Influences of British Newspapers on Public Islamophobia
Info: 8578 words (34 pages) Dissertation
Published: 9th Dec 2019
Tagged: MediaSocial Studies
To what extent has the media (British News Papers) influenced and manipulated Islamophobia.
The media plays a significant role in everyone’s day to day existence. In today’s day and age, the media is inevitably always going to be there and will forever remain being part of our lives. After the tragic events that took place on the 11th of September, 2001, there was an enormous impact on the press and all media outlets regarding Muslims and the perception of Islam which subsequently thus, I believe has led to the rise in Islamophobia. Islamophobia is the dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims. I have always been curious and hoped to explore just why and to what extent the media’s role plays in creating and amplifying the term ‘Islamophobia.’ What has always got me interested and strongly passionate about this topic specifically are the stories that are portrayed in the media because I personally regard these headlines as being a misrepresentation of Islam and to be misleading, I believe strongly it is not a true representation of what the people are about or what the religion is about and this misleading and misrepresentation is only doing more harm than good and as a result is creating and empowering that divide between these minorities. Thus, I came about my idea of researching the extent to which the media has in influencing and manipulating Islamophobic tendencies. Fortunately, this topic has been approached and studied by many theorists such as Elizabeth Poole and John E. Richardson whom explore Muslims and the News Media. There are always new and different material published daily, arguably shifting the restrictions of representation however overall, the restrictions are quite limited and these negative and damaging representations are still dominating media outlets.
My main focal point is not only how Islamophobia is constructed but to also produce an understanding of how the media forms different ideologies and beliefs on Muslims, looking at negative images and vocabulary used in the media to represent Islam which tend to dominate the public realisation surrounding Muslims. Furthermore, I will argue whether these statements are genuine through the approach of three strategies. First is taking an approach that looks at quantitative content analysis, looking at facts and publishes already distributed through varies forms of studies. Secondly, to examine media outlets such as newspaper channels that are known for storylines dedicated to depict Muslims and Islam by taking an unbiased approach, looked at from a positivist viewpoint as it allows my work to be factual and objective and lastly, conducting qualitative forms of content analysis such as interviews and focus groups, collecting data on a personal level, foreseeing people’s views and opinions on the topic foreshadowing an interpretivist approach.
Alan Bryman argues the importance of aligning research questions accurately (2012:291). The research questions used in the focus groups were in regards to the newspapers I had chosen to use to depict whether the media use these stories to generate more negative attention on Muslims. In my dissertation, I will be examining the use of language and imagery used in newspapers in relation to Muslims and crimes committed against Muslims and by Muslims, comparing the two, arguing that due to these forms of vocabulary and misrepresentations, it can influence people’s views and opinions on Islam and its followers.
Is it okay to say the media is shaping terror? No one wishes to live in a society whereby the media targets and singles individual groups out. It is clear and will be shown throughout the course of this dissertation the argument that the media has manipulated and influenced Islamophobia.
There are new stories every day that seek to preserve the narrative that Islam means violence, oppression, isolation and outsiders of society. The terminology used to describe and represent Muslims and Islam is problematic and an ongoing issue. Elizabeth Poole (2012) looked at the representations of Muslims. Poole studied articles from British newspapers between 1993-1997 and found that the media depicts Muslims as being extreme and backwards in comparison to the western society. Other studies have been gathered and support Poole’s work, being that Muslims are associated with terrorism, sexism and extremist views such as John Richardson (2004) whom conducted a similar approach, he found that there were similar results in his thesis as Poole’s thus making this conception more concrete and reliable.
During this section, I will present a summary of the relevant literature in relation to the topic that I have conducted my research on. Because of the ongoing issues and concerns surrounding this topic, there are many literatures that focus and discuss the topic on Islam and how the media manipulate and influence Islamophobia. My field of research will be on media, focusing largely on the British press and the representation of Islam, focusing on three key aspects; violence and how violence is used to portray Muslims, focusing on violent words used through the media, crimes committed to and by Muslims etc. religion, focusing on how articles and media link the religion with terrorism and extremist views and otherness/fear, essentially looking how the media portray Islam as something ‘other’ this concept of ‘us vs them’ that is commonly seen and enforced through the media. Baker, Gabrielatos and McEnery (2013) discuss the role in which the British press have played in representing Islam and its followers.
