INVESTIGATING THE NEGATIVE PORTRAYAL OF MUSLIM WOMEN IN THE MEDIA
The media has always played a huge role in influencing societies. Many times the stereotypes and portrayals the media has created has had negative impacts on minority groups. This case study focuses on Muslim women and their portrayal in the media. It investigates why there is negativity surrounding Muslim women and if the media actually is the reason behind potentially influencing negative news stories regarding Muslim women. According to MAMA hate crimes against Muslims in London rose by 70% between 2014 and 2015. MAMA is a national project that monitors anti-Muslim incidents in the UK and told the BBC that 60% of these victims were Muslim women who wore the hijab (MAMA, 2016). Could this be the result of negativity in the media surrounding Muslim women?
Another main focus of the media is that the public and media outlets focus more on what Muslim women are wearing instead of seeing what the woman is doing. For example the Great British Bake-off winner (who wears the headscarf) Nadiya Hussain’s home had to be checked by the police because she was targeted by an anti-Islamic hate mob after she won the show (The Daily Mail, 2016). A question to ask is, where does all this hate come from? Is it because of the influence of the Media?
This case study covers the debate on the traditional clothing many Muslim women wear, the niqab and why there still is an obsession with banning the veil. A documentary, Why Muslim women choose to wear the veil? (Channel 4 News, 2013) showed Muslim women (who wear the headscarf or niqab) all had similar answers and views – covering themselves was 100% their individual choice. So how does one think, that the niqab is a ‘sign of submission’? When really the women themselves have chosen to wear what they wear. Prime Minister, David Cameron’s statement regarding Muslim women having to learn English, if they want to live in the UK and why only Muslim women were targeted when in fact there are many women from all different countries who move into the UK and cannot speak English. The questions this case study is based on are:
- Why is it so hard for ordinary Muslim women to have their voices heard?
- Why does the Media entirely focus on the clothing of a Muslim woman?
- Who is to blame for the negativity surrounding Muslim women?
- To what extent is the media influential regarding people’s opinion on Muslim women?
Anthropologist and writer Irna Qureshi was interviewed for this case study because of her understanding of British Asian culture and the differences between each generation – how Muslim women were treated back then to how they are treated now. Anna Piela, a lecturer has been interviewed because of her interests on women who wear the niqab. She has researched written many papers regarding Muslim women’s representation in the media, Muslim women living in Western societies, Muslim women who wear the niqab and how Islam is represented etc. Yasmin Khan an entrepreneur gave an insight on what it is like to be an independent, working, Muslim woman who wears the headscarf in the 21st century, she also has had many meetings with politicians regarding everyday issues in Bradford. Journalist / BCB radio presenter and Racial Justice head coordinator Arwa Almari has been interviewed because of her many skills and knowledge regarding race, having her own radio show Race Matters and her project Racial Justice.
STEREOTYPES OF MUSLIM WOMEN IN THE MEDIA
Newspapers and news story headlines always have one thing in common when it comes to representing Muslim women in the news which is them being controlled by religion, by their Islamic husbands, being oppressed. Many Muslims argue that the Media focuses on negative portrayals that do not represent the majority of Muslim women population who live in Western societies but instead news stories focus on how Muslim women are ‘victimized’ or are in the news because of what they are wearing and their religion. For Martin Munoz, “news on Muslim women is ‘dominated by the culturalist and presentation and interpretation of Islam’” (cited in Navarro, 2005:208). Munoz goes onto explain in detail the discrimination of Muslim women is an issue that does attract “special media attention” news stories and news channels are “explained most exclusively according to theories on Islamic culture” (Munoz, cited in Navarro, 2010, p5) leading to the issues of equality.
Islamic and Muslim women are one of the most misrepresented and misunderstood when it comes to media portrayal. For example, a recent news article headline from 2016, The Daily Express, went along the lines of Horror as woman in burka ‘holding severed head of child screams Allahu Akbar’ – The headline instantly gives a negative image of 1) Islam, 2) that the burka equals terrorism and 3) a woman who could potentially be radicalized. The headline failed to mention that the woman had been in and out of a psychiatric hospital since 2002 and that the woman suffers from schizophrenia.
