Terrorism Hate Crimes & Western Politics Islamophobia in the Context of Globalization and Media By Kanika Walia, Md Sajid Khan and Md. Nazmul Islam
The recent Hate-Filled Terrorist Attack targeting Muslim in Christchurch mosque in New Zealand, has not only horrified the whole world but it has also started a serious debate on religious Terrorism, white Supremacist, Racism, Hate and prejudice against Refugee, Regulation on Gun laws and so on. But the most important issue which could also be considered as one of the major reasons behind this hate attack is the increasing Islamophobia in the world in general and particularly, in the west. Hating Muslim and Islam has become a common phenomenon in Europe, America and elsewhere. The aftermath of Christchurch attack witnesses rises in the hate and crimes against Muslim in the other European countries especially in the United Kingdom. This clearly proves that Islamophobia not only exists, but it has a gripe in society at large.
Since the days that followed the terrorist attack in America (9/11), several Muslims, or those who just looked like Muslims, were victims of hate crimes. Since 9/11 the anti-Muslim prejudice in America and around the global is increasing in an extreme and hasty way. Till now not enough action has been put to effect since the alarm was first raised about the devastating effect of Islamophobia. The media, perhaps the most vital agent of globalization in the modern world, has also played a key role in spreading this islamophobia in the society. Although mass media has particularly played a significant role in the shaping of wars, conflicts and its resolutions, it has also often failed to reflect objectivity. Dominant global media networks have been criticized to have biases towards the political agendas of the “western world” or more specifically, those of first world nations. Developed country such as America is one of the nations, which are influenced enormously by the media. Both the old and the young have access to media systems and devices. Young people, who lack adequate skills and qualifications, heavily rely on preconceptions in an attempt to understand the globe. This makes them easy target to the certain propagandas of media
In case of islamophobia, Media is used as a larger platform of globalization to spread hatred, prejudice and stereotypes towards a specific people or religion like Islam. A majority of the media’s reports that talk about Islamic fundamentalism usually describes most Muslims as extremists. For example, Time magazine published a photograph where Muslims soldiers were shown performing prayers with guns. The caption on the bottom of the picture said, “Guns and prayer go together in the fundamentalist battle”. The part that the Magazine omitted or failed to state was that the Muslim soldiers were praying on a battlefield in Afghanistan. Common sense of the situation meant that the soldiers had to remain armed at all times in case of an ambush at any time.
Another statement made in 2009 by Mehdi Hasan, a British political journalist, in the New Statesman criticized Western media for over-reporting a few Islamist terrorist incidents but under-reporting the much larger number of planned non-Islamist terrorist attacks carried out by “non-Irish white folks”. A 2012 study indicates that Muslims across different European countries, such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom, experience the highest degree of Islamophobia in the media.
WHAT IS ISLAMOPHOBIA?
The term Islamophobia has a fairly recent origin. The term itself describes the prejudgment and stereotypes that a western world have about Muslims and their faith. Islamophobia means acts of fear or hostility towards followers of Islamic religion. This unjustified fear has contributed immensely to discrimination of Muslims across the globe. It is a base point for isolation of Muslims in the political arena and affiliate social classes in the society. This term frequently appears in the media and tends to denote fear, hatred or prejudice against Islam and Muslims.” When the Runnymede Trust issued its landmark report in 1997, “Islamophobia” meant a “shorthand way of referring to dread or hatred of Islam and, by extension, to fear or dislike of all or most Muslims”
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word means “Intense dislike or fear of Islam, especially as a political force; hostility or prejudice towards Muslims” and is showed in English as early as 1923.The Berkeley University Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project suggested the working definition:
“Islamophobia is a contrived fear or prejudice fomented by the existing Eurocentric and Orientalist global power structure. It is directed at a perceived or real Muslim threat through the maintenance and extension of existing disparities in economic, political, social and cultural relations, while rationalizing the necessity to deploy violence as a tool to achieve ‘civilizational rehab’ of the target communities (Muslim or otherwise). Islamophobia reintroduces and reaffirms a global racial structure through which resource distribution disparities are maintained and extended.”
