010. What has changed? Write a short paragraph about how reporting has or hasn't changed.
- How does reporting represent combating anti-Semitism? Write a three-paragraph response tying one of the readings to your own example of how the articles display action against anti-Semitism.
Visible Religion: Pentecostal and Orthodox Christians
- Learn about the Pentecostal movement
- Pentecostal beliefs
- 10 Things Christians should know about the Pentecostal movement
- Explore the website of a Pentecostal church in Aurora, CO
- Explore the Facebook page of a Pentecostal church in Dayton, OH
- Streams of Pentecostal thought
- Culture and Black identity in the Pentecostal movement
- The history and beliefs of Oneness Pentecostals
- Women in the Pentecostal movement
- Pentecostal Christians: What do they believe?
- What is Pentecostalism and what do Pentecostals believe?
- Modesty and dress regulations of United Pentecostals
- Racial history of the Pentecostal Church (Chapter 2)
- What role did Blacks play in the early history of Pentecostalism? What is the racial makeup of today's typical suburban American Pentecostal church? Why do you think a white suburbanite might prefer an all-white congregation? What would such a person miss out on?
- What are some of the key beliefs of Pentecostal Christians that you found interesting? Inspiring? Confusing?
- How are women treated in Pentecostal churches compared to the Catholic Church? How does this influence their differing customs and rituals?
- The Pentecostal movement has a significant influence in Africa, primarily Nigeria. What about African cultures do you think influenced the pillars of the Pentecostal movement?
- How does women's clothing in Pentecostal churches differ from in other denominations? How does men's clothing differ? What do you find interesting about Pentecostal Christians' strict rules about dress for women specifically? Do you think this is beneficial?
- What kind of behaviors are seen as unsuitable for Pentecostal Christians?
- Have each student write a compare-and contrast-list of Pentecostal beliefs compared to another kind of Christianity of the student's choice.
- Have students research what Pentecostal churches are in their hometown area. What may influence the number of Pentecostal churches in a certain area?
- Have students find articles that helped them to understand the link between Black identity and the Pentecostal movement.
- Write a compare-and-contrast list of similarities and differences between clothing in Pentecostal churches compared to other religions/denominations.
- Write a summary of who Charles Fox Parham was and why he is a prominent figure in the history of the Pentecostal movement.
- Create a discussion question that invokes thought from your peers and also reflects personal learning from the readings about the racial history of the Pentecostal movement.
- Write a timeline of the Pentecostal movement's racial history. This can be very broad, as it is meant to establish a theme rather than establish major events within the movement's history.
- Understanding Orthodox Christianity
- What is Orthodox Christianity?
- Orthodox Christianity in the 21st century
- What do Orthodox Christians believe?
- Orthodox Christian stances on controversial issues
- Orthodox Christian stance on LGBT issues
- How do you feel about the views that Orthodox Christians have on the LGBT community? Do you feel that they provide a clear explanation of what they believe is right or wrong?
- What did you find interesting about the rules of marriage within Orthodox Christianity? About divorce?
- What was most intriguing about the emphasis that Orthodox Christianity puts on the power of worship?
- Write a summary explaining what stood out to you the most about the beliefs of Orthodox Christians.
- Compare and contrast the beliefs/traditions of Orthodox Christianity to those of another religion of your choice.
- Choose an individual who adheres to Orthodox Christianity and interview them. In a paragraph or two, explain if what you learned matched up with what you knew before your research.
Visible Religion: News Coverage of Religion in Ohio
Students will learn that there is bias within media coverage, especially in coverage of religion. After working through the readings/videos, discussion questions, and homework, students should be able to understand and spot biases and be more aware of them while consuming media.
- The components of "newsworthiness" (Purdue Owl)
- How to detect bias in news media (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting)
- Analyzing bias in the news (Guardian)
- Most Americans say media coverage of religion too sensationalized (USC Annenberg)
- WATCH: How to choose your news
- PLAY: Post Facto: A game where you're the fact-checker
- READ: Journalists grapple with media bias on race and religion
- After watching the TED Talk on media bias, do you think the media creates reality? Or does the media talk about what’s going on? Or both?