A few days later The Daily Mail published an article “Islamic ‘zealot’ husband of nanny who beheaded a four-year-old girl in Russia is detained and quizzed over whether he radicalized his wife and made her kill the child” (2016). The woman showed all signs of having a mental health illness, (evidence was provided) but the media chose to focus on the angle of the woman possibly being a victim of radicalisation. The newspaper articles publishing similar stories of the woman’s husband being arrested were just four news websites: The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, The Daily Star and the Christian Post. All the news stories published had a main focus around the religion Islam and the radicalisation or the woman being a victim of her ‘Islamic’ husband, which obviously showed all signs of negative portrayals instead of being about the woman suffering from a mental health illness.
The stereotypes the media has created for Muslim women are very demeaning. They are portrayed as voiceless human beings who are oppressed by what they wear, what they believe in, and their husbands. Anna Piela a researcher on Islam and Muslims living in the West explains the two main stereotypes of a Muslim woman in the media:
Tabloids specifically usually contribute to two stereotypes, one of them being a Muslim woman who’s entirely submissive and voiceless. The second stereotype is that of a female terrorist. My particular research is related to the issue of the niqab and that had confirmed that very well. That women who wear the niqab (because they choose to cover up) are not treated like they have their own voice and at the same time you have lots of news stories on women who went to join ISIS – they are seen completely as the worst. (Piela, Appendix 2, pg. 15)
Referring back to my examples at the beginning, the woman with a mental health illness fits both stereotypes that Piela has mentioned, the woman is submissive because the media is trying to make out that she was radicalized by her husband, and the second stereotype of her being a female terrorist because of the fact she has beheaded an innocent child. When really there is evidence there to prove that she is not well, and not fit enough to be wandering the streets of Russia as she is dangerous, it has nothing to do with Islam. “There is this agenda with terrorism… I guess associated with Muslim people. I don’t believe they are Muslims when they carry out those terror attacks because you can’t harm an ant as a Muslim, so you don’t kill. It’s against everything Muslims believe in” (Khan, Appendix 3, pg. 18)
Talking about people who do such attacks and appear in the news Yasmin Khan has pointed out a huge misconception of Muslims in the media that Muslim women and Muslims in general are to be afraid of, because their religion teaches them to kill. Instead Islam does not tolerate the killings of innocent people. What the woman has done is against all beliefs of Islam and what Islam teaches. These news stories many of the times forget to mention what Yasmin Khan has picked up on.
Media representations have stuck to the perception that Muslim women are victims, passive women who are forced to cover themselves. These representations reflect a limited range of views surrounding Muslim women, these issues then are misinformed and perceived to be caused by religion. Arwa Almari, a BCB radio presenter for Race Matters agrees that there is a negativity surrounding Muslim women because “they are quite visibly affiliated to a faith group”. Many people see a woman wearing traditional Asian clothes, a headscarf on their head and automatically think that the Muslim woman was ‘forced’ to cover up, they associate Muslim women with oppression. The media plays a huge role in this representation by putting out negative content. For example, news stories on a minority of Muslim women who fled to join ISIS – the women who fled to join ISIS and Muslim women you see every day (your next door neighbor, a colleague at work) only have one thing in common, the headscarf or the niqab.
The majority of Muslim women are not what they show you on the news. Alia Hogben, the executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women has said that if she being an ordinary Muslim woman had something to say, it would not be heard because it is not sensationalised, it does not fit the media stereotype. What is being reflected for Muslim women in the media is not what really happens, it is not a Muslim woman’s life being reflected but a ‘superimposed’ perspective of their life. Arwa Almari agrees, from her personal experience at work, the way she gets treated because of what she has on her head:
…My story isn’t heard – my voice isn’t heard. My voice isn’t heard in two ways: my story of education, my story of campaigning in activism, and so on. Things that don’t look any different than to be celebrated in society, but also my voice is not heard on normal settings – where I’m not trying to tell ‘talk about me’… I have been in a meeting where there might be a particular problem, an issue that I may have a solution to and know how to solve it, but my words are not taken aboard – however the person next to me, might be white, middle-class male and he says the same thing, and just kind of echoes and everyone’s like ‘oh yeah, that’s right’ and all of a sudden a solution is found, I just think that ‘I just said the exact same thing, in fact I just used him as a mouthpiece. (Almari, Appendix 4, pg. 21).