Tonkiss (2004:368) argues that ‘’content analysis is a quantitative method for studying textual data.’’ She discusses how content analysis is used to study texts in relation to how repetitive and recurring they are. The Cardiff University came up with a study in 2008 (Lewis, Justin. Mason, Paul. Moore, Kerry) that looked at the representation of British Muslims in print media through the years of 2000 – 2008 and found that the most common nouns and words used for Muslims are terrorist, extremist and radicals. Only 2% of news stories about Muslims involved them having any moral values, so it is this notion that is enforcing an entire group of people to believe and trust these stories. Jonathan Brown, professor from George Town University argued that 0.006% of Muslims in a global population belong to terrorist organisations yet the Muslims as aggressor is one that carries the most media weight. If you look at the events that have taken place over the last couple years, it is a frustrating example of not fitting current narratives. For instance, the incident that took place in Finsbury Park, it was not described as a terrorist attack and the white British man was not labelled as a terrorist, arguably if the tables were reversed, it would be a different story. Many have gone on to debate that if identities were reversed and the victims were white and the killers were Muslims, media coverage will be nonstop. A model to look at in regards to these such words being used to categorise Muslims is referred to as the labelling model. The labelling theory is essentially being about the power of groups in society that label other groups/minorities in a negative way, resulting in different treatment based on this label. Malcolm X (1960) argued that ‘’the media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent. And that is power because they control the minds of the masses.’’ This focuses on the issue that the media have the power to label groups and individuals in which results to people viewing and treating these groups differently to others.
Howard Becker (1963), was the first to introduce the idea of labelling. Becker argues that such powerful organisations such as media news outlets create deviance by creating rules and applying them to groups whom they label as being outsiders. Therefore, if the media continue to enforce these labels upon the selected groups, such as describing Muslims to be terrorists, extremists and radicalists, as media has become a huge part of everyone’s existence, impacting our socio and cultural values people will take into consideration these statements and continue to perceive the group as what they are being labelled as, continuing this endless cycle of wrongful depiction.
Louis Althusser and Roland Barthes (Lenin, 2001:109) define ideology as ‘’the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence.’’ This idea that these ideologies enforced by these institutes is an important concept as it suggests that they inflict these opinions and shape people’s ideas and views. Therefore, by the media continuously referring Islam to terrorism and danger, these such negatives opinions and attitudes towards Muslims are gradually shaped.
Violence (how violence is used – violent words used, the crimes they commit, never linked with something good)
In the post 9/11 world, there has been a constant pressure of Muslims to be reactive and not to condemn extremist acts. Which could be problematic as the expectations of Muslims to be condemned leaves to the separation of people. The organisation ‘’Inspired by Muhammed’’ ran a poll. Statistics showed that 50% associate Islam with terrorism. 68% think Islam encourages the repression of women. 13% think Islam is a religion of peace and 19% believe Islam has a positive impact on Britain. These numbers are concerning and can be argued that due to the exposure of the media’s misconception, wrongful representation and negative imagery and terminology used to describe and forecast Islam and Muslims, it gives people a false representation of the religion.
If you were to google Muslim women, majority of the images that come up, are of women wearing the Burka. This only increases the gap between lived reality and the projected version of the Muslim community. It is true that some Muslim women do wear the Burka however, it is not the normative images of Muslim women, however people believe it to be the reality of Muslim women because of the constant representation of Muslim women wearing the Burka.
Elizabeth Poole and John E.Richardson’s book on Muslims and the News Media bring light on the issue of the media’s wrongful representation of Islam and Muslims. They argue that ‘’Muslims have featured in many of the more significant news stories of the past few years, yet shockingly very few of these stories have been about anything other than the war on terror’’ representations of Muslims in the media are associated with fear, threat and misunderstanding.
Religion (how articles link the religion with terrorism extremist views)
Islamic Features in British and French Muslim Media (74) Isabelle Rigoni
Otherness/Fear (they’re portrayed as something other, wary, cautious, dangerous. Us vs them)
Racial profiling and the war on terror (35) Liz Fekete
Mixed communities: Mixed Newsrooms (63) Peter Cole
Methods and Methodology
Content Analysis/Discourse Analysis
Content analysis is a form of qualitative data, a technique used for describing written, spoken and visual communication. Due to the topic of my dissertation that focuses heavily on the media and its portrayal of Islamophobia, my content analysis will largely be centred on print such as newspapers. I will be referring to the meaning of the information found in these print examples.
Discourse analysis if neither a form of qualitative nor quantative data. It focuses and looks at how journalist and the media report certain events, it looks at the ways in which they reconstruct their stories, what they put in the article and what they take it. It is created institutionally, this concept of us and them, reporters distinguishing the difference between what has taken place and the reality of the story.
