Stereotypes are used for the exposition and the positioning of different groups in storytelling almost all the time. Accordingly, they are a staple resource in character design. Stereotypes are used for differentiation of groups and figures, but build on generalisations for this purpose: they are used to build and illustrate oppositions that meet the audiences expectations (cf. Leerssen).

They contain prejudices that work as and strengthen active processes of debasement: people are judged as members of groups which are usually constructed just for the narrative purpose and its underlying argument. They always relate to other contemporary political attitudes, be them covert or overt (Versteegen) - they never are isolated constructions. They pretend insight in their condensation of complex ideas into striking and memorable images (Ernst Gombrich). But they hardly ever demystify political rhetorics or promote rational insight,but the prefered distortions and exaggerations show mental blocks and ways of thinking about the Other.

As element of stereotypes, references to religions and belief-systems are used often for constructing and taking position in social and cultural debates. They are one of the most basic building-blocks for stereotypes, and get used for illustrating social inclusion and exclusion. Religious references usually get integrated into ethnic stereotypes that are primarily used to construct "Otherness". In this process, the religions in question are hardly interacted with - they only serve to construct and assume a unity of the own cultural background (its culture and religious references). Religions and beliefs get reduced in their references and variety and instrumentalised for supporting xenophobic sentiment. These positions become synonymous for specific political positions.

A specific form of stereotype is the ethnotype that builds on established stereotypes to place an individual in a specific context, e.g. the construction of Woody Allen as New York neurotic intellectual (etc. pp.) is built on the stereotype of the urban US American Jew.

Another central figure in contemporary Western debate and storytelling is the Muslim as the Other, a sterotypical figure that is used to show signs of non-integration that combines religious and ethnic condensations visualised by expressedly foreign styles of clothing and accessories. In caricatures and other visual narratives (e.g. US-American main-stream comics, but also film), Muslims are depicted as wearing tribal attributes of specific Near-Eastern traditions, thus de-historising these traditional dresses and customs and confirming the construction of the Orient as the Other (Eward Said; ref. to comment by Ben Bouzid 2011).

In phases of social un-easiness with these constructions of the cultural (and religious) Other, these descriptions as "primitive", "barbaric", "anti-enlightened", etc. are usually countered with idealisations that turn the Other into a kind of Noble Savage. The "other" remains subjected to an ethnocentric view while focussing on the un-easiness with the "own" culture.

References to religions are used in public debate for all kinds of purposes, often building on and sometimes reflecting on or even countering established stereotypes. References to religious beliefs as either attempt to social inclusion or self-marketing, I discussed in a paper on "Defenders of Faith - Multi-Faith-Confessions between Political Tool and Religious Inclusion" at the Annual Conference of the German Association for the Study of British Cultures, Carl-von-Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg in 2008.
 
Literature:

Atef Ben Bouzid (2011): Informationsrevolution und Demokratisierung in der arabischen Welt? Berlin: Universitätsverlag der TU Berlin.

Jakob Dittmar (2013): "Comics and History: Myth-making in Nazi-references" in: International Journal of Comics Art, Vol. 15:1, Spring 2013; 270–286.

Chrysanthos Vlamis and Jakob Dittmar (2012): "The end of state-control over the brand-image of the nation: Hero-culture and tourism" (published in Greek by Chrysanthos Vlamis). In: Alex Deffner and Nicholas Karachalis (eds.): Marketing and Branding Places: international research and Greek reality. Volos: Thessaly University Press.

Jakob Dittmar (2011): "Comic und Geschichtsbewußtsein - Mythisierung im Gegensatz zur Historisierung"
in: Klaus Farin, Ralf Palandt (Hrsg.): Rechtsextremismus, Rassismus und Antisemitismus in Comics. Berlin: Archiv der Jugendkulturen.

Jakob Dittmar (2010): "Comics and History: Myth-making versus Historisation" in: Slil: On-Line Journal for History, Film and Television Winter-Issue 2010.

Ernst Gombrich (2000): Art and Illusion. [emphasis on Chapter X on Cartooning] Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Joep Leerssen (1991): "Mimesis and Stereotype" in: Yearbook of European Studies 4: National Identity - Symbol and Representation. 165-175.

Heinrich Versteegen (2012): "Turbans and Balaclavas: Images of Terrorism in British Political Cartoons" in: Journal for the Study of British Cultures, Vol. 19, No.2, 2012; 179-202.