Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis


Modern Languages

First Advisor

Terri Carney


Current sentiment in the West surrounding Islam stems from a variety of factors: terror attacks, lack of understanding the Islamic faith and cultures that practice the religion, and stereotypical depictions in the media of Muslims as terrorist or as oppressed women. Arab societies oppress women via laws, such as the law that prevents women from driving or the law that prevents women from being outside of the house without being accompanied by a man, both in Saudi Arabia. These depictions, especially of Saudi Arabian practices or similar practices from other nations, are generally available to the West, via media, web, literature or radio, rather than of the societies that have had women as Prime Ministers and leading forces in the government, in Indonesia and many others. Islam itself is not oppressive to women, but rather particular practices of Islam are. Spanish history of the Muslims in Spain provides evidence on the how laws were practiced versus what was written down. This continued divide was evident in both Christian and Muslim laws, which allows for the understanding of women’s status within the religion differs than that of which was practiced judiciously in Spain. Spain is a case study for how a Western nation has become more accepting in the presence of Islamic influence that has persisted throughout the centuries. Edward Said’s theory of Orientalism provides support to explain why Islamic culture has been vilified in the West. While Said provides an explanation to the vilification, Fazal Rahim writes of ways to combat the media system that marginalizes Muslims. Rahim writes of a normalized vision of Muslims for the Western media to circulate rather than the banal version of Muslims as terrorists or oppressed. Rahim’s work provides evidence for the needed change that must occur in media outlets of all kinds to see an acceptance of Muslims rather than treating them as the “other.” The lasting effects of Islamic rule and culture on Spanish society, specifically the linguistic influence, as created a society of acceptance rather than denial. Ralph Penny explains the mix of the Arabic and Spanish was a byproduct of the need to communicate with one another, thus creating words that are still used today enforcing the idea of syncretism rather than divide. I conclude with advocating for practical initiatives within communities that can further alleviate tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims, specifically looking at the Butler University’s initiative “Ask A Muslim.”