When white far-right propaganda Darren Osborne ran over innocent victims outside a Mosque in Finsbury Park on June, 2017, with the aim of murdering Muslims, he was found guilty on all charges against him, none of which were terrorism.
The perpetrators are labelled as misunderstood, troubled or sick. When other terror attacks such as these take place, it is not likely that they are described as terrorist in the newspapers. The reason for the discrepancy is obvious, white people cannot be terrorist. And on the rare occasions that they are found guilty of terrorism, media bias results in their historical re-labelling as murderers or killers. The ambiguity surrounding the term terrorism is that it has assumed a loaded, racist association towards Islam and Muslims. In the aftermath of the Woolwich attack, in which Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered in London, it was reported that the attackers were ‘of Muslim appearance’’ The word terrorism has lost all meaning and it is now become a word affiliated with Islam and Muslims.
Content/Discourse Analysis: Methods and methodology section (roughly 10/15 articles)
-The month, the length, time of event, how many articles I’ve found.
-Ongoing theme within the news articles – content analysis
Discourse analysis –. Norman Fercluff (discourse analysis – this is the language used…analytical language? Might come out the institute journalist, related to the readers, how’s it constructed – language, images, audiences, reading ages, complex use of language)
Semi Structured in depth Interviews:
During the course of this dissertation I chose to conduct two forms of interviews. I have carried out a set of semi-structured in depth interviews with participants studying the effect media has on the populations opinions and stereotyping of Islam. The first set of interviews were set up as semi structured in depth interviews. I chose to do this because I wanted my dissertation to have a personal element to it. By using this type of research method, I could get a subjective in depth response from the interviewees. Further exploring their opinion and beliefs based on the idea that the media manipulatives and influences people’s opinions on Islam.
Using semi-structured in depth interviews the participants could provide me with more background information and details to their answers, as they had the opportunity to further discuss their views on the issues at hand. This works out better than unstructured interviews as my questions are more focused and I am able to lead the interview towards the information that I wanted to study. Semi structured interviews proved to be more successful in obtaining more valid information from the interviewees attitudes and opinions particularly on how participants explain and describe these issues based on their knowledge and experience.
What I found to be quite helpful during these semi structured in depth interviews is that by creating an informal atmosphere my respondents were able to be more open with their opinions and experiences. Also by anonymizing my respondent’s identities it encourages them to be more honest and truthful. I was able to gain a report with my participants which was beneficial to acquire the information that I needed. Throughout these interviews there is very little space for misconceptions or miscommunication. A face to face interview allows questions to be fully understood thus ensuring the reliability of the interview process and the validity of the information received. By using a smaller population, I was given the opportunity to gain full comprehensive research. In order to gain reliable data, it was imperative that each participant was asked the same questions yet left open to expand and include any other data that they wished.
I am confident that if my interviews were conducted on a much larger and broader scale, you would essential get the same results as my findings, which backs the reliability of my data. However, due to the lack of time and resources available to me I was unable to access a larger population and gain more rich and insightful data which could have produced or highlighted different issues to my attention.
Although there are many beneficial aspects of conducting these interviews that was the main obstacle that I faced. One of the downfalls of conducting structured in depth interviews as mentioned previously, is that because the interviews are quite in depth and I was unable to target a larger audience thus making it difficult to generalize my findings to a larger population. Taking into account both the pros and cons of using structured interviews I do believe that the approach that I took to my interviews was suitable because of the fact that I wanted there to be a personal attribute to my dissertation.
However, it is quite difficult to directly compare these interviews with one another because of the uniqueness of the participants and although the results did show that there were similar responses and views on the issues, there were some differences in the answers because not every individual experience or shares the same opinions.
Moreover, as well as conducting semi structured in depth interviews as a means of collecting my data, I also organised a focus group interview. I chose this form of interviews because it could provide me with opportunity to listen to people’s views and opinions on my topic, it also allows me to explore issues with the participants in more detail, potentially gathering information that I may not be able to obtain through other means of methods. I intend to ask the topic question at hand to the participants, their opinion on the media’s manipulation and influence of Islamophobia.
By using focus groups, it allows me the chance to discuss issues in depth and discuss any new issues that may discussed throughout the course of the interview. It permits participants to further explain their responses and allows me to examine it in more detail. This method, I believe works out better than any other form of interviews, because there is a specific topic to discuss, it will provide me with the information I wanted to study. Focus groups provide more valid information from the participant’s attitudes and issued based on their knowledge and awareness.
