Religious stereotyping is the act of discrimination against members of other religions and is commonly based on generalised ideas and appearances of other religious beliefs and practices. Currently in the 21st century, the issue is global with members from religious communities all around the world experiencing religious prejudice, namely those whom are Catholic, Muslim and Jewish.
Individuals belonging to the Catholic Church have been stereotyped as homophobes and believed to act solely on the idea that they cannot share with non-Catholics. Although it is not a common stereotype, some individuals have also labelled Catholics as cannibals. The generalisation is believed to have originated from the Christian ritual of “Communion” in which Christians consume bread and wine as a symbolic act of eating the body and blood of Christ - some believe it to be a spiritual act, others take it more literally.
After the terrorist attacks carried out by a group of Muslims in America on September 11, 2001, the Islamic religion rapidly gained a negative reputation to be a religion of hatred and violence. In addition, males within the religious group have been generalised to abuse women and have many wives.
For centuries, Jews have been strongly stereotyped as being cheap and stingy and believed to hoard money which came about due to their history. It is also believed that the Jews killed Jesus, resulting in a complete separation between the Catholic and Jewish religions which had once shared similar beliefs. Another common generalisation is that Jewish men have over-bearing mothers.
The religious stereotypes mentioned above were iniated by an individual or a small group of members belonging to their personal religious group. Their actions and ideas gradually built a negative reputation for the entire religion and allowed the group to be labelled in a particular way. It is important to understand that religious stereotypes, as well as many other stereotypes, are misleading and that one cannot judge a person by their religious background.
Figure 1: Google suggestions for certain religions, depicting the current global issue of religious stereotyping
Watch the YouTube video on Christian views regarding homosexuality and as a group, answer the following questions in your workbooks:
- What are Christians stereotyped to be?
- According to the video, do all Christians relate to the stereotype?
- How does the general public react to this certain religious stereotype?
In your group, read the following articles related to the general stereotypes of the Islamic Religion and discuss how and why Muslims are stereotyped the way that they are in the 21st century through the media.
Negative Stereotypes of the Islamic Religion
Islam and the Western Media
Common Western perceptions about Islam and the Middle East