According to Turkish government representative Mr. UmutTopcuoglu who defines islamophobia as:
“Islamophobia is a contemporary form of racism and xenophobia motivated by unfounded fear, mistrust, and hatred of Muslims and Islam. Islamophobia is also manifested through intolerance, discrimination, unequal treatment, prejudice, stereotyping, hostility, and adverse public discourse. Differentiating from classical racism and xenophobia, Islamophobia is mainly based on stigmatization of a religion and its followers, and as such, Islamophobia is an affront to the human rights and dignity of Muslims”
The wording of this definition bears a close resemblance to that of an earlier definition of “Islamophobia”, which was also written by Ambassador Orhun and published by the OIC in 2011:
“Islamophobia is a contemporary form of racism and xenophobia motivated by unfounded fear, mistrust and hatred of Muslims and Islam. Islamophobia is also manifested through intolerance, discrimination and adverse public discourse against Muslims and Islam. Differentiating from classical racism and xenophobia, Islamophobia is mainly based on radicalization of Islam and its followers.”
Similarly, there are various other definitions of Islamophobia. The definition of Islamophobia used by the EIR, is as follows,
“When talking about Islamophobia, we mean anti-Muslim racism. As Anti- Semitism Studies has shown, the etymological components of a word do not necessarily point to its complete meaning, nor how it is used. Such is also the case with Islamophobia Studies. Islamophobia has become a well-known term used in academia as much as in the public sphere. Criticism of Muslims or of the Islamic religion is not necessarily Islamophobic. Islamophobia is about a dominant group of people aiming at seizing, stabilising and widening their power by means of defining a scapegoat – real or invented – and excluding this scapegoat from the resources/rights/definition of a constructed ‘we’. Islamophobia operates by constructing a static ‘Muslim’ identity, which is attributed in negative terms and generalized for all Muslims. At the same time, Islamophobic images are fluid and vary in different contexts, because Islamophobia tells us more about the Islamophobe than it tells us about the Muslims/Islam”
THE HISTORY OF THE WORD “ISLAMOPHOBIA
“Islamophobia” was not recorded in English until the second half of the 20th century. The term “Islamophobia” was first used in print in 1991 and was defined in the Runnymede Trust Report (the Runnymede Trust Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, 1997) as “unfounded hostility towards Islam, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims.” The word has been coined because there is a new reality which needs naming — anti-Muslim prejudice has grown so considerably and so rapidly in recent years that a new item in the vocabulary is needed so that it can be identified and acted against . Now, the word has more and more been used since 2000 in the discussions and works of international organizations, including Council of Europe, the United Nations, Organization of the Islamic Conference and European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (OIC).
ISLAMOPHOBIA IN WESTERN COUNTRIES
“Islamophobia has been fixed in the Western psyche more in the European than in the American worldview for centuries. There are a number of reasons for this: the early triumph and rapid expansion of an emerging Islam among Christian entities in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) right up to the Iberian Peninsula from the 8th to the 12th centuries; the onslaught of the European Crusades, their re-conquest of Jerusalem and their subsequent defeat at the hands of the Muslims between the 10th and 13th centuries; the rise of Western colonialism from the 16th century onwards which led to the subjugation of most Muslim polities in Asia and Africa; and the re-assertion of these polities from the middle of the 20th century as they seek to establish their own identities within a global order that centers around US dominance. All have contributed, in different ways, to the spread of a negative attitude towards Islam and Muslims in the West”.
In addition to this, Islam and Christianity were involved in the Crusades during the Ottoman and Moorish control in Europe. Islam spread quickly to the West, and threatened the position of the Christian Church and the ruling classes. The Western elites, mainly the governments and the churches, then became highly involved in seeing that negative images were presented about Islam. As a result, not only were battles fought against Islam, but also a war of words was initiated to make sure that Islam would not have any converts or sympathizers in the West.
MEDIA, GLOBALIZATION AND ISLAMOPHOBIA
The modern era is the age of the media. It is an age of communication technology and information revolution. At this stage of development, Mass Media is more inescapable than ever before. The Media has virtually turned the world into a global village of communication. Marshall McLuhan, often called the media prophet, in his book, Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man (1964) coined a phrase ‘medium is the message’ to explain the influence of mass media on the readers and audiences.