What I found to be quite useful using this form of interview is that it is provides me with quick results at a low cost. If I stuck to only conducting semi structured in depth interviews, it would require me to interview dozens of people at different times, whereas with focus groups, I can interview and further collect my data in a more efficient way. As well as that, these forms of method require little time to analyse and assess the data as opposed to individual interviews. Additionally, focus groups is more flexible, for instance, if I feel like a participant makes an exceptional comment on the topic at hand, I have the opportunity to further develop that and ask more questions that could potentially provide me with more useful information. Another benefit of conducting focus group interviews is that a relax, friendly atmosphere can be created, building a rapport with the participants thus resulting in the reliability of the data I am collecting as they’re more likely to speak the truth and explain their issues without having to worry about any issues. Participants are likely to respond honestly because participants may feel more comfortable answering questions in a group as interactions with other participants may ignite more discussion and information.
A benefit of using focus groups is that the answers and questions are easily understood and analysed, it will provide me with knowledge and awareness in how the respondents think. Also, I intend to gather roughly 10 participants for the focus group therefore my interviews will be conducted on a broader, larger scale which provides a sense of validity as it is more representative of a larger population.
However, there are a few issues that may occur when using focus groups as a means of collecting data. Because these interviews consist of a larger scale of participants, it may be difficult to allocate and assemble the group because not all may be able to attend at a certain time/location. Another negative is that participants may go off tangent and therefore would require me to reign it in and keep the discussion focused on the topic and issue at hand.
Overall, using focus group interviews as a means of collecting my data appears to be a useful and competent way as it provides me with a direct understanding of the participant’s views and opinions, examining and analysing their attitudes and thoughts. It is also a good source of data used to dispute the argument of the media’s influence on Islamophobia as the media is essentially targeted at them.
Location plays an important role in how you collect your data as it can potentially affect the value of the responses and the quality of the recording. It is important to choose a quiet location so that the audio/video recordings do not pick up any extra sound, however, specifically with my semi structured interviews, I wanted to create a rapport with the participants therefore I chose to conduct the interview in a café because a friendship/closeness can be established with the participant due to the location being quite informal and a relaxed environment, creating an element of comfortability for both interviewer and interviewee. For my focus group, I chose my home as my location because I am familiar with each participant and therefore an environment like that will only enforce a sense of ease with participants. Because the location is set at home, I must minimise any distractions such as putting phones aside, putting a notice outside the room so there are no interruptions as it could change the dynamic of the setting.
It is essentially for interviewers to establish beforehand how they plan to record their data. As a means of gathering the information, for semi structured in depth interviews and focus group interview I chose to record and take notes during the process. I chose to do this specifically for my semi structured interviews because the location was set to be in a coffee shop where there may be other people around and therefore the recording may pick up more than just the participants voice so by note taking, I am able to write down notes on what the participant has said in case there’s any problems in regards to picking up audio. What’s promising about recording the interview is that I can easily go back at the recordings and listen closely to what is said, focus on what the participant is saying, how they’re saying it, their voice of tone etc. which will give me an idea of the emotion behind their words. As well as that, it is beneficial for me as it helps me include relevant quotes and comments in my dissertation. However, there are a few problems that may arise during the interview process that may cause issues in regards to collecting the data. For instance, it is important to have a backup plan just in case there are any technical difficulties in relation to the recording, while recording my interviews, I intend to take notes of the important quotes and comments made if there happen to be any problems. For my focus group interview, I intend to use video recording and note taking as a means of collecting my data. Reason behind this is that with video audio recording, I can allocate important quotes and comments to specific people, assessing specifically on their facial expression, body language, tone of voice. Again, as previously mentioned, I will also record alongside these recordings because of the potential risk of the equipment failing although, I intend to do a checklist before the interviews start, making sure batteries are full, equipment is properly plugged in and recording etc. to avoid any issues.
There are many ethical issues that can take place when interviews are not thoroughly looked at. Confidentiality is an important factor. Ideally names of the participants should not be mentioned unless they have given permission for you to do so. For the purpose of my work and the sensitivity of the topic, I have ensured names will not be mentioned during the course of the interviews and after, by doing so, participants are more likely to be more open and truthful with their feelings and opinions on the subject. The British Sociological Association (BSA) is a set of guidelines as to how a research is carried out. The purpose of these guidelines is so that researchers know what the research is for, the purpose of it and where it will be published. Before conducting the interviews, it was vital I get permission from participants to partake in these interviews, either through verbal or written consent. I provided each participant a consent form to fill out e.g. procedures for the interviews, informing them why these interviews are being done and what I intend to do with the research. The participants must be happy with the location of the interview as it is important they feel safe and out of harm’s way as well as the safety of myself. As a researcher, it is important that I think about any sensitive issues that may occur during the course of the interview as I am unaware of what impact bringing these issues to light may result in.
