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The issue of inaccurate representation of Muslims in the British media can be viewed and analyzed from different perspectives. For instance, following Salman Rusdie Affair, different issues pertaining global war on terror, multiculturalism, immigration among other issues, it is apparent that the way many people view Muslims and Islam is contentious (Jaspal&Cinnirella, 2016). Media plays a key role in educating, entertaining and informing the populous. It is relied upon by most people across the world on the same. In regard to how it is represented in the British media, these issues play an indispensable role in determining its representation and information given to the public.
Following some of these instances, most of the information that is given by the media is negative. However, the negative representation of Muslims and Islam by the media has been highly criticized by many Muslim advocacy groups, academics, and activists (Balk, 2012). The focal point is in regard to the claim that the British media has mostly portrayed the negative side of Muslims and Islam, discriminatory and unfair representation. In fact, the narrative of Muslims being homogenized has been taken to mean that they are a threat to non-Muslims (Sian, 2012). This narrative of them being athreat to non-Muslims has allowed the Muslims to be suppressed. Studyhas documented that the current issue of Muslims misrepresentation by the British media is a trend that has gradually grown since the 1970s when ethnically marked minority youth were associated with criminal behavior. The pattern has been modified from ‘black mugger’ to ‘BrAsian’ which in other words means Muslim the trouble maker.
On the other hand, Muslims are basically absent from more normalized figurative positions such as at reality shows or in popular soaps. Muslims have been involved in various issues surrounding multiculturalism, education, immigration and they have been the focus of different public problems (Keshavjee, 2013; Great Britain 2010). The representation of Muslims is found to be highly negative in the British media according to Muslim advocacy groups, activists, and academics. The key objective of this study is to understand if it is only Muslims who are not presented well in the British Media
Muslims have argued that the media has continuously printed distorted stories about Muslims. For instance, on 9th Dec 2010, The Sun had a headline that stated that the Al Qaeda had a plan to attack Coronation Street. Two weeks later, the Sun, on another article apologized on the earlier article stating that there was no specific threat from Al-Qaeda (Versi, 2016). With this example, it is interpreted that this was an article that wanted to scare people in order to show how Muslims and Islam, in particular, is a threat to the non-Muslims. This is because Al Qaeda is associated with the Islamic faith.
The appraisal of the press is thereby leading to racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia has been properly documented. Most of the people tend to associate the Muslim community with terror and violence (Rajagopalan, 2008). Different statements have been made to oversimplify 1.6 billion Muslims on the basis of the actions of some corrupt individuals. Boon, Huq & Lovelace (2011) argued that the media has made the Muslims feel despaired by making no certain difference between terror group as well as ordinary Muslim people who are living their lives joyfully and with social cohesion. The figure of the Muslim is considered by the press via Orientalist lens, and Muslims and Islam are generally contrasted with the values of West.
As much as there could be that association between Islam and Al Qaeda, the way information is put across by the media is what makes Muslim fraternity a worried lot. Muslims have distanced themselves from any form of aterror group that operates with thepretense of being Muslims (Versi, 2016). However, as long as these acts of terror continue to hit the headlines, there is a lot that should be done to avoid cases of Muslims feeling negatively by the media. It is to be noted that such sensational reporting by the press related to Islam and Muslims have arisen following 9/11 as well as other attacks that took place in different parts of the world and before that such negative representation were almost absent. It has been clear that threat of terrorism has been one of the main issues.
Studies have documented that the biggest percentage of the way Muslims are covered in the press is in relation to terrorism. This has been a global concern and, which has tarnished Islamic faith. Islamophobic reporting has been sensational since the 9/11 attack and other subsequent attacks (Poole, 2006). These incidences have become the central focus of the media. For instance, eleven years since the 9/11, images of the plane crashing are seen in almost every print and online media worldwide. This is interpreted to indicate that the Islam and Muslims are the enemies of the world. The intention is to portray the negative image of Muslims by making them look like murderers and over-religious (Atay, 2012).
Such story leads to thedevelopment of fear and hysteria and creates a sense of Islamophobia and leaves a simple message that all Muslims are terrorists. In the UK, a study conducted in 2007 noted that 91% of the articles in different national papers regarding Muslims were negative (Versi, 2016). The Muslim women are represented in the mass media as being passive, oppressed victims rather than being powerful leaders that they are. There is no focus upon the accomplishment of the Muslim women especially upon the ones who do not fit within the veiled typecast.