The media needs to sell, and negativity sells. Sensationalism sells. That is why the entire focus is on Muslim women not being ‘equal’ or being ‘forced’ into something; being ‘forced’ to wear what they wear. Certain stories regarding Muslim women are blown out of proportion and are automatically connected to their religion. Anna Piela argues that, tabloids are doing a very bad job of representing Muslim women, the main reason behind that is “they are generally after sensation. They are wanting to sell their papers.” She concluded that the research that exists is “very critical of the representations” and feels that it “always pays more to represent somebody really badly to create conflict, to create a sort of social tensions” (Piela, Appendix 2, pg.15) she also referred to the UK’s tabloid newspapers: The Daily Mail and the Sun.
If a newspaper’s front page has an image of a Muslim woman wearing the niqab, people will buy it. They want to know what ‘Muslims have done now’… It will attract attention. The media has focused such negativity regarding Muslim women that in some ways does influence readers opinions on these controversial topics. Yasmin Khan, a social entrepreneur feels that Muslim women are at a double disadvantage because of the negative stereotypes. She went on to say:
…If they portrayed Muslim women as strong, independent and articulate women then the media would see that once you sit, it’s about creating those opportunities for Muslim women to be able to partake in those meaningful discussions and policy level, a strategic level to be able to influence. (Khan, Appendix 3, pg. 19)
If the media portrayed Muslim women as independent women, who are very strong and have careers, can speak English, can follow their beliefs but somewhat adapt to western societies – the negativity surrounding Muslim women being victims would change, the stereotype would change. People’s opinions on Muslim women would change. Yasmin Khan, herself dresses very modestly and also wears the headscarf, she is well educated, a social entrepreneur, and she has certainly broken down the stereotype media created for Muslim women. “I proved them wrong, by not only being a strong, independent woman but by bringing up my daughters to also be the same… we allow people and the media to hold us (Muslim women) back” (Khan, Appendix 3, pg. 20)
OTHERING OF MUSLIM WOMEN
The definition of ‘othering’, a person or a group of people that are treated differently or are alienated because they are “not one of us”. The fact that the media feeds negativity is very worrying, however it is not just the negative words connected to Muslim women in the news that differentiate them from Western societies. There is a sense of othering, and Muslim women being aliens dressed in all black, covered from head to toe. An alien to the western world. A Muslim woman’s culture is totally different to the Western culture. Muslim women wear different clothing, have a different language, a different religion. In the West it is common for a woman to be walking around on the beach in a bikini, but if a Muslim woman wore the niqab at the beach – there would be a lot of stares and maybe even a few laughs.
“If I take my 10-year-old daughter on a holiday to a place she’s never been to, she’s not familiar to their culture. She’ll see something and say ‘oh mum, look at that; that’s weird’ or the people there are ‘weird’ because that’s not normal for her. The same way Western societies see the niqab and are unsure of how to feel about it. The media doesn’t know how to tackle it, the niqab is something new to them” (Qureshi, Appendix 1, pg.14).
A white Muslim woman convert was reported by her college, under the government’s counter-extremism policy as they had suspected she could have been radicalised.
Maybe they thought I was in [Islamic State or running away to Syria, I don’t know what went through their mind… thought the worst and Muslim stereotypes were pushed on me. I don’t think they are doing that for people who become Christian, Hindu and Jewish – or atheists, even. Why is it just Islam? (BBC, 2015).
These examples published by media organisations show the negativity behind Muslim women and Islam in general; another example of ‘othering’ Muslim women by the government. Muslim women are living in an environment where they are looked at suspiciously and are made to feel uncomfortable themselves. Dr. Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor argues in her book Muslim Women in Britain: De-Mystifying the Muslimah, that books and autobiographies written by Muslim women all have similar storylines. She argues that Muslim women represented in these books give a negative portrayal to readers who do not really understand the Muslim woman’s religion and ends up with them having an opinion that all women are treated like that because Islam teaches men to be like that when this is not the case.
…the storylines are all about the women’s journeys to escape profound atrocities – honour killings, forced marriages, slavery. The bookshop arranged these books together in what she felt was an attempt to create an ‘ensemble of terror’ in which they all became perceived simply as ‘Muslim women’ (2012, p23-24).