Reflexivity is the awareness and acknowledgment of being the researcher and the relationship between the research. It essentially the focus of wording questions appropriately and the relationship the researcher has with participants, looking at the effects it may have on participant’s responses to questions or how they answer it. There is a slight chance, if not done correctly that the researcher could affect the work based on how bias they are. I find the topic on Islamophobia to be interesting and want to better my knowledge and understanding of it, however it is imperative I do not let my bias feelings motivate how I conduct my research or the answers. Through semi structured in depth interviews and focus group interviews, the assumption of ‘reality’ can be distorted because the interviewer, must understand the meaning of the respondent’s answers and their interpretation of it after analysing the data. It is crucial that the questions are not to be subjective as there is a slight chance it alters the answers of the respondent’s and leads them to answer untruthfully. The wording of my questions is done accordingly; they are not suggestive thus producing genuine data. Researchers need to be aware that there may not be times where the responses are straight forward and only conveying one meaning, therefore by maintaining an unbiased attitude, it is easier to construct and analyse these responses appropriately. To maintain a sense of reflexive attitude in my research I used unbiased questions for both forms of interviews and used the same questions for each participant so that my data is more reliable, it shows that by repeating the same questions, you’ll get roughly the same results which essentially produces generalised data.
Sampling is the process in which a researcher takes to select and choose the participants appropriately based on the topic or issue at hand. By choosing to study the appropriate people based on the interest of the population, the researcher can then generalise the work according to the wider population the participants represent. My topic looks at Islamophobia and how the media influence and manipulate the term, therefore my participants predominantly will come from an Islamic background or whom have insight on the religion as I hope to look at their opinions and views on why the media does this and show examples of when the media have manipulated the story. I have chosen to partake a nonprobability sampling technique whereby my participants are chosen in a non-random manner. Convenience sampling proved to the most suitable method for my dissertation as it seeks to gain an estimate of the truth. This proved to be efficient as it reduced the cost and time of the sample selecting process and was easier to choose participants to interview. For my semi structured interviews, I interview four participants, two of whom were born into the religion and two whom recently converted to Islam. What motivated me to choose these certain groups of people was because I wanted to mainly look at how Muslims viewed the media and their opinions and experiences on the representation of Islam that is conveyed as they are essentially the ones whom face and have to deal with these misconceptions and wrongful representation of their religion. I chose to interview two individuals whom converted to Islam because I believe it will help show their intake and views on Islamophobia because they weren’t born into the religion yet they chose to follow the religion knowing what they knew on the media’s representation of Islam and the repercussion and stereotypes that follow the faith and even with these external opinions on Muslims, it was their rational choice to convert and I thought that was a powerful tool therefore that’s what motivated me to interview these individuals.
Reliability & Validity:
While conducting research through evaluating a measurement method, researchers tend to consider two attributes; reliability and validity. Arguably, together they form the concept of what is measured as scientific proof. The meaning behind reliability is that results found from research methods must be consistent and essentially repeatable, for instance, if another researcher was to conduct the same research as mine, performing the exact research methods, under the same conditions and were to generate the same results, it would prove the work to be reliable. Validity refers to how valid your research findings are, for instance, it focuses on how the outcomes represent the results they are intended to. To ensure the validity and reliability of my content analysis, I intend to take a positivist and interpretivist approach, gathering information through quantitative methods and qualitative methods. Durkheim and Comte argue that when conducting research, researchers must ensure their work is value free and should use studies that can be recorded quantitatively therefore by using a positivist approach, the information collected through studies and means of quantitative methods such as official statics are more reliable, representative and focuses on trends and patterns. By using an interpretivist approach, I can conduct qualitative methods such semi structured interviews and focus groups as a means of making my research full of rich data and valid.
Findings/ Data Analysis
In this section of my work, I will be presenting my findings and data from my content analysis of semi structured in depth interviews and focus group interviews. The semi structured in depth interviews consisted of four individuals whom come from different backgrounds and the focus group interview consisted of 12 individuals whom share different culture, religions and experiences. These interviews provide a personal understanding of one’s opinions and views on Islamophobia and how the media plays a vital role in manipulating and influencing it. To portray a simplistic overview of the results I have obtained, quotes and responses from the interviewees are included.