Some of the news reporting directly noted that Britain is at thethreat of Islamic terror attacks, for instance targeting the London Olympics and other national celebrations (Hargrave & Livingstone, 2009). One of these scenarios is the case of The Sun, 10/10/11 where the newspaper reported that around 200 suicide bombers were planning to attack during the Olympics. The story further claimed that the attackers were living in Britain and were among 2000 extremists alleged to be living in the UK (Sian, 2012). With such deliberations, it can be argued that the British media was categorical that these attackers were not from outside, but were living with the public in the UK. Sensational language is used on such news item that suggests that Muslims are dangerous to the people of the UK (Fetzer, 2004). In other words, such information is used to cement Muslims in association with terrorism, this insinuating that every Muslim in the UK was a threat. The other story that was used to cement the narrative ofthe global threat from Muslims is the one that said Taliban were also seeking to revenge on Obama for the killing of Osama Bin Laden. In a broader sense, this was used to indicate that the Muslims in the UK were equally dangerous just like those in the international community (Sian, 2012). It is to be considered that Muslim women are individuals who are to be respected and offered utmost value like other individuals attain in the society but the media is promoting images as well as stories regarding them as if they are similar to the accused Muslims.
In certainways, the media have been quite good in demonstrating that the attacks are not basically the faults of all the Muslims. It has constantly been encouraging numerous people to stand up and speak for the ordinary Muslims who are being treated ill in the society. However, significant incidents were not reported in a proper manner like the racial attacks that took place. It becomes quite important for the media to be the voice of these general Muslims as well. Certain incidents that took place around the world have raised concerns regarding negative constructs of Muslims in the media. It has been noted that the cases related to Muslim people have always attained greater attention or the scandalous nature of white victim of Muslim group who walked free were considered to be quite significant than the ones receiving ethnic minority facing institutional racism (Poole, 2002). The negative media conversations related to Muslims have not weakened and remain hegemonic.
The so-called myth of the black rapist has been transformedinto the myth of brown man from a backward culture, anti-feminist, and ones addicted to honor killing. This narrative is used to describe Muslims as dangerous people to western cultures. Representation of Muslims in the news surrounding these topics has portrayed Muslim male as dangerous (Esposito, 1999). In most stories, Muslim men have been accused of giving white girls drugs and sexually abusing them (Allen, 2016). Additionally, Muslim faith schools have been hitting the headlines over the claims that children have been subjected to abuseand violence. This is in contrast to what schools are expected to be especially the Christian schools. One of the accusations in this regard involved allegations that 10,000children were victims of violence and that four men of Asian origin participated in these acts. Further, it was alleged that these men were specifically from Pakistan. In this kind of a story, it is clear that the author of the story did not want to state that it was Muslims responsible for these crimes directly. By first stating the broader suspects to be men from Asia, this would not first make the reader think of Muslims as the target. However, the shift of the subject from Asia as a broad category to Pakistan men, the reader will be left analyzing Pakistan men and narrow down to Muslim men. Such news items only tend to show how the British white girls are under threat from the Muslims, who in the news items are not directly pointed at (In Pratt & In Woodlock, 2016). In another dimension, lack of a better proportionate of the Muslims in the British media could be argued to have contributed to Muslims misrepresented by the British media (Gottschalk & Greenberg, 2008). For instance, one would not imagine a situation where a Muslim newspaper author would write stories that target Muslims as bad people especially in situations where the story is fiction. In fact, in most situations, the news exaggerates a story being covered using different narratives that are sensational and inciting (Petley & Richardson, 2011). A Muslim author would not try to do such stories beyond the facts. However, the same narrative that is used to misrepresent Muslims by the media could be argued to be the same narrative that is used to employ Muslims in the media houses (Alsultany, 2012). The argument could be true because once there are many Muslims in different media houses, it means that the misrepresentation that has been going on would come to an end or would face serious opposition from Muslim journalists (Morey & Yaqin, 2011). Besides, secrets that are used by the media to cover some fake stories would be exposed if the media employ many Muslims (Lewis & Rogers, 1993).
On the other hand, by presenting various crimes as ‘Muslim crime’ fixes the representation of Muslims as criminals, which according to Muslim advocacy groups and activists changes the logics of racist pathology (Said, 1995). In other words, as much as the British media would want to distance itself from racism, they apply the reverse psychology where they use the narrative of presenting Muslims as bad people that target non-Muslims. Description of crimes that involves social, cultural issues is put in such a way that the Islamic culture is seen as a bad culture where crime is associated with culture (Jaspal&Cinnirella, 2016).