The traditional role of mass media as defined by the media persons are to inform, educate, entertain, and to persuade the people. The media can bring change in behaviour and attitude of the people by emphasizing certain issues. Meanwhile, with the revolutionary progress of mass communication, an unprecedented opportunity has been created to share and exchange information for knowledge and social change. But, the media has turned the affairs into a war of words.
“The books, newspapers, magazines, video cartoons, movie, radio, television and internet-based websites are now widely used to manipulate the information, facts and believes. The instrument of mass communication in the modern world have an enormous potential for inducing newer images in shaping global politics, culture and the public believes. Mass media is both a force for integration and for dispersion and individuation in society. The society as a whole is now a simple hostage at the hands of the media. This is the time to ask whether the people are being managed, manipulated, massaged and brainwashed by the Media. Media men with a biased mind often become propagandists of their personal opinion, using the media as their vehicle. The media is also controlled by their sponsors” (Institute of Hazrat Muhammad (SAW).
“According to Waseem Sajjad, former Chairman of the Senate of Pakistan the Islamic world is poorly represented in the West in terms of press and media coverage. Not only are there just handfuls of news agencies in Muslim countries; there is the concern over the number of inexperienced reporters. Many reporters don’t understand the local cultures nor speak the language, leaving them with access to only those English or French speaking Westernized elites. Thus, their representation is often a biased account of the political and social events from the point of view of the ruling minority in Muslim countries” (diycx.org).
REPRESENTATION OF ISLAM IN MEDIA
The media has the unique and often gruelling responsibility of reporting fair and unbiased news stories. However, the global media are now blamed for overseeing the ethical issues especially when it comes to the question of Islam. It is now clear to the world citizens that the western Media has launched a intensive campaign against Islam in the name of a campaign against terror. There is a current obsession in mainstream media and academic discourse pertaining to Islam and the West. This current obsession is tinged with negative signifiers with the global media’s predominantly negative portrayal of Islam and Muslims, depicting Muslims generally as violent, fanatical, bigoted, or as extremists and terrorists.
Since the end of the Cold War, much media attention has focused on Islam as a disruption in the global order. Although Islam is the fastest growing religion in the West, the West has many stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam that are due to the media, prejudice, and ignorance. Islam is often looked upon as “extremist”, “terrorist”, or “fundamental” religion. In contrast to what many Westerners think of Islam, Islam is a peaceful religion, which does not promote any forms of uncalled violence or “terrorist” actions. Stereotypes about Islam are not new to Western culture and can be traced back 1400 years.
Today, the West, with limited understanding of Islamic history, has identified a new enemy, “radical Islam”, a stereotype common to Western thought, portraying Muslims as fundamentalists or potential terrorists. Some of these ideas that the Western people have developed about Islam are due to the mass media of the West. Reporters who cover the Muslim world have very little details about it and therefore, develop a distorted image of Islam that Western culture adopts
For the media to isolate Islam as a religion that fosters terrorism is biased and just plain irresponsible. In 1995 when Timothy McVeigh committed “the worst terrorist act in American history” by bombing the Oklahoma City federal building and killing 167 people, many of them children, reporters did not sensationalize the story by referring to McVeigh as a “Christian terrorist.” Instead after the Oklahoma City bombing, the TWA 800 disaster, and the Olympic bombing, Muslims and Arabs were initially blamed, which resulted in harassment of Arab-Americans and Muslims. After the Oklahoma bombing, this resulted in approximately 220 attacks against Arab-Americans and Muslims.
INTERPRETATION OF ISLAM BY THE GLOBAL MEDIA
Aside from the fact that the media misrepresents Islam, the media is also a profit-seeking organization. Islam has often been presented as a menace or a threat to the West and although negative images do not correspond to Islam but are the belief of certain sectors of a particular society it influences people’s views on Islam. The Western media’s poor representations of Islam are due to poor language translations, the absence of developed news agencies with international networks and native reporters, and biased reporting by reporters.
