Does Mass Media Perpetuate Islamophobia? Essay Example

2021-07-14 10:44:48
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Islamophobia in the media is the perception that the mass media outlets tend to cover and expose Muslims in a negative manner aimed at causing fear of Muslims. Since the 9/11 deadly terrorist attack that was linked to an Islamic terrorist group, Al-Qaeda, the media has all along linked any terror attack on Muslim (Powell, 2011). The media has demonized Muslims and stereotyped them as extremists in general. While it may be true that those who execute terrorist attacks are of Islam religion, it is not true that all Muslims fund and support their activities; in fact, a majority of the Muslims are against such extremists and use the mass media to condemn terror attacks. Those who do not think that the mass media is perpetuating Islamophobia argue that the media is just playing its role of informing the world about what is happening. They also argue that the mass media is leading the role of condemning extremism and fighting terrorism.

On the other hand, those who believe that the mass media is perpetuating Islamophobia argue that media reporting is creating errors that physically brutalize Muslim citizens and justifies unnecessary invasions of Muslim nations such as those in the Middle East. They also state that the media, through its biased sensationalism and scaremongering about Muslim threat, is supporting Islamophobia. While the media may be taking its role in informing the world and leading the role of fighting terrorism, the world will benefit if the mass media limits itself to factual reporting and stop scaremongering about Muslims. Factual reporting will help in reducing stereotypes on Muslims and focus the fight on the actual terrorists and not the Islam religion.

As an entry point, those who oppose that mass media is perpetuating Islamophobia term it as the role of mass media to inform the citizens of the world. They argue that is the limelight of the society. The media is entitled to inform its followers and should not be criticised. They further argue that the mass media is creating awareness of the extremism in the world. This argument is based on the three roles of mass media; entertaining, informing and persuading (Graber & Dunaway, 2017). As the media covers terrorist attacks, Islamic related events and extremist actions executed by Islamic groups such as Islamic States of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the world simply gets to know what is happening and the threats to their security. They perceive the media as helping the world in learning how terrorism is manifesting and how religious extremism is playing a role in it. To those opposing the motion, the media is simply informing.

Also, those opposing the view that mass media is perpetuating Islamophobia believe that apart from the performing its duty to inform, the media must participate in condemning and fighting social evils in the society. As a result, they must lead in fighting serious issues such as terrorism that threaten the peace of the world. This argument is based on the premise that by media exclusively covering every action of Muslims, whether bad or good, serves to inform the terrorists that they are being watched, and that continuous exposure and condemnation of bad extremism will ultimately transform their negative intentions towards other religions and stop terror activities (Nilan, 2017). The media has been shown to play critical roles in fighting injustices in the society as well as wrongdoing such as the oppression of human and civil rights in monarchy governments. It is also possible that the same media can lead the fight against terrorism by exposing any wrongdoing, negative plans and informing the extremists that their actions are ill-motivated and they should stop. Thus, the media is justified to fight Islam and extremist activities until terrorism is behind the world.

However, the negative coverage of Muslims by the mass media is indeed perpetuating Islamophobia. The negative reporting of the media perpetuates stereotypes and polarization against Muslims. For example, print media and newspapers with running heads such as "Muslim sex grooming," Imam beaten to death in sex grooming," and, "Muslim silent on terror attack, all serve as stereotypes (Awan, 2014). It is an exaggerated image about Muslims that is created by the media and whose immediate effect is fear of Muslims by the public. For example, the Public would view Muslims as bad people who are sexually immoral and who do not have a problem with terrorism because they keep quiet about it. Consequently, the Muslims, in general, are made to feel that they are targets of everything bad from racism to counter-terrorism legislation in the world countries. Endorsing negative stereotypes legitimises prejudicial attitudes. These prejudicial attitudes are ultimately translated into discriminatory actions towards the Muslims such as immigration restrictions planned by President of America, Donald Trump. It is due to stereotyping that unnecessary fear of every Muslim is manifested leading to unfair treatment for innocent descendants of Islamic religion whereas the terrorists or perpetrators of wrongdoing could just be people hiding under Islam religion or a small section of Islam.

