Photo from the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, DC, by Ryan Somma via

After 9/11, the actions of a few began to subtly (and not-so-subtly) change the image many held of American Muslims. The UK edition of Wired magazine highlights a recent study that looks to explain how mainstream American discourse on this major religion and its adherents was distorted so drastically. University of North Carolina sociologist Christopher Bail explains in the interview:

The vast majority of organisations competing to shape public discourse about Islam after the September 11 attacks delivered pro-Muslim messages, yet my study shows that journalists were so captivated by a small group of fringe organisations that they came to be perceived as mainstream…

The voices of many pro-Muslim groups, all condemning terrorism, were silenced or ignored, while airtime was given over to anti-Muslim fringe groups. This added to religious and racial tension. As Bail puts it:

Inattention to these condemnations, combined with the emotional warnings of anti-fringe organisations, has created a very distorted representation of the community of advocacy organisations, think tanks, and religious groups competing to shape the representation of Islam in the American public sphere.

Luckily, the damage to Islam’s image doesn’t seem irreparable. According to University of Minnesota sociologist Penny Edgell, also interviewed for the article, “It seems most Americans believe that diversity is fine, as long as every one shares a common ‘core’ of values that make them trustworthy—and in America, that core has historically been religious.” Her work has shown that religion is so valued in America that Atheists are the most distrusted minority group of all. By believing in something, Muslims will surely regain American trust, maybe even in the media.