When The Twins Towers came down in 2001 the Muslim community became the subject of people’s fears and paranoia. After the terrorist attacks, Muslims across the world were immediately looked down upon, innocent Muslims were scrutinized and discriminated against, Mosques have been destroyed, Muslims have been inappropriately questioned at airports and innocent people have been killed for no reason.
“It would be as grave a mistake to see Osama bin Laden as an authentic representative of Islam” (Armstrong, 2011)(1). From already knowing that the many American citizens see Osama Bin Laden (mastermind of 9/11) as a representation of Islam is unnerving, and is the kind of mentality that leads to discrimination, prejudice and scapegoating of millions of Muslims who wish to cause no harm. (1)
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out- because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out- because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out- because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me."
In more recent times due to actions of a few the world wide religion of Islam has been often unfairly presented as hateful and violent, this misrepresentation leads to prejudice and hatred towards Muslims.
The differences in how we talk about attacks on Muslims, as opposed to those performed by Muslims, exposes an ultra double standard in the media.
When Muslims are the victims, the media have often refused to call it terrorism
Jameel Muhktar and his cousin Resham Khan were attacked in east London by a white male in an appalling acid attack that has Islamophobia written all over it.
As horrifying as the attack was, most mainstream media either failed to cover it or reduced it to a minor story. What if Jameel and Resham were Tom and Sarah and were white rather than Asian, what would the headlines look like then?
All around the world Muslims are feeling the growing tension of Islamophobia, the lack of reporting of this is not the only problem.
The awkward inconvenient truth is that Islamophobia is now normalized within many parts of society.
Throughout July 2016 the think tank Demos recorded over 215,000 world-wide Islamophobic tweets, equating to nearly 7000 per day. 14,000 of these were likely sent from the UK. (2)
Studies by Lancaster University and Cardiff University demonstrate the extraordinary level of prejudice Muslims suffer from parts of the mainstream media. Such academic studies show that for every one positive or neutral reference to Muslims in print press, there are 21 negative references. (3)
Media coverage is found to exacerbate islamophobic attitudes
79.6 per cent of women abused were wearing head covering, more than 30 percent were with children.
The Islamophobia in Australia report, which surveyed 243 incidents involving physical, verbal and online attacks, found in cases where the gender of the victim was known, 67.7 per cent were female. Nearly three-quarters of abusers were male. Women wearing hijabs or burkas are considered particularly vulnerable to Islamaphobic attacks due to their visibility, when women are targeted it has an impact on their children.
The NSPCC reported an increase in helpline calls relating to racial and religious bullying or hate crimes in Manchester and London (5)
The reality is that victims have nothing to do with international conflicts, terrorism or radicalisation. They are simply at the receiving end of the anger and rage caused by the Islamophobic generalisation that something is inherently wrong with Muslims and Islam.
The media’s mis-representation has infiltrated the minds of many so they are no longer able to see the person in front of them instead they see a potential terrorist.
“In the US there was 24 deaths from Islamic terrorists between 2005 and 2010 but there was 309,717 gun deaths in the same period, so you are 12,000 more times likely to be killed by a gun rather then a terrorists”. (6)
The disparity in such reports is shocking
The federal government has spent over $80 billion on aviation security in the past 10 years. Yet "your chance of dying in a bathtub is about one in a million, and from terrorism is about one in 3.5 million," says Ohio State political scientist John Mueller. (7)
In England recently letters encouraging recipients to take part in "Punish a Muslim Day" were sent to addresses across the country.
Images of the notes, which contained a list of violent acts suggesting that people could win “points” for a range of activities aimed at Muslims, including removing a headscarf from a woman or beating a person up were then shared widely online. Gracefully once known many different nationalities and religions in the community stood up to the bigotry and we saw The #LoveAMuslimDay hashtag originate.
As always the buck stops with us, as members of the public as readers and observers of media we need to ask why we allow for such blatant discrimination and start to say no to Islaphopbia in its many varied guises.
Armstrong, K. (2001, September 23). The True, Peaceful Face of Islam. TIME.
(2)Carl Miller, Josh Smith, Jack Dale - Islamophobia on Twitter: March to July 2016 https://www.demos.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Islamophobia-on-Twitter_-March-to-July-2016-. pdf
(3) Paul Baker, Costas Gabrielatos, and Tony McEnery, Discourse analysis and media attitudes: the represen- tation of Islam in the British press (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).
(5)“Charity sees rise in race and faith-based bullying”, STV News, June 28, 2017, accessed July 14, 2017 https://stv.tv/news/scotland/1392259-charity-sees-rise-in-race-and-faith-based-bullying/