Disconnected Narratives Between the United States and Global Muslim Communities

Ambassador Marc Ginsberg and Anne Hagood


In the era of social networking, visual media are still the most powerful tools in shaping and influencing public opinion. This media working group, convened at the 2011 U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Washington, DC, was composed of insightful academic and business leaders, media experts, and public diplomacy practitioners from throughout the United States and the Muslim world. They sought to identify new initiatives to promote greater visual media programming to redress cross-cultural misunderstandings between the United States and global Muslim communities.

The working group analyzed and explored new opportunities to change the discourse that exacerbates stereotypes. One of the contributing factors identified as promoting these erroneous stereotypes is editorializing in news reporting, which tends to reflect the tense relationship between the United States and the Muslim world. The working group also explored how nonprofit media initiatives can play a positive role in shaping public perceptions of the “other,” while acknowledging that the nonprofit sector is limited in its capacity because of financial restrictions.

This paper takes the debate a step further by analyzing the media landscape through a practical lens, and by asking how partnerships can be developed to leverage public-private initiatives to promote a more open environment that can correct stereotypes and lead to better understanding. The working group participants also came up with other platforms to challenge preconceived notions and put forward a series of recommendations that address issues related to methodology, market calibration, and media training initiatives. The full set of recommendations is presented at the end of the paper.