The Battle for Hearts and Minds in Five Minarets in New York: A Look Into Intercultural Communication in a Turkish-American Film

  • Belinda F. Espiritu, PhD
Keywords: Islamophobia, Westophobia, Sufism, Islamism


This study examines the intercultural communication in the Turkish-American film Five Minarets in New York by looking into the battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims between moderate and radical Muslims and the communication barriers between the Muslims and the West, or between Muslims and non-Muslims, which are the negative stereotypes of Muslims, terrorist acts committed by Muslims in their own countries or in other countries, and the Muslims’ negative sentiments and views towards American imperialism. Anchored on Rokeach and Ball-Rokeach’s concept of value and the bigger concept of worldviews, the study used ideological analysis and discourse analysis in discussing the interrelated conflicts in the film. The transnational character of the film was manifested in the balanced representation of two conflicting ideologies in Islam, Sufism and Islamism, and the intercultural dialogues between characters representing the West and moderate Muslims. Two important points were revealed in the study and which were backed up by related literature: 1) Radical or violent extremist Muslims are just a minority among the population of Muslims in the world; a vast majority of Muslims are moderate Muslims who oppose terrorism and extremism; and 2) There is still a battle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim minority who thinks that violence is justified to advance the cause of Islam and fight for the cause of aggrieved Muslims.

Author Biography

Belinda F. Espiritu, PhD

Belinda F. Espiritu is a Professor of Communication in the University of the Philippines Cebu. She teaches Critical Perspectives in Communication, Communication Theory and Research, Development Communication, and Organizational Communication.   She holds a PhD degree in Communication and a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature – both from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. Her research interests are on alternative and independent media, alternative globalization, religion and media, and internet activism. She has published journal articles on a range of topics from popular culture, the Lumad struggle for social and environmental justice, netizens’ political expressions through blogs and the comment sections, and a book chapter on Islamophobia and the negative media portrayal of Islam published in Global Viewpoints: Islam and Society by Greenhaven Publishing. She has published critical and reflection articles in independent media sites such as,, and She was the Coordinator of the Mass Communication Program in the university where she works from 2010 – 2015 and is currently on her third year as the Director of its Research Office known as the Central Visayas Studies Center. She advocates for alternative globalization, sustainable development, interreligious understanding, and peace education. She is a Christian who appreciates Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, having immersed herself for three weeks among members of a Sufi group in Turkey.