- What did you learn from the Post Facto activity about navigating bias within news coverage? What criteria did you use to judge the reliability of the news?
- In relation to the readings, what do you think are the dangers of media bias, especially when covering religion? How can these dangers affect the public's outlook on specific religious groups, especially those you may not be familiar with?
- How can journalists/the media work to rid of these biases?
- Why is it important to look holistically at a religious group, as opposed to letting one frame influence your perception?
- Have students find and read 2 articles on any topic: one that affirms their own beliefs, and one that doesn't. Then ask them to provide a short write-up about where they see their own biases come into play, changing, etc.
- Send students on a news publication "scavenger hunt" in which they visit 3-4 online publications and examine their coverage of religion. Ask students to note if there's bias in the reporting, similarities and differences in bias, and level of bias.
- Have students find articles that negatively frame/cover groups they identify with. Write a paragraph responding to the following question: "If this is the only article other people see on which to base their understanding of this group, what perception may those people have?"
Students will learn more about America's religious identity, what and who is considered "American," and how this might have changed over time. Students will be exposed to a couple different religions and understand the complexities of identity and religion and the importance of representing many different identities.
- Religion in America: U.S. Religious landscape study (Pew Research Center)
- Defining American identity in the twenty-first century: How much "there" is there? (Journal of Politics)
- Three decades ago, America lost its religion. Why? (Atlantic)
- "One nation under God?" Ethnicity and identity in modern America (OpenEdition Journals)
- The five major world religions (TEDEd)
- READ: "How Hanukkah came to America" (The Conversation)
- READ: "Does faith still matter in picking a partner?" (Columbus Dispatch)
- LISTEN: "Keeping It 101"
- READ: "10 facts about religion in America" (Pew Research)
- How are other religions other than Christianity represented in the news? Similar or different to Christianity? How do these representations relate back to "American" identity?
- Why is it important that all religions are represented in the media?
- What does the article from the Columbus Dispatch suggest about changes in America's religious identity over time?
- Referring to the podcast, what are the dangers of talking about the study of "religion" as "major religions?"
- Have students attend a local service of a religion other than their own (or watch a service via livestream or video). Ask them to write a few paragraphs reflecting on this experience.
- Have students briefly research a tradition/holiday of any religion. Ask them to note what they found interesting, surprising, etc.
- Have students write a reflection on the discussions from class. Ask: What were things they didn't know before about religions other than their own?
- Ask students to reflect on the intersection of their own American and religious identity.
Students will learn and understand that due to media bias, there is a lot of misrepresentation of religion in news coverage. Through examples of news stories that cover extreme cases of religion (violence, controversy, etc.), students will learn about the effects of misrepresentation of religions in the media, especially of minority religions, and why this may happen.
- When Islam is not a religion: Inside America's fight for religious freedom (Maydan)
- Islam in the western imagination (Arjana)
- The five major world religions (TedED)
- The conflict between religion and media has deep roots (LSE)
- READ: Abhorring terror at an Ohio mosque (New York Times)
- READ: Religious debate will outlive woes of runaway convert (Columbus Dispatch)
- READ: Top court will hear ex-teacher (Columbus Dispatch)
- READ: Religious minorities are misrepresented in media (Daily Trojan)
- How is Islam/Muslims represented in news media? Is this surprising to you? Why or why not?
- Where do you see misrepresentation of the religions mentioned in the readings happening?
- Are the misrepresentations of religion in the media fair? Why or why not?
- How do the misrepresentations of religion relate back to media bias in coverage of religion?
- Have students find and bring to class 1-2 articles that report on extreme cases of religion (i.e. violence, controversy.) Ask them to reflect on how the coverage influences their understanding/feelings toward the religions reported on.