These types of books are only based on a minority of Muslim women, who either live in the middle-east. The media fails to understand that Muslims living in the West have a different opinion. However when a non-Muslim picks up similar books to read, because of cultural differences and lack of education on the religion Islam the readers read the stories and see all the injustice against Muslim women. They are once again seen as the victims “which reinforce the undiscerning reader’s beliefs in the superiority of one culture over another which then is othered as the misogynist… and different perpetuator of injustices against women.”(2012, p24). These books are seen as a representation of all Muslim women, how Muslim women are oppressed by their ‘Islamic’ husbands. Many of these books portray that the husband follows the ways of the Quran and the women are trying to “free themselves from an “oppressive, misogynist’ religion.” Dr Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor also went on to explain how books like The Second Plane fail to include actual content from the Quran and do not mention quotes which clarify content in the Quran and concludes therefore that the story one author is trying to present is incomplete.
The Quran quotes are mostly taken out of context, when it comes to women and men being equal in Islam. Many men (extremists, which every religion has) do victimise Muslim women but these are not the teachings of the Quran. Books like The Second Plane (2008), then create misconceptions about Islam which then are used to show Muslim women as being victimized and othered. Huda Khattab a female convert to Islam argues that quotes from the Quran are especially blown out of proportion because of the media’s hidden agenda and the deliberate othering of Muslim women, “out of context quotes from the Quran and the hadith provide ‘ammunition to use against Islam and Muslims” (Cheruvallil-Contractor, 2012, pg. 25). Religion gets confused with culture, the media forgets that Muslim women are key figures in Islam. If a well-educated person studies the Quran, they would argue that Muslim women’s independence is vital in Islam. Muslim women are just not housewives or victims like the media makes them out to be, they are a lot more than that. The Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) wife worked. That is a big example, the problem here is that the media is confused.
Another example of the media othering Muslim women, was following the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack; two images were released of the attacker’s partner, France attacks: Neighbour describes shop siege gunman and partner (BBC, 2015). In one of the images the woman was wearing the niqab. The caption under the image stated that she was wanted, and the police were looking for her. How does one find a woman, wanted by the police – who was wearing the niqab in the image? The public would not be able to identify the woman. This then leads to consequences that any woman wearing the niqab is connected to terrorism it created the impression that any Muslim woman wearing the niqab is an extremist.
Driss Ridouani argues that in Western media, the scarf and the veil are linked to “masks worn by terrorists” so they are not recognised. “The Islamic veil and scarf are divested from their religious and cultural symbolism of chastity.” (2011, p3). This explains the other form of othering a Muslim woman – her choice of clothing. The fact that the ‘terrorist’ on The Sun’s front page resembles so much to what a Muslim woman wears. The terrorist is covered head to toe, in black – only the hands and eyes are visible. Many Muslim women wear the niqab which is very similar with only the eyes visible. Because of the clothing that the terrorist is wearing, and the reason that terrorists are very negative, they are ‘enemies’ of world peace – opinions of the Media and regular people associate a terrorist and a Muslim woman together. Purely on the basis of the anonymity, why are they both dressed like that? Has that niqab wearing woman got something to hide? She could be a terrorist. These kinds of questions rise in one’s mind who is not as educated when it comes to religion. “Hidden behind their scarf and veil, Muslim women are thus equated to masqueraded terrorist and evil doers.” (Ridouani, 2011, p5). A Muslim woman wearing the niqab on TV or a newspaper front page will get as much attention a terrorist would if he was on the TV/newspaper front page.
When compared to Western women, who are portrayals of female liberation the Muslim woman gets lost because they are known for being backwards, not knowing English for example. David Cameron’s statement comes to mind, that Muslim women have no clue about politics, or education etc. – therefore Muslim women’s voices are most likely to not get heard, because of all the stereotypes the media has produced another sense of othering.
Whereas this is not the case nowadays, maybe 20 years ago it was a problem and not many Muslim women were getting education or working but it’s the 21st century and things have changed. Muslim women are working, getting educated; wanting careers in big sectors, they are becoming doctors, journalists, lawyers, social workers, policewomen etc. Irna Qureshi feels that working Muslim women has become accepted in the media and in societies. “I don’t even think it’s an issue anymore, it’s what many Muslim women are doing now” (Qureshi, Appendix 1, pg14). As far as Muslim women not being active citizens when it comes to having a career or working, that point was proven false many years ago so the media to still portray Muslim women as voiceless and defenceless in the modern day is absurd.