I asked people questions in hope of collecting their opinions on the media’s role and influence on Islamophobia. Listed here below are a few different responses from different individuals, responses I believe to be useful in helping portray that. (What question I asked, why I asked and what was I interested in, the result I got was…. this shows, what does it mean)
‘’Q: Have you at any point in your life felt some form of prejudice towards you?
Person 1: A: One moment that stuck with me was at work, I was doing a late shift so there was only one cashier on our floor, so I was the only person on the floor. One customer approached the desk so I walked towards her to serve her and immediately she looked distraught and demanded another cashier. I asked her why because I didn’t understand what the women’s problem was. I had never seen her before so naturally I assumed it wouldn’t be an issue. She claimed it was because she didn’t want to be served by ‘a terrorist’ and was told to go back to my country. To that I replied ‘I was born here. I don’t know what country you want me to go back to.’ [laughs] words can’t even describe how stupid of a situation it was. It was genuinely the first moment I had experienced it first-hand.’’
Person 2: A: Not directly, no. When I decided to wear the hijab, especially during Ramadan, I did have people stare at me, almost looked as if they were questioning me which can be a bit patronising but I got over it. People will have their opinions and that’s fine, they’re entitled to it, if they keep it to themselves.’’
One of the questions I asked the participants were whether at any point in their life, they felt some form of prejudice towards them. I asked them this in hope of further developing my awareness on just how discriminated these groups are. I was interested in seeing whether they are treated differently due to the religion they follow. The result I got from these two individuals were not completely different although person 1 experienced more prejudice than person 2, I came to the assumption that there’s a slight possibility it being because person 2 is an English woman who converted to Islam, however there is no direct evidence there that links that. The results I got from person 1 was that the attitude and discrimination she received seemed to be normal for her, as she was answering the question she laughed in between which only suggests to me that she is used to either receiving this behaviour or have seen this behaviour inflicted towards others. This essentially shows or gives an insight into just how problematic this situation is. Having being exposed to the harsh reality that behaviour like this targeted at Muslims has become the ‘norm’ or is expected of is worrying. This is also supported by person 2, whereby she continues to explain that people will always have their opinions and there’s not much there is to do about it. What I got from these results were that it is almost like it has become a standard thing to allow individuals whom are prejudicial towards Islamic people to carry out these hurtful verbal attacks and it has now become a part of their daily life.
‘’Q: Where do you feel, this prejudice comes from?
Person 2: A: I believe it comes from the media. I did have a lot of people question my decision because they didn’t believe it was a good religion and thought I’d become the ‘type of Muslim’ that’s portrayed on the media, according to them. [Pause] But yeah, the media does have a huge role to play, it discriminated against Islamic people.’’
Person 3: A: Certainly, from the media. I have no doubt about that. The media brainwash people to believe all Muslims are terrorist. A lot of people are scared but it is the media’s fault for creating these moral panics. I feel that if people didn’t believe everything they see or read on the news, then things would be very different. Don’t get me wrong there are a few extremists that give us a bad name, however that happens in every race, culture and religion. I don’t quite understand why Islam is their focus point, I feel like they’re using that as an excuse for war. For instance, Tony Blair sent troops to Afghanistan on the basis that he had intel claiming Afghanistan was storing bombs and ammunition ready to start a war, when that wasn’t the case. The troops went to Afghanistan and there was no bombs or weapons. I believe that the troops caused more disruption than peace.’’
I asked the participants where they feel this prejudicial behaviour comes from. A question like this interests me because I wanted to find out where they felt the root of problem came from and get an understanding of their knowledge or opinion on the situation. The results I got from this were interesting because both participants provided a similar response. Person 2 and 3 continued to discuss how they felt as though the media play a big role in helping creating prejudicial attitudes and beliefs against Islamic people. Person 3 further explained how they believed the media brainwashes viewers into associating Muslims with terrorism. What I got from these two respondents is that they believe the media are to blame for these negative representations and views being formed because of the media’s power in arguably informing and educating people.
‘’Q: Why do you feel some people have this misconception of Islam?
Person 3: A: I think people have this misconception of Islam because they need someone to blame for these crimes that have taken place in our society and in other societies, not just here in England but also in other westerns countries such as the 9/11 attacks, the attacks that took place in Paris a couple of years ago. We’re an easy target for the media and that’s why I feel people have that negative perception of Islam. Not only that but there was a lot of extremist that had a role in this misconception. Not all Muslim people are like that, majority of us are not extremists but because of a few people, majority of the world believe all Muslims are like that, that all Muslims are terrorist which is not the truth. Like I said before, there are good and bad people in every religion.’’
‘’Q: Why do you feel some people have this misconception of Islam?