One of the notable stories regarding domestic issues is the one that led to national riots of 2011. The case involved drunk Muslim girls that were alleged have beaten up a white woman. The bone of contention was centeredon the fact that these girls were set free by thecourt for a mere fact of being Muslims (Baker, Gabrielatos & McEnery, 2013). The issue of them being set free was highlighted to create a notion that Muslims were receiving special treatment by the courts and that the white are victims of the Muslims. Additionally, it is argued that the argument by the court that Muslim girls are not used to drinking, and that is why they behaved that way was a misuse of culture to condone crime. Conversely, this case was used to show that Islam is a culture that does not have moral values because the girls went drinking and committing acrime when the Islamic culture forbids such deeds. The articles on this story, especially on Daily Mail, were sensational in such a way that the reader would definitelyunderstand thatMuslim women are criminals and that courts were biased especially when dealing with Muslims (Sian, 2012). Interestingly, a statement is quoted from the white woman who claims that the two Muslim girls attached her for a mere fact of being a white. The way the story is narrated shows Muslim women as being unsympathetic with statements such as ‘they did not care’ and that they were ‘happy’ with the judgment.In fact, the articles on this story have been argued to be provocative and Islamophobic where the articles repeatedly emphasized that the attackers were Muslims.Press has a strategic way of advocating for racism without them actually being seen as racists. The way they over emphasize on a Muslim misconduct and the use of negative words about them and actually without them being seen to be racists is being strategic (Curtis, 2010).
Immigration and forced marriages have been featuring many headlines for some decades now. Articles on the two issues have emphasized on them as being ‘problematic’ (Bhimji, 2012). For instance, the issue of immigration is painted with all sorts of negative things such as illegal entry and crime. An example of a story regarding immigration and marriages is one that was in The Independent (10/10/11). The article pointed out that that the PM Cameron was about to give a speech in relation to immigration and ‘sham’ marriages (Jaspal&Cinnirella, 2016). The article further suggested that the PM was to give direction citing Pakistan as an example of ‘sham’ marriage. With such stories, it is clear that although the laws on immigration and forced marriages are indispensable, they are twisted in such a way that the Muslims are the target and that it would not be seen as the direct target (Nielsen, 2012). Additionally, the way the media explains some of the examples to be usedin order for the PM to give his directions is a clear way of showing that the Muslim are involved in all the bad things related to marriages and immigration (Jaspal&Cinnirella, 2016). Notably, no other example is given from people from other cultural background apart from the Muslims. The articles also use a language that is seen to suggest that immigrants are becoming a burden to the British people and that they are taking advantage of British hospitality. All these tactics used to focus on the Muslim and Islamic culture (In Seddon & In Ahmad, 2011). Ironically, The Sun used itsvery own British Pakistani Muslim writer to publish the story. The tactic is used as a way of confusing the reader and not to have an idea that the Muslims are the targeted ones (In Dawoody, 2016). The press aimed at making the readerbelief that the article is honest especially now that it was being run by a Muslim journalist. On the other hand, the article indicates that the issue of forced marriage is more of aprison sentence and that it causes both physical and mental torture to the victim. The articlefurther suggests that the denial for human rights should not be entertained in any way and it must stop. These are some of the provocative words used by the media to show how dangerous the matter is in order to get public support (Sait, 2015). Although they point out facts regarding the issue, the sensational language is the one that shows how the media misrepresent the Muslims (Bayrakli & Hafez, 2016).
Media plays a key role in educating, entertaining and informing the populous. The negative representation of Muslims and Islam by the media has been highly criticized by many Muslim advocacy groups, academics, and activists. The narrative of Muslims being homogenized has been taken to mean that they are a threat to non-Muslims. Besides, Muslims have been involved in various issues surrounding multiculturalism, education, immigration and they have been the focus of different public problems. Additionally, Most of the people tend to associate the Muslim community with terror and violence. As much as there could be that association between Islam and Al Qaeda, the way information is put across by the media is what makes Muslim fraternity a worried lot. Muslim advocacy groups have distanced Muslims from any form of aterror group that operates with thepretence of being Muslims. Islamophobic reporting has been sensational since the 9/11 attack and other subsequent attacks. The intention is to portray the negative image of Muslims by making them look like murderers and over-religious.
Some of the news reporting directly noted that Britain is at threat of Islamic terror attacks. Sensational language is used on such news item that suggests that Muslims are dangerous to the people of the UK. Representation of Muslims in the news surrounding these topics has portrayed Muslim male as dangerous. Muslim faith schools have been hitting the headlines over the claims that children have been subjected to abuse and violence. On the other hand, lack of a better proportionate of the Muslims in the British media could be argued to have contributed to Muslims misrepresented by the British media. However, the same narrative that is used to misrepresent Muslims by the media could be argued to be the same narrative that is used to employ Muslims in the media houses. By presenting various crimes as ‘Muslim crime’ fixes the representation of Muslims as criminals, which according to Muslim advocacy groups and activists changes the logics of racist pathology. Description of crimes that involves social, cultural issues is put in such a way that the Islamic culture is seen as a bad culture where crime is associated with culture. Press has a strategic way of advocating for racism without them actually being seen as racists. The way they over emphasize on a Muslim misconduct and the use of negative words about them and actually without them being seen to be racists are strategic.
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