THE HEADSCARF AND NIQAB
“It is easier to notice amongst the women who identifies through what she has on her or how she covers her body as being Muslims compared to someone else” (Almari, Appendix 4, pg. 22).
In Western countries there has been an ongoing debate about the niqab. There is this obsession with what a Muslim woman wears. The niqab has been banned in many countries. France has banned on face covering, “the French government have an issue with diversity. Recently the headlines were Egypt drafts bill to ban burqa and Islamic veils in public places. (Siobhan Fenton, the Independent, 2016). In January 2016, David Cameron, UK Prime Minister backed a ban on the Muslim face veils. So why is there negativity surrounding a Muslim woman’s dressing choice, apart from the examples and reasons I included in other chapters, there is one reason that stands out. Whenever a politician or media organisation criticizes the hijab and the niqab, it is an automatic attack on Muslim women, which concludes in racism attacks. For example: a Muslim woman was racially abused outside the London university, the woman’s face veil was ripped off by two men who kept asking “why are you wearing that on your face?” (Evening Standard, 2016). There was no need for the racist comments or the ripping of the woman’s veil. The two men could have asked out of curiosity and understood why the woman was wearing the veil, however because the representations of the media, the two men had already associated the woman with being “different”.
After media organisations publish content regarding racist attacks on these women, they are once again seen as ‘passive’ and victims. One bad thing leads to another negative stereotype and then once again more people are influenced by the media, having misinformed facts and confusing the minority with the majority. Regarding the racist attacks on Muslim women who wear the niqab/headscarf, Anna has said that the media is at fault for shaping people’s attitudes.
There is a lack of education, people and media outlets who attach submission and the niqab together are not educated, and either that or they choose to be biased and don’t want to see the reality of everyday Muslim women’s lives. There is that lack of interaction with Muslim women there, that’s why media sectors need to give Muslim women a platform where they can interact with everyone. Show what they really are and do, prove the fact they are not victims, and wearing the niqab is purely their choice. How many books/news stories have there been on women trying to get free from slavery and abuse, compared to the books and news stories on Muslim women who are achieving many goals like, working with charities, the Muslim women working for the army, becoming policewomen, doing something wonderful for their society etc. “It’s a well-known phenomenon that once you actually interact with a particular group, sometimes you stereotypes and prejudices crumble in the face of the media, face of facts and the face of your own experience.” (Piela, Appendix 2, pg. 16)
Media organisations have portrayed Muslim women who wear the hijab/niqab as being “foreign” and a threat to our societies. The media’s agenda is to turn issues concerning Muslim women into a sensation. For example, the French Education Ministers also put out a statement saying, that the burka (niqab) is a sign of women’s submission that symbolizes the inequality of sexes and the confinement of women. Anna Piela, disagrees and argues that Muslim women wear what they wear because they want to wear it. It is their choice and that it’s a sign of liberation.
If there was evidence that demonstrated that the burka is universally forced on women then, as it actually was the case in Afghanistan and to some extent it is also the case in Saudi Arabia – where there is no choice. That’s a different matter but as I said everything depends on the context and if politicians and men stepped back, some women choose to wear it and the fact that women are making their own choices based on their preferences is really a sign of liberation. When women are interviewed, there have been interviews done in France and the UK. An overwhelming majority, 99% are saying that they did it because they wanted to, because at one point in their life, they felt they needed that for many different reasons. I think to state that this is a sign of women’s submission is highly kind of, ideological and leads to conflict. (Piela, Appendix 2, pg. 16)
The media itself puts out negative content regarding the niqab, which like Anna said leads to conflict. For example, Muslim women escorted off JetBlue airlines flight after ‘staring at flight attendant’ (Independent, 2016). Two women in Islamic dress were removed from the flight because a flight attendant didn’t like the way the two Muslim women were staring at her. A passenger on the flight said the flight attendant “didn’t seem rattled or scared – just smug,” (The Daily Mail, 2016). The fact that these women were dressed in an Islamic way, the flight attendant had thought negatively about them. These two Muslim women were just “sat quietly, watching movies” (Independent, 2016) – because the media has represented Muslim women who wear the niqab to being associated with terrorists and extremism it had a negative impact on the Muslim women and the flight attendant who had a problem with them. It was conflict.