Person 4: A: Because of the stuff we’re surrounded by such as bomb attacks, terrorist attacks, they use scare tactics to create this fear. For example, the incident that happened in London bridge, reporting’s of a Muslim man running people over. They emphasise on the fact the man was ‘Muslim’ which is honestly and truly not necessary. I personally don’t understand what the media get from doing such things, I guess it could be because that’s what sells, people feed onto this fear.’’
What motivated this sort of question was to have a better understanding on why people may believe this misconception of Islam, In the literature review, I discuss the fear associated with Islam and where it comes from thus what interests me was seeing how these participants view the media, I wanted to see whether they blame the media for this wrongful representation or whether the blame should be shifted on others. What I gathered from these results were that because of the wrongful representation of Muslims in the media, this ideology of Muslims being a threat is enforced onto its viewers and consequently they’re more likely to believe these representations of them because that’s all they are being exposed to. Person 3 made a comment that intrigued me, she claimed that the reason behind the bashing of Muslims is because the media deem them to be an easy target. Although she does believe the media play a huge role in the misconception of Islam, she continued to discuss how the blame should also be towards extremist, those who take the religion into their own hand. What could be taken from this is that if Muslims were not all represented to be the same due to actions that have been taken place by extremist, there wouldn’t be this misconception of Islam, people arguably wouldn’t go blaming the religion for the wrongs of others.
‘’Q: How do you think these opinions could be prevented?
Person 2: A: Simply by making people more aware and open to the other side, people are so drowned in the negative and that stereotype, they don’t take the time to hear the other side. The key isn’t to prevent these opinions, I think it’s important to highlight that isn’t not necessarily a good thing to prevent them from having these opinions, but they should know the whole story, they should be educated before forming these opinions. I think public opinion is based on media, there’s a direct result or influence in the media, with what we see and what we hear. If we are to report everything, the entire factual story, then maybe people may have different opinions. The amount of news we are exposed to on a daily basis, has resulted in people becoming immune to a different opinion, every time a negative story is reported, its automatically associated with the word Muslim, the word Muslim does not need to be mentioned.’’
Once concluded, I have come to the realisation that through these interviews I have conducted, that the results are similar to one another, appropriately making the assumption that although these set of participant’s have different experiences and come from different backgrounds, their views on Islamophobia stem from the idea that it is something constructed and formed due to the media’s influence and manipulation of the religion portrayed through media outlets.
These interviews were conducted through previous researches that took place during another course deadline, whereby I wanted to look at people’s personal opinions and views on whether they believe the media manipulate and misconstrued the religion and its followers. I chose to use these specific interviews because I believed they show a true representation of Islam and provide a good level of insight on just how the media influence and control this hatred towards this group. What I thought was good about conducting these interviews with these two individuals is that one of the interviewees comes from a Muslim background and therefore has more understanding, knowledge and passion of the religion, the other interviewee came from an atheist background whom converted to Islam. I thought this was extremely appropriate because one of the issues discussed through the course of the dissertation is just how far these manipulations and influences have on individuals, this interviewee chose to convert for their own personal gain and because of the awareness and knowledge that was provided to them of the religion, which arguably shows what power knowledge and awareness have and if the media were to portray Muslims more positively and not as the aggressors then I believe it could made a different with how people continue to view Muslims and Islam. I have come to the realisation that the media is a powerful tool and although this interview did provide me with information I believed to be helpful in seeing just how it affects individuals on a personal level, I unfortunately was not able to do this on a larger scale, due to the structure of the interview and the little time frame that I had, however, if it were possibly to conduct these forms of interviews with hundreds of interviewee’s, the research findings would prove to be more reliable as it could potentially allow the findings to show just how similar the views are. However, aside from that, what I did find useless and what I believed to have made this research and findings to be useful is that it adds a personal element to the findings, using such methods as these gives me a more in-depth, personal response to just how someone views and interprets the media and how they believe the media influences and manipulated Islamophobia and the hatred surrounding the religion.
Moreover, as well as conducting two separate structured interviews, I decided to hold a group interview in order of gaining more of a variety of opinions and views with people who come from different backgrounds and whom come from different religions. Although the group interview does not consist of hundreds of people, it still targets a wider, mixture of groups which is useful and appropriate as it allows those who took part to communicate, share their ideas with one another and overall discuss the issue at hand.
The group interview consisted of 12 people whom share different backgrounds and cultures. At the beginning of the interview, I asked each person a question and gave them the opportunity to discuss and give their answer. After each person answered the question, I showed the group different news reports on two separate events that have taken place and portrayed in the media within the last few years and recorded their responses and reactions to the headlines and what their view on the media is. I chose to keep the interviewee’s names anonymous because the issue and topic at hand is quite sensitive and for the purpose of allowing the interviewees to open up more due to the safety of their identity.
