Islam is a peaceful religion where Muslims believe there is only one god known as Allah, and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was his messenger.
The radical Islam upsurge has led to Islam being the most stereotyped religion in the media. The stereotypes represent violence as a part of Islam due to terrorist groups like ISIS, and the war against the West. Hence, the actions of terrorist groups portray violence as justified in Islam. (Media smarts, 2011)
The use of language used in the media to describe the religion plays a key role in how the religion is portrayed. The language used becomes a discourse to create a negative perception and prejudice towards Muslims.
Islam is targeted strongly in the media, and it is depicted as a religion that is based on violence and terrorism.
With less than 0.5% of UK journalists being Muslim, could this be the reason to so many misleading newspaper headlines about Islam?
In 2016, a newspaper headline from the Daily Star Sunday’s read ‘UK mosques give cash for terror’ which was massively misleading, leading to several complaints. This error was eventually followed up by the newspaper who noted on page 2 that UK mosques were actually “not involved in any way”.(Versi, 2016) Despite the error being eventually corrected, the context in this article becomes a discourse as members of the public that are not educated about Islam would not question the information they see in the media. This is also known as the hypodermic needle theory where information given is not questioned at all, and readers accept all the information they read and get told about fully.
However, not only is the information sent out about Islam misleading, but whenever a criminal activity occurs, the faith is always brought into the news article. Islam is the most popular religion that is always brought up in the media whenever a crime is committed by a ‘Muslim’. This is rather interesting, as if one committing a crime does not tend to be Muslim, their faith does not seem to be brought into the news article.
Further examples of a misleading headlines:
As mentioned in an article by the independent, although we live in a country where there is freedom of speech, it is highly unreasonable for newspapers to use startling and partly false headlines to get the public to buy their papers. For Muslims, the increasing association between crime and Islam in the media puts members of the religion at risk as people are receiving a false interpretation of the religion. Many groups of people have started identifying Islam with terrorism, when in fact terrorism does not have a religion.
In a recent research by the University of Cambridge, there is an increase in islamaphobia and hostility towards British Muslims. The language used in media reports on the Islamic community has thus led to prejudice as there has been a rise of up to 70% of hate crime against Muslims.
Therefore, a discourse has been created as the choice of words used by the media is highly influential in terms of the public’s belief and actions they carry out as a result of this.
Media smarts, (2011), Media Portrayals of Religion: Islam, [online] available: http://mediasmarts.ca/diversity-media/religion/media-portrayals-religion-islam> [accessed on 16th March 2017].
Versi, M (2016), Why the British media is responsible for the rise in Islamaphobia in Britain, [online] available: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/why-the-british-media-is-responsible-for-the-rise-in-islamophobia-in-britain-a6967546.html> [accessed on 16th March 2017].