Yasmin Khan argues where the freedom of rights is for Muslim women? Why is a woman allowed to walk around with hardly anything on and which is seemed “acceptable”, but it is an issue when a woman chooses to fully clothe herself. “It’s unacceptable and is that about the dynamics of disempowerment of Muslim women by the media?” (Khan, Appendix 3, pg. 18)
Anna Piela made a very interesting observation whilst she was conducting her research on The Media Representation of Niqab Women:
…It was very rarely that I saw a commentary from a woman who wears the niqab and it was always someone else talking about it, giving a very learned opinion but those women (who wear the niqab or dress modestly) are very rarely brought to the table to discuss this so that’s definitely the fault of the media. (Piela, Appendix 2, pg. 17)
The media should give these women a platform (like it does for everyone else, whether that being anti-Islam speeches from people with power, regular Muslim women whose voices have to be heard) to speak out against news stories, and stereotypes that have been created.
Just recently UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron, had put out a statement regarding Muslim women living in the UK. More Muslim women should ‘learn English’ to help tackle extremism. (The Telegraph, 2016). David Cameron suggested (in private conversation) the main reason that young men are attracted to extremism and radicalisation is the “traditional submissiveness of Muslim women”. David Cameron announced a £20m fund to provide English lessons to Muslim women living in England. Arwa Almari argues that the David Cameron statement was “pedalled through the media by politicians”. She also adds that “it creates a toxic environment for Muslim women” (Almari, Appendix 4, pg. 22). You could think of him as being biased, and purposely trying to cause a negative impact on an already controversial topic by suggesting that 1) Muslim women are traditionally submissive 2) he is linking normal Muslim women to supporting ISIS which will influence the public leading them to hate Muslim women even more and this could end up in racist attacks and 3) that Muslim women don’t do anything for their community.
Many Muslim women fired back on Twitter with the hashtag #TraditionallySubmissive – showcasing everything they have ever achieved, proving a point to their Prime Minister. Women took power to themselves, they stood up and said ‘no, don’t link us to the ISIS.’ – Yasmin Khan argues that we should be sending “consistent messages to David Cameron” (Khan, Appendix 3, pg. 20). Yasmin Khan was offended by his choice of words, she was also one of the women to tweet the hashtag. He only felt there was a relationship with Muslim women who do not speak English with supporting ISIS, he did not say there was a relationship with all women who don’t speak English. “He was using language as a leader of the country suggesting that Muslim women are submissive and I think that the trending that is going on Twitter shows the articulate powered Muslim women whose voices he hasn’t heard and targeted” (Khan, Appendix 3, pg.18). Arwa Almari explains a situation her Muslim women friends faced the same day, David Cameron had issued his statement:
I can recall a few incidents where my friends we’re going on with their daily lives and these are Muslim women who work for big public sector organisations like NHS and so on, they would be called out on the street, just on the same day David Cameron made his statement – my friends were called out, “ISIS supporters” and “I bet you don’t understand what I’ve just said” and so on…
Another example of where politicians have pedalled their negative opinions through the media, is the Muslim woman who was kicked out of a Donald Trump rally. Her shirt read “Salaam, I come in peace” (The Guardian, 2016). Rose Hamid was standing silently, a silent protest. She came to the rally to show Trump supporters how Muslims really are. Hamid herself noticed that at the Trump supporters were “lovely”, they were sharing their popcorn. She said “the crowd got this hateful crowd mentality as I was being escorted, it was really quite telling and a vivid example of what happens when you start using this hateful rhetoric and how it can incite a crowd where moments ago, they were very kind to me…” (The Guardian, 2016). A man at the rally even went on to ask the Muslim woman if she has a bomb. This all happened after Donald Trump promoted his plan to ban Muslims from entering the US and said that Muslims should wear a ‘yellow badge’ similar to what happened in Adolf Hitler’s time.