A negative image of Islam is becoming characteristic in the Western culture from inaccurate media coverage. The Western public often is misinformed about Muslims through the images on television, motion picture screens, magazines, radios, and comic strips in newspapers, which promote strong messages among their audiences. Western reporters often say that Muslims are terrorists. This becomes a common image to the general person that all Muslims are terrorists. Edward Said’s book, Covering Islam (1997), talks about how the media and experts determine how we see the rest of the world. He says that: Today, Islam is peculiarly traumatic news in the West.
During the past few years, especially since events in Iran caught European and American attention so strongly, the media have therefore covered Islam: they have portrayed it, characterized it, analyzed it, given instant courses on it, and consequently they have made it known. But this coverage is misleadingly full, and a great deal in this energetic coverage is based on far from objective material. In many instances Islam has licensed not only patent inaccuracy, but also expressions of unrestrained ethnocentrism, cultural, and even racial hatred, deep yet paradoxically free floating hostility. As well as creating inaccurate images about Islam, the Western media usually identifies Islam in Muslim conflicts. The media hardly points other religions out in their conflicts. For example, the news would say, “Five Israelis may have been shot, but they were shot by five Muslims”, instead of saying “Five Israelis were shot by five Palestinians”. The media often reverses this action when a conflict is against Muslims, for example the news would usually say “Bosnians are being killed by Serbians”, but instead rarely says, “Muslims are being killed by Christians”.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND IMAGE OF MUSLIMS
From the attacks of September 11, relationship between Western and Islamic world entered in a new stage, especially from the view of social and political values. In these conditions, Western world has been connected with individual freedom, tolerance and secularism, while Islamic civilization was connected with collective rights, despotism, individual obligations, and intolerance.
This debates are also part of social media, there where anybody can post and think personally in his point of view. People share the news and writes they comments reaction about events and incidents. When they express themselves and give opinion it’s not anymore just private opinion, because it’s have been shared also with a number of friends, including them to watch and know what’s your opinion, also to include them and react in the debates. Social media especially Facebook express the face of people, and give you a more clarity of his profile. Maybe the famous quote “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.” today can be “Tell me what you share, and I’ll tell you who you are”. Just in Facebook the word with a hashtag #Islamic terrorism has been used 97.877 times but yes for the luck also the word #islamophobia is being used 97.482 times
Mohammed A. Siddiqi, a professor at Western Illinois University, said the coverage of Islam in major US newspapers contains most upsetting mistakes occur with the indiscriminate use of “fundamentalist” for any dedicated Muslim and the failure to distinguish between cultural practices that are national or regional in origin and not observed by Muslims in other countries. The New York Times was guilty of the latter mistake in a story from France dated January 11, 1993, about a Gambian woman jailed for mutilating the genitals of two baby daughters. The news article said female circumcision was an “age-old Muslim ritual” that “was originally applied in Muslim countries to control women.”
Two anthropologists at Princeton University, in a published letter to the editor, wrote: “Nothing in the sacred scriptures of Islam justifies this brutal operation, nor do most Muslims practice it. It is found in parts of sub-Saharan Africa where Islam has combined with local custom, as well as in non-Muslim societies elsewhere.” Abdellah Hammoudi and Lawrence Rosen, who wrote the letter, complimented a Times column by A. M. Rosenthal which had condemned the practice as mutilation.
Source: (Tell Mama 2017 annual report)
The arrest of suspects in the New York World Trade Center bombing in 1993 led to exploration in the news media of their possible links to a radical Islamic group. Most national news media made it clear that the New Jersey mosque in question was an atypical Islamic center. Nevertheless, Yvonne Haddad, a history professor at the University of Massachusetts asked to comment on early press treatment of the story, said in an interview with USA TODAY, “The press needs to sell stories, and Islamic terrorism sells. There are some newspapers that do it more carefully than others, but it keeps being used.”
A major factor which contributes to Islamic stereotyping in the West is due to the media’s selection of their words that describe Muslims. Some common names heard or seen in the news about Muslims are “extremist” or “terrorist”. These words are misleading and are mainly anti-Islamic. The media rarely uses more neutral terms such as “revivalist” or “progressives”.