Also, the mass media has taken the lead in making false, terrifying, erroneous and threatening claims about Muslims which has encouraged Islamophobia among the citizens. For example, Steve Emmerson, who is a terrorism expert, once said on Fox News"Birmingham is all-Muslim where immigrants from Islam have forced extremist sharia law, and any other person who is not Islam is forbidden," (Ogan, Willnat, Pennington & Bashir, 2014). Such a statement could be interpreted by the viewers in various versions. First, it would mean to the viewers that Muslim immigration is a terrifying threat to their existence in the land. Secondly, it would imply that Muslims are a vanguard of a secret incursion whose aim is to destroy the normal way of life and impose totalitarian extremism upon their lives and families. While these claims are wrong and non-factual, their impact is irreversible among the viewers, and this is how mass media propaganda instils fear among the citizens against any Muslim around them.

Moreover, the media, through gross miscalculation and estimation, obscures reality and justifies unfounded Islamophobia that often leads to physical brutalization against Muslim citizens. For example, recently in Morocco, a French Islamophobic stabbed a Moroccan man seventeen times while the killer screamed "I am your God, I am your Islam" (Richards & Brown, 2017). In other incidences in France, twenty-three mosques in France were firebombed alongside other sixty Islamophobic attacks reported. These incidences are attributed to the miscalculation and overestimation of the Muslim population by the media. Media overestimates Muslims living in their borders, and the people think that their high numbers are a threat to their security. In a study on the myths of on Muslim in West of the French borders on the immigration and population of Muslim, it was found that while the media reported Muslim population to be 31%, the reality was that the Muslim population was 5%. Such an exaggerated figure could be attributed to the repeated intention of the media to highlight what suits their wish to hyperbolize the country's immigration crisis. When the media is reporting based on the intended picture it wants to create rather than the facts, the truth is obscured, and the result is creating unfounded fear among the citizens leading to harm against their Muslim brothers who have not done anything wrong.

Conclusion

It is true that the media the media is there to inform the public. In fact, its mandate is to bring limelight to the society. It is also indisputable that the media should lead the fifth against the evils of the society such as terrorism. Nevertheless, it has been seen that the media has allowed negative reporting on Muslim about terrorism taint their mission in informing and fighting terrorism. The media has fought Muslims in general in general, stereotyping and making false claims against them instead of fighting the terrorists who could be hiding in Islam religion. The media has gone a step further to provide biased reports which are untrue. The effects of such biased and false reporting are obvious. The citizens have developed a negative Islamophobia which has led to deaths of Muslims as well as the war against innocent Muslims. If the mass media could simply focus on factual reporting, avoid stereotyping on Muslims and fight terrorism in isolation, the world could unite against terrorists and probably win the war rather than ending up in a more religiously divided scenario. The media should be objective and cautious not to lead to more Islamophobia among the world citizens.

 

References

Awan, I. (2014). Islamophobia and Twitter: A typology of online hate against Muslims on social media. Policy & Internet, 6(2), 133-150.

Graber, D. A., & Dunaway, J. (2017). Mass media and American politics. Cq Press.

Nilan, P. (2017). Muslim Youth in the Diaspora: Challenging Extremism Through Popular Culture. Taylor & Francis.

Ogan, C., Willnat, L., Pennington, R., & Bashir, M. (2014). The rise of anti-Muslim prejudice: Media and Islamophobia in Europe and the United States. International Communication Gazette, 76(1), 27-46.

Powell, K. A. (2011). Framing Islam: An analysis of US media coverage of terrorism since 9/11. Communication Studies, 62(1), 90-112.

Richards, B., & Brown, L. (2017). Evidence and ideology: moderating the critique of media Islamophobia. Journalism Education, 6(1), 12-22.

 

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