“Donald Trump told Yahoo News that he would consider requiring Muslim-Americans to register with a government database, or worse, mandating that they carry special identification cards that note their faith.” ‘Donald Trump’s horrifying words about Muslims’ (CNN, 2015).
To conclude, this investigation; there are many factors that are to be blamed for the negativity surrounding Muslim women, the media does play a huge part in a sense that they are the ones putting out negative content for the world, the media plays a role in influencing people’s opinions on Muslim women by the demeaning words used and how articles / news stories are written by focusing on the negativity, the way terrorism is attached to niqabi women via documentaries, news channels, newspapers etc. People with power, like David Cameron and the French Education Ministers who have a lot of following and to some extent influence the public’s opinion also play an equal role in the negativity that surrounds Muslim women. If David Cameron hadn’t just targeted Muslim women in his statement, there could have possibly been less racist attacks on women who choose to cover themselves but because it’s David Cameron that has said such a thing, the public will think it’s true and focus on the negativity.
Arwa Almari agrees, she blames the media and the politicians for this negativity surrounding Muslim women, Arwa feels that if people took the time out to research and think really about the Muslims living around them, living with them. Are they all like that? They wouldn’t need to rely on the negative media portrayals. She explains that if people took the time out to educate themselves, they wouldn’t have to rely on the media representations.
It’s the relationship between politicians and the media… The fact that we’ve got someone who is mighty and strong, media outlets owned by a person who has authority and a particular agenda. It isn’t helpful… This negative destroying of society… it is making people against each other and it’s interesting because we can only take an example from Bosnia – It had the diversity, it was taken by politicians through the media to end up in a horrible genocide between people who lived side by side for centuries. The media is to blame, I think the media take out certain distinct politicians that mainstream, far right opinions and make them ok.
However it’s the responsibility of individuals to educate themselves and when watching the news, to think about what is being represented and if it’s true. People need to see for themselves that media outlets and politicians are very biased. If the media had given these Muslim women a fair platform to voice their opinion, a lot of negativity wouldn’t be here.
- Almari, Aa. (2016): interview with the author, 16th February 2016 (Transcript, Appendix 4)
- BBC. (2015). France attacks: Neighbour describes shop siege gunman and partner
Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30766672
- Chandler, M. (2016). Muslim woman ‘has face veil ripped off in racist attack’ outside London University
Retrieved from: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/muslim-woman-has-face-scarf-ripped-off-in-racist-attack-outside-london-university-a3196501.html
- Cheruvallil-Contractor, S. (2012). Muslim Women in Britain: De-Mystifying the Muslimah (Islamic Studies Series), London: Routledge
- Fenton, S. (2016). Egypt drafts bill to ban burqa and Islamic veils in public places
Retrieved from: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/egypt-drafts-bill-to-ban-niqab-veil-in-public-places-a6920701.html
- Gordon, A. (2016). Great British bake-off winner Nadiya Hussain reveals police had to check her home because she was targeted by anti-Islamic hate mob after she won the show.
Retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3388379/Great-British-bake-winner-Nadiya-Hussain-reveals-police-guarded-home-targeted-anti-Islamic-hate-mob.html
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Retrieved from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/12104556/David-Cameron-More-Muslim-women-should-learn-English-to-help-tackle-extremism.html
- Khan, Y. (2016): interview with the author, 27th January 2016 (Transcript, Appendix 3)
- MAMA. (2016). Hate crimes against Muslims in London rose by 70% between 2014 and 2015. Retrieved from: http://tellmamauk.org/
- Navarro, L. (2010). Islamophobia and Sexism: Muslim Women in the Western Mass Media, Utopia: OKCIR
- Obeldallah, D. (2015). Donald Trump’s horrifying words about Muslims
Retrieved from: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/20/opinions/obeidallah-trump-anti-muslim/
- Perring, R. (2016). Horror as woman in burka ‘holding severed head of child screams Allahu Akbar’
Retrieved from: http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/648403/Burka-woman-head-child-severed-Russia-Moscow-Metro-station-Allahu-Akbar
- Piela, A. (2016): interview with the author, 5th January 2016 (Transcript, Appendix 2)
- Qureshi, I. (2015): interview with the author, 23rd December 2015 (Transcript, Appendix 1)
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