Q: To what extent has the media influenced and manipulated Islamophobia? How would you characterise their portray of Muslims?
Person 1: I think the media’s portrayal of Muslims is mixed to a certain degree, I think before, a few years ago, then I would say the media has not changed but I think it has slightly now. I think Muslims are getting more of a voice now and so headlines gradually will change as a result.
Person 2: I think the media portrays us unfairly, I feel it’s because they don’t know the full story and haven’t been informed or educated on either the people or the religion itself. I mean, I personally think they do it because they know they’re going to get more ratings because of it, because a Muslim terrorist sells more.
Person 3: It’s all a political game for the media, for the people in charge of it. It has nothing to do with the religion itself, it is about the politics and the control they want to maintain over this minority. They can see the rise in Muslims and the fact that many people like myself have converted to Islam scares them.
Person 4: I feel like the media’s portrayal of Islam, how they manipulate the story is pretty extreme, look at in in comparison to other news stories. Even the way the word some of the stories and headlines are extreme and is completely unnecessary. Its ignorance overall, just ignorant people.
Person 5: They like to portray Muslims as a whole, they look at the smaller extreme Muslims and portray us to all be the same which we aren’t. I’m a Muslim and I do not believe in extremist views. The media play into that and they represent Muslims like that to appear as a majority.
Person 6: I don’t know, call me naïve but I do believe there are people who do try and give a positive imagine of Islam and try enforce this idea that Islam is good and those who follow the religion properly are good too. I just think everyone sees and focus on that one bad headline and automatically assume they’re all like that.
Person 7: The media have their own agenda. It is clear and their agenda is to isolate Islam and its believers and gain back control over the society. As someone mentioned earlier, the rise in those whom have converted to Islam has increased, so naturally the media will still focus on manipulating stories and influencing those less knowledgeable on the religion to believe what they’re reading.
Person 8: Media has always been a form of entertainment and forever will remain as a form of entertainment and they obviously think it’s entertaining to bash Muslims, making comments of the religion as a whole, the followers, our clothing’s and how the women are portrayed to be which is not okay.
Person 9: I just feel like the media doesn’t do its part of making it fair. Someone mentioned earlier that not all media outlets bash and negatively portray the religion but if you look at it in comparison to how they represent other minorities and religions, it’s not the same. Whether its because it doesn’t sell as much or to gain control, it’s just wrongful misrepresentation. If the media get their story straight, go out of their way to gather the truth behind attacks and events and focused on the real issue instead of focusing on them being Muslim then people won’t feed into it.
Person 10: A lot of the times when there’s been cases of a murder or brutal attacks taking place, the media won’t emphasise on their religion or openly call them a terrorist or a terrorist attack unless it is a Muslim person, then they’d happily state their religion.
Person 11: I believe that if more media outlets focused on portraying the story and focused on what happened as opposed to where that person came from, providing the viewers with true facts then I think that the true religion will be noted and the public will be correctly informed.
Analyse the findings by relating them explicitly to the theory. Explain how useful the theory was to help explain what you’re discovering.
This thesis will look up at these themes Poole and Richardson use to portray Islamophobia in the media.
In Elizabeth Poole and John E. Richardson’s book Muslims and the News Media, they consider the media’s coverage on Islam and Muslims, concentrating largely on the British newspapers. They wanted to compare the media’s coverage on British Muslims through two different British newspaper outlets from 2003. Their goal highlighted throughout the book was to compare these two outlets from 2003 to news coverage from 1994. Their objective was to see whether there was a significant different in the coverage of Muslims after the events that have taken place during that decade. As part of my content/discourse analysis,
Violence, religion, fear/other – how it relates to the discourse analysis
Edward Syed – literature review (otherness) orientalism
Religious key words / violent key words / otherness/fear key words (content analysis)
Bigger narrative being constructed – carried on the themes – looking at the language/comparing the two with the storylines (news articles)
Discussion: all the stuff I’ve found argued academically, things discussed in the literature review…link in with the findings ive found-use of keywords-focus group interpreted those articles-interpret with the theorists-my case study proves something about what these people are arguing
What kind of influences have taken place- the use of key phrases, linking them to violence, the use of terminology, the breaking up of the words of Islam and Muslim, the mixing up of cultures, conglomeration of combining the words generate this misunderstanding? – Looking at the journalists and how they create their narratives.
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