Let’s Raise Awareness that the Media Plays a Key Role in the Rise of Anti-Muslim Hatred
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The news media are most people’s source of current events, but it does more than to keep people up to date. The news media’s selection and display of certain topics influences people’s perception on what issues are most relevant. This means, most people take the information published by the news media as face value and do not question its truth content. Research regarding social construction of reality in the news media is not new, but in today’s globalized online sphere understanding the power of the media is more relevant than ever.
In recent years, Anti-Muslim hatred has increased in Europe. The 2014 Islamophobia Roundtable in Stockholm featured experts who argued that the association of Islam and Muslims with crime and terror in the media plays a key role in the spread of Islamophobic rhetoric. A year later, the already existing Anti-Muslim rhetoric further increased during the height of the European Refugee Crisis after which the media published even more articles that implicate and named Muslim’s criminals and terrorists.
The consequence of the spread of such bigotry has affected societies in all of Europe. 60% of the Germans think that Islam has no place in their country. A large survey in the UK concluded that more than 1/4 of children between the ages of 10-16 think that Muslims are taking over the country. French people believe that they have a 31% Muslim population in France, but the real number is 7.5%. The root cause of these misconceptions in France and in other European countries is due to the constant publication of content in the media that highlights and, indeed, hyperbolising a country's immigration crisis. Even President Trump influenced by such news makes public comments such as: “look what happened in Sweden last night.” By saying this he is implying that Sweden has a crime problem because they have granted asylum to so many Muslim refugees. If prominent politicians are negatively influenced by the media’s portrayal of Muslims in such a strong way that they are trying to ban Muslims from certain countries to enter the United States then how can the average person not be influenced by the continuous negative portrayal of Muslims in the media? It is very difficult to stay unbiased when one is bombarded by negative news all the time. So what can we do aside from fact checking the news media?
We can start with educating ourselves on what is really going on within Muslim communities in Europe, and that Muslims have been peacefully living and working in Europe for a long time. Muslims, which are only 6% in all of Europe, who are living in Europe are not planning to islamize Europe. As a matter of fact most of the Muslim refugees who came to Europe are fleeing from war and terror attacks in their own countries. They come to Europe to find peace, not to spread terror as so often implied in the media. Therefore it is important that we need to raise awareness that the majority of Muslims just like Christians, and people of other faiths or no faith, just want to live a life without fear. So let’s try to counter the negative media portrayal of Islam and Muslims by following these simple steps:
1. Connecting with a Muslim: online and offline (for example read blogs written by Muslims)
2. Look at things we have in common with Islam
3. Educate yourself about Islam
4. Check the facts in news media articles for truth content
5. Fact check the articles you read
6. Learn about the use of language in the media and how language can construct social realities. This is a bit more work but it is worth it, so check out these resources.
Fairclough, N. (2010) Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study Of Language. 2nd ed. New York City: Routledge.
Habermas, J. (1995). Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns. Frankfurt a.M: Suhrkamp.
Machin, D. and Mayr, A. (2012). How to do critical discourse analysis. Los Angeles: SAGE.
Chaudhry, A.A. (2016). 'How do the media fuel Islamophobia?', Media Development, 2, pp. 6-10, Communication Source, EBSCOhost. Viewed 17 April 2017.
McCombs, M. (2014). Setting the Agenda: The Mass Media and Public Opinion. Cambridge, UK: Polity.
McCombs, M. (n.d) ‘The Agenda-Setting Role of the Mass Media in the Shaping of Public
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