- Assign students a minority/misrepresented religion, and ask them to look into the fundamentals of that religion. What are the core values and beliefs? Common practices and motivations? Ask them to draw similarities between the foundation of the assigned religion and a religion they are more familiar with.
- Have students respond to the following questions: "How can we, as media consumers, be cognizant of media bias and its influence on the public’s perception of different religious groups? How can we balance acknowledging this bias, without discrediting the role and work of journalists?"
Visible Religion: Coverage of Religious Women in Ohio
Media coverage of Muslim women often focuses on controversies around their religious dress, particularly in schools and sports.
- Common types of Muslim dress
- Statistics on laws or restrictions regarding religious dress
- Legal framework for religious dress in sports
- READ: Muslim dress controversy in schools
- READ: Muslim fashion
- READ: Muslim women not allowed in police academy
- READ: Hijabs in sports
- One of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution is freedom of religion. What do you think about Muslim dress in relation to the rights of practicing their religion?
- Should institutions have the right to control religious dress? Specifically, from the readings: Should the police academy be able to keep Muslim women out for their dress? Can or should schools be able to control students' religious dress?
- Why do you think the media covers Muslim dress? Do you see any differences in how we see Christian women or women of other religions covered in the media?
- Why do you think Muslim dress has become such a common topic of discussion in the country? How do you think it affects people's connection to their faith in the US?
- Do you think it is fair for sports organizations to make a general rule regarding what athletes can and can't wear? Is this okay because it applies to everyone, or is it violating freedom of religion?
- Using Google, look up Muslim women. Save some of the images. What themes do you see?
- Write a paragraph about how you feel Islamic women are shown to dress. Do you think this is a fair representation, considering that not every Islamic woman dresses this way?
- Look up stories about religious dress controversies in sports. Write a paragraph about common themes you see in the stories. What religions do you see represented?
Muslim women are often portrayed as "oppressed" by Islam. The media often shows how they are victims or have "overcome" this oppression in some way.
- Islamic women in Ohio and what the hijab represents
- Misconceptions of women's rights in Islam
- Research on how Muslims view women's rights in Islam
- Women in Islam
- READ: "Oppressive" fashion
- READ: Muslim women as "victims"
- READ: Effects of extremism
- READ: Stereotypes about driving cars
- READ: Malala going to college
- Why do we stereotype Muslim women as being "oppressed"?
- Why is Muslim dress sometimes associated with the oppression of women?
- What do you think these stories suggest about Muslim women? Is this coverage similar to Christian women in America?
- Do some quick research on the coverage of Muslims. Does this seem to only be a problem for the women of this religion? How do men compare in their representation by the media?
- Write a brief summary of how the media speaks about the oppression of Muslim women. Do most of these stories include actual stories from the women themselves, or does it appear to be more opinionated on the media's side?
Muslim and Buddhist women are undercovered in the media, especially compared to Christian women, and they are covered in very different ways. Muslim women are seen as oppressed, Buddhists are seen as nice, and Christian women are portrayed as empowered.
- Islam in the media
- Buddhism in the media
- Buddhist women in America
- Popularity of Christianity and Christians in the media
- READ: Muslim woman forced to attend Christian prayer service
- READ: Amy Coney Barrett and Christianity in politics
- READ: How women are re-making Buddhism in America
- Despite having "freedom of religion" in the United States, how might the coverage of Muslim women contradict this idea?
- What does the lack of coverage suggest about how the media views religious women?
- America is often described as a "melting pot" for various cultures. How do you think this relates to religious women?
- How do you see religions represented in politics? How are they portrayed? Are there certain religions that receive more coverage than others?
- Look up religious new stories in the local communities, and write a paragraph summarizing what you found. What religions were covered? Who were the stories about?
- Look up stories about Buddhist women, Muslim women, and Christian women. Take notes about what you find for each religion. How are the women portrayed? How many stories did you find?
- Look at the politics section of a major news outlet, and find a story related to religion. Write a paragraph about what the story was about, what religion was discussed, and how it was portrayed. How does this connect to the readings?