An exhibit in Macomb is designed to show how – time after time throughout the past century – Arabs and Muslims have been portrayed in a negative light in American popular culture.
“I think it’s important that everybody who sees the exhibit looks at the images and thinks about the implications of those images,” said Janice Welsch, Western Illinois University Professor Emerita and Co-Director of WIU’s Expanding Cultural Diversity Project.
The exhibit, “A is for Arab,” will be displayed in the Garden Lounge at Malpass Library at WIU. It’s free and open to the public. An opening reception will be held Wednesday, January 15, 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm. The eight-panel exhibit will remain on display through January 24.
The opening reception will include a discussion via Skype with author and media critic Jack Shaheen, who created the exhibit. The panels are on loan from the Jack G. Shaheen Archive at New York University.
WIU English and Journalism Professor Mohammad Siddiqi will help moderate the discussion. He thinks differences in religion, culture, and skin color all play a role in how people from the Middle East are portrayed in pop culture.
“It’s hard for people to believe that entertainment can hurt people. If you just look at one cartoon or one poster, you may not realize how the entertainment media can vilify a people or a nation. But when you look at a range of posters and pictures and cartoons, you can imagine the impact,” said Siddiqi.
Welsch said even the name of the exhibit, “A is for Arab,” condenses many different people into a single category.