Another great misconception that exists is the truth about Jihad or “holy war” in Islam. Jihad literally means “The struggle in the path of God”. However, the Western media often abuses the meaning of jihad by referring to it as a holy war where Muslims unreasonably kill non-believers. But the fact is that, jihad can mean a numbers of things that a Muslim does for the sake of God. Rarely has the Western media used this kind of a definition in their reports. The media often takes the word “jihad” out of context to propagate negative views on Islam.
The association of Islam and violence is a common misconception that the general Western public has developed about Islam. An example of this kind of misconception is that the Western media and some historians often say that Islam was a religion spread by the sword. The spread of Islam was not through coercion but through acceptance of the religion. Since the majority of the Western public only gets their information about Islam through the media, they develop a misconception. The media’s reports about Arab or “Islamic” events, such as the Gulf War, are often misunderstood. The media infrequently distinguishes between the religion Islam and the political affairs that occur in most Islamic countries.
The notion of associating of Islam and Muslims with the terms Arabs and Middle East are in fact misleading. Arabs only account for 18% of the Muslim population across the world. In their initial coverage, by emphasizing a build up to military action rather that exploring alternative solutions the western media provided support for, even helped create a context in which, armed intervention in Iraq was both expected and accepted. The globe witnessed a “pre-emptive attack” on Iraq and the emergence of “embedded journalism”. By defining the solution to the initial attach as a war on terrorism, policymakers provided the moral mandate for legitimated the course of action taken to have conceived of it as a crime would have required a different and that for the USA politically less satisfying approach. The western media, especially the big ones, also promoted the causes of dehumanization representing the tribes of Afghanistan as warring factions of primitive barbarians.
MEDIA AND IMAGE OF MUSLIM WOMEN
In addition to the media’s inaccurate representations about conflicts, human rights of women in Islam, such as women veiling and women’s rights. The media often represents Islam as a male dominant religion where Muslim men have complete authority over all groups of people. However, it is ironic of what the media represents, that the Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him) was one the greatest reformers for women. In fact, Islam probably is the only religion that formally teaches women’s rights and finds ways to protect them and if practiced correctly, it provides an equal gender society.
As Islam came around, traditional pre-Islamic roles of women were replaced by new Islamic roles that women followed. Islam allowed women to have the right to be educated and the right to participate in political, economic, and social activities in their communities. This created upward mobility in their communities. Women were also given the right to vote, something the U.S. denied women until 1919. Women were given the right to inherit property and take charge of their possessions. While most of these rights are denied to Muslim women today as a result of cultural tradition, one should not associate this with Islam, because they do not correlate with it.
Islamic women wearing veils is another commonly misunderstood concept. in the West. It is thought of as a harsh custom that Islam requires of women. Although it is claimed that’s veils infringe the rights of women, in fact, it is meant to serve just the opposite and protect them. Islam requires women to wear a veil for their own safety, but if a woman chooses not to wear it, it is her choice and it is between her and her God.
Islamic women are indeed supposed to be granted these rights, but the media often fails to inform its audiences about this fact. The media also fails to report that most of the Islamic countries have a high illiteracy rate. This means that it is “virtually impossible for many Muslim women to challenge cultural male authority when the women themselves do not know the difference between village customs and actual Islamic law”. The Western media would be able to better represent women’s issues in Islamic countries if they identified how and why governments have limited women’s rights that are guaranteed to them by the Holy Quran. It must be noted that three Islamic countries (Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Turkey) that have had female heads of states. In contrast, most Westerns nations such as the United States have yet to select a female president.
ISLAMOPHOBIA THROUGH HOLLYWOOD AND BOLLYWOOD
The author Jack Shaheen told in this documentary how the Hollywood has contributed to the stereotypes about Muslims, he said that during his work he watched a thousand films and most of them presented Arabs like robbers, the Arab women’s like a belly dancer. Starting from the cartoons, when for example Ali Baba is a fiction role, when he presenting Arabs like a robbers. Also the Aladdin cartoon presents a young Muslim who is flying with a rug, and this is well known for public that Muslims pray upon that. After sometimes somewhere from Israeli war in 1960 the Hollywood contributes also in negative ways to present Palestinians like a terrorist and the Israeli people to be persecuted from Muslims. From that time till now the Muslim image in Hollywood films have been showing like a terrorist. There are growing instances of Islamophobia in Hindi cinema, or Bollywood, too. In films such as Aamir (2008), New York (2009) and My Name is Khan (2010), which corresponds to a growing anti-minorities sentiment that followed the resurgence of the Hindu right.
