Nearly 60 percent of print articles and just under half of all television clips in the British media associate Muslims with terrorism or extremism, according to a comprehensive report on Islamophobia. These conclusions are echoed by two separate university studies warning of mounting hostility and hate crimes against minority communities in Britain.
The report, titled “British Media’s Coverage of Muslims and Islam,” was released last November by the Muslim Council of Britain’s Center for Media Monitoring.
The council launched the Center in July 2019 in an effort to “promote fair and responsible reporting of Muslims and Islam by engaging constructively with the media and empowering communities to make a change.”
The center monitored more than 48,000 articles in 34 print publications through their websites, and 5,500 television clips broadcast on 38 channels over an 11-month period ending in September 2019. The study extended into 2020 to include the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which news reports continued to stereotype and malign the Muslim community, emphasizing otherness.
The 162-page report divided news reports into two broad categories: “Biased” and “very biased.” The researchers found that although religion in general was the focus of just 6 percent of all the articles examined, articles that were “very biased” focused overwhelmingly on Islamic beliefs.
Further, religious and right-leaning publications carried articles demonstrating a higher degree of bias against Muslim beliefs or behavior. For example, the words “terror,” “terrorist” and “terrorism” were used nine times more frequently in news reports about Muslims and Islam, than in stories about white supremacists, neo-Nazis or far-right perpetrators of violence. Such publications also used generalizations and promoted falsehoods about Muslims and Islam, and misrepresented individuals.
The worst instances of misrepresentation prompted Muslims to sue for libel. The report presents 10 case studies in which Muslims were misrepresented, defamed or libeled in major publications. Nine of the victims received damages and public apologies from publications such as the Times.
Media reports also depicted Muslims as “inherently antisemitic,” and claimed Islam validates such alleged antisemitism. “We see Muslims and Islam being blamed for rising antisemitism in Europe, even though the evidence points to the rise of the far right as the main cause,” the report stated.
This is consistent with an April 2016 statement by the University of Cambridge informing journalists, lawmakers, politicians and faith leaders that according to its research, “mainstream media reporting about Muslim communities is contributing to an atmosphere of rising hostility toward Muslims in Britain,” that is “fuelling hate crime.”
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