It’s a well-established idea amongst the British public that large sections of the media portray Muslims negatively, to say the least. But how much does this really matter?
The word “Islamophobia” can provoke a knee-jerk reaction. In our world of Brexit and Donald Trump, the word can set ‘political correctness’ alarms into overdrive. But it’s important to note its significance. The media control much of the political discourse in this country, and, more importantly, they influence what people think.
At its least, this can just lead to workplace discrimination. In September 2017, a government report found that British Muslims were less likely to succeed in the labour market due to Islamophobia, discrimination and racism. The report stated that British Muslims “face an enormous social mobility challenge and are being held back from reaching their full potential at every stage of their lives“. At its worst, this can lead to terrorism. The far-right rants of Katie Hopkins and The Sun’s countless sensationalist headlines may seem irrelevant to many. But this daily, incessant propaganda is what leads to terrorism, the likes of which have varied from Darren Osborne, who drove a van into worshippers by the Finsbury Park Mosque, to Thomas Mair, who murdered Labour MP Joanna Cox, shouting “Britain first!”.
At the time of writing, ‘Punish A Muslim Day’ leaflets have been handed out in London, the Midlands and West Yorkshire, offering ’50 points’ to ‘throw acid in the face of a Muslim’, ‘500 points’ to ‘butcher a Muslim’, and ‘2500 points’ to ‘nuke Mecca’. I’d been wondering what to do with all those leftover nuclear missiles in the shed.
Isis-inspired terrorist attacks lead to Islamophobia, and it is clear to see why. After a tragedy, oppressor and oppressed can be confused. It is at times like this that the British public rely on the media to keep things clear – yet they don’t. After the Manchester suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert, Islamophobic hate crimes rose by over 500%. After the London Bridge attack, they rose by over 200% – followed by the terrorist attack in Finsbury Park.
However, our media is by no means the worst. In fact, the BBC is perceived as reliable for many issues, and is at least accountable to the public. Even in the mainstream, Sky News, a cornerstone of the Murdoch Empire, does allow a space for other agendas to be put forward. Its transatlantic cousin, Fox News, is an example of how bad things could be. When British television does have a subtle bias and agenda, American television can be trusted to just scream its own point of view. It’s the difference between having a sweet, old grandmother who has racist tendencies, or Nigel Farage at your dinner table.
Yet the situation is still not very good. We are let down immeasurably by our print media. Britain has one of the least free presses in Europe. The Media Reform Coalition in 2014 found that 70% of the national newspaper market is owned by just three companies. Our media is not just one controlled by special interests, but a tiny group of special interests. It is a wonder that anything that goes against this pervasive master-narrative, representing such interests, makes it out to the public – let alone is received successfully.
Misleading stories about Muslims continue everywhere. So much so that several Twitter pages have arisen, dedicated to correcting false stories. Miqdaad Versi alone has forced newspapers into 20 corrections and retractions. As of 2016, less than 0.5% of journalists in the UK are Muslim, yet Islam dominates the newspapers. It is no wonder so much of this discourse is false.
Islamophobia is a real and harmful threat to Muslims. It is the precursor to hate crime, and as such should be called out and stopped.