Today we live in a society where often times the people around us will judge us by the way we look and carry ourselves. As human beings, we naturally find ourselves categorizing different individuals and groups into certain sects, in order for us to have an easier time understanding why we are the way we are. Without us realizing, the dominant figures in our lives have one of, if not the greatest impact on our sociological imagination. A concept known as hegemony. Our body in itself is not responsible for the judgement of others, but rather the ideas implanted by social forces.
Growing up a Muslim in what I’d say is a Christian predominant culture, it wasn’t hard to see how the ideologies presented in the media, schools, and in the environment was impacting the way others viewed me as an individual. Due to the political power of the Christian oriented government, in a combination of mainly growing up in a post 9/11 era, along with constant wars in the middle east; for over more than a decade it was hard not to associate the word terrorism with Islam. Through constant broadcasting on mainstream media of the rise of groups such as the Islamic State, it’s no wonder that the people feared my religion rather than trying to understand it. A prime example of how our dominant government lead us to believe my religion was an extreme ideology. This would deeply impact me because the radical Islamists they’d show on the news would tend to look a certain way, a way in which Muslims as a whole were supposed to look. You see, the prophet Muhammad left behind a clear set of instructions in ways we were supposed to cut our hair and keep our beards as men. Keep the hair at one length and leave the beard, an appearance that I had maintained for a couple years.
Unfortunately, the 2 percent of extremists had tainted this look for the majority of Muslims. A look that was supposed to distinguish us as a religion to make us unique, not in order for us to strike fear into the people’s hearts. However, although the appearance of a Muslim may sometimes hold negative assumptions to the outward community, I find that within the Muslim community it can hold positive ones. For instance, growing up my father had tried to keep me around the influences of the mosque. During this time, I had realized people who dressed and looked a certain way according to the way of the prophet were held in a higher regard.
Another example of how the dominant figure, in this case being the prophet Muhammad, had an impact on how we think people should dress, look, and behave. Though I found it extremely funny how over the years before I grew out my beard, the people of the mosque wouldn’t really bat an eye towards me; but the moment I did, I was being asked to lead prayers. My knowledge of Islam had remained the same over the last couple years, but the fact that I grew out my beard made people assume I had become more serious about my faith. So why is it that these ideas of Islam are popularized by the dominant, and the subordinate seem to be doing nothing about it? Well, it all leads back to Antonio Gramsci’s concept of hegemony. Hegemony in layman’s terms is given to illustrate the dominant’s position on a certain set of ideas. These ideas have the tendency to become “common sense” therefore, blocking any alternative options or a call for a revolution.
I find that as time progresses, the subordinate is much more willing to accept the ideas due to the constant exposure of propagation. As for example, I had mentioned in my first supporting paragraph that for over more than a decade the word terrorism was associated Islam. I don’t think initially people associated terrorism with Islam. But, as time progressed and mainstream media continuously pumped out instances in where Muslims were affiliated with terror attacks, our mind began to connect the two and began to accept the stereotype. However, I think hegemony is just one of two parts to the equation when talking about why we accept the ideas of the dominant.
I believe that hegemony is just an ideology, meaning that it does not go beyond the scope of an idea, but rather action is needed for it to take its course. In order for hegemony to come to fruition there must be a civil society in where you can implant the ideas to the subordinate. This may include but is not limited to news broadcasts, social media, and/or public institutions. The civil society is much needed when trying to make knowledge or propagation prevalent.
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