WHAT COULD BE DONE TO REDUCE THE PROBLEM?
The inception of mass media has transformed the manner in which information is collected and disseminated. It has been the singular most powerful tool of influence, mobilization and shaping of political, religious, economic, cultural etc. agendas and discourse. As witnessed in the past, such as in the case of World War II and the subsequent wars of the latter century, the use of media propaganda to mobilize a nation is just as prevalent today as it was then. The global media today is a leader in its own accord; its influence surpasses that of any other institution. Therefore, it is vital they maintain an attitude as a global leader; one that is free of biasness, and has accountability for the news, publications, and media images and photographs that profile the event, its causes and effects.
In this regard, given the authority and power of influence that the global media possesses, it should be an instrument that focuses on its ability to resolve conflicts. In the midst of conflicts between religious groups, there has been an attempt to understand, accept and create dialogue between people of various faiths. The global media can be the most influential medium in which this can be accomplished.
The Media should emphasize on the universal message of Islam; and by doing so, they can be a medium through which conflicts can be resolved. Moreover, the Media today has the absolute power over all other institutions of Religion, Politics, Societies and Culture. Its influence and role is that of a universal guardian; an institution that formulates religious, cultural, social and political values. Its role must be played in a positive direction; one of unity and the advocator of the Oneness of all Religions and Faiths.
Finally Muslims themselves should come forward to deal with this increasing wrong notions about of Islam. The mosque is the first place when every Muslim learn a basics about Islam. They have a right to speak to the people and telling them what is extremism and that Islam is not a faith based on terror. Giving information and forming in this way a Muslims will contribute to have tolerance for the other religions. Also the young Muslim communities that are practitioners of Islam today, they can also make a good use of campaigns using social media. They have a lot of friends which most of them are not practitioners and maybe some of them have prejudgments about him in aspect of religion. Everyone have to explain his statements, especially when your posts have to do with Islam, and in the time of crises it is not good to be silent. With a silence you can left an open door for prejudgments from people
Blaming Islam or all Muslims for terrorism, is like accusing Christianity for colonialism, world war 1 & II. and all the other crimes committed by Christian People. Each religion has its own extremisms and majority follower who are peaceful and nonviolent, cannot be declared responsible for the extremist act of a tiny Minority. The Jews, Jews, Christians, Buddhist, Hindus, and Other religion are also not clean from religious Terrorism.
When the media repeatedly portray the Islamophobic news and reports, it would then increase the discrimination and prejudices against Islam and Muslims. Equally, Muslims who are victims of these events may respond in a similar or worse way to all the problems they face because of Islamophobia. As a result, our world may be full of hatred, discrimination, prejudice and insecurity.
In addition, at we have witnessed these days. young Muslims can easily be exposed to ideologies of extremists, and it provoked an increase in towards the non-Muslims. Therefore, the media should take responsibility for creating terrorists from nothing by spreading Islamophobia.
It is the time that media should treat fairly to the majority of innocent Muslims who are different then extremist. Muslims should not be judged and subjected to islamophobia anywhere in the world. The media must understand the genuine sources of Islam, namely the Qur’an and Sonnet, teaches peace and Non-violence for all the humanities. The media which is there to bring the truth and transparency, should look into events of crime as crime rather a platform to increase for anti-Muslim hatred. Whenever the media report sensitive areas of Islam and Muslims, it is necessary to include the viewpoints and opinions of Muslim scholars as part of the news and reports. The media should also work on interfaith dialogue to narrow the gaps created as a result of Islamophobia.
Kanika Walia, PhD Candidate, Gazi University, Ankara, Turkey; Md Sajid Khan, PhD Candidate, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey; Md. Nazmul Islam, PhD Candidate, Ankara Yildirim Beyazit University, Ankara, Turkey