ISLAMOPHOBIA: A RATIONAL IDEOLOGY?
One of the primary reasons for Islam receiving so much negative attention, is through the use of multimedia propaganda news and negative political attention. This causes people to be influenced by the propaganda they hear and read. This can then be the fuel that brainwashes society into believing that Islam is evil and all Muslims are associated with terrorism.
There are two ways in which we receive our news. The first is through traditional media, which is the larger and popular news sites that we often view. The second is through advocacy journalism, which aims to produce truthful information from passionate and accurate activists.
The issue being that, instead of listening to activists who aim to produce truthful information, we often listen to propaganda from the larger traditional news publications.
Instead of publicising breaking news of hundreds of innocent Muslims that have been killed, they would rather publicise one person who was murdered by a “Muslim terrorist”. Usually displaying no real evidence to the terrorist being Muslim, but instead using words like “the gunner was ALEGIBLY believed to be a Muslim terrorist”. This then fuels the amount of negative and untruthful attention that Islam receives, causing the public to have a destructive view on Muslims.
So, what if it was the other way around? What happens when Muslim men, women and children are slaughtered in cold blood? We don’t often see that in the media. But why?
“As the media environment becomes more decentralized and competitive, news outlets may try to maintain market share by devoting more attention to terrorist attacks that employ novel tactics or that are particularly violent” (Walsh 2010).
The popular and larger mainstream media publications would rather publicise “Muslims” killing innocent people in a “terrorist attack”, instead of showing that innocent Muslim women and children are being slaughtered in Syria every week. Unfortunately, the media will devote more attention to the stories that are more popular, rather than the ones more important. That is why it is up to activists to reverse the role and publicise the important information and hidden messages that we’re not exposed to.
“When objective journalism decays into a cowardly neutrality between truth and lies, we need advocacy journalism to lift our profession… back to credibility.” (Niles 2011)
HOW DO WE GET OUR NEWS?
We usually view our information in many different ways, from social media channels, multimedia communication publications or from people in positions of power, such as politicians.
However, we don’t truly know which publication we can trust, as we don’t normally know where their facts and evidence have come from. We are so often exposed to news that they can miss a key point or even fail to give us the facts we need to know.
“The media can also amplify existing attitudes and opinions with regard to events, beliefs about rights and wrongs, and political leaders or groups” (Gardner, Karakasoglu & Luchtenberg 2008).
We are often exposed to information that they want us to believe, rather than the information we need to believe.
ALLAH AKBAR- WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN?
Numerous media campaigns are often displaying negative opinions about Islam. In the media we often hear the words “Allah Akbar” associated with a terrorist attack and we’re easily convinced that these two words is all the evidence we need to blame the situation on Muslims. However, why should these two words mean that the perpetrator is automatically labelled a Muslim terrorist? This is because of certain ‘language’ that is displayed through mass communication and when we hear these words over and over again associated with the words ‘Muslims’, our minds become brainwashed into automatically associating the words “terrorist” and “Muslims” together.
One common quote we often hear in the media is that ‘not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims’. This statement has grabbed the attention of many and although it might be incredibly offensive, the media continues to promote this statement, brainwashing people’s minds into believing this is true. Through this statement, people then have negative thoughts about Muslims and people develop Islamophobia, where any terrorist attack they hear of is immediately linked to Islam.
THE PROBLEM WITH RESOLVING THE MASS MEDIA ISSUES
“Despite the explosion of media coverage and publications on Islam and Muslims, the major challenge today involves getting accurate and verified information” (MEŠIĆ 2011).
The only way we can get this information is from activists who aim to show the truthful message that the popular mainstream media publications won’t. The problem being that “the pressing issue of Islamophobia and the erosion of civil liberty due to excessive linking of terrorism and Islam have somehow not been considered important in the public debates” (Quraiehy & Deltombe 2006).
MUSLIMS AGAINST ISIS
We don’t often see Muslim and Islam leaders coming out and speaking about how they feel about ISIS and how they feel about being discriminated. This is not because Muslims don’t want to speak up, rather it’s because mainstream media publications are not interested in publicising these messages. An important thing to think about is that nowhere in the Quran (Islam Bible), is there anything that promotes terrorism. Although some terrorists claim to be Muslims, Islam does not support any form of terrorism.
ISIS IN THE MEDIA
ISIL has been on the rise in recent years, inducing fear into minds on a global scale and causing terror around the world. Mostly done through small operations in a busy destination that will be filmed by many and instantly uploaded onto the internet and broadcasted around the world in minutes.
An example of this is the ‘Sydney Siege’, where one man claiming to be Muslim took hostage the Lindt café across from the channel 7 headquarters in Sydney CBD. This terrorist siege was not about taking control or a café and asking for demands, but rather to publicise terrorism in the perfect location, right across from a multimedia publication.
Weimann (2004) established in their study why the internet is such an ideal platform for terrorist organisations, reasons such as: easy access, little or no regulation, potentially huge audiences, anonymous communication and others. Together these points sum-up why it’s so easy to distribute information and gain copious amounts of attention.
“The rise of ISIS also has coincided with the proliferation of social media as a global means of communication… The result is ISIS’s exploitation of social media to turn unsophisticated attacks into spectacular attacks, not just to spread fear, but also to gain recruits” (Cozine 2016)
IS IT RATIONAL TO BE ISLAMOPHOBIC?
The irrational fear of Islam and its followers stems from powerful politician’s propaganda and agenda’s as well as the negative media attention the religion receives. The Oxford Dictionary defines Islamophobia to be the “dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force”.
The University of South Australia conducted interviews which surveyed 100 Australians and were asked seven questions which would indicate feelings of Islamophobia.
It is clear that the vast majority of the 100 Australians surveyed didn’t indicate that they were Islamophobic to an extreme, however, it still shows that 19.5% of the people wouldn’t live in a place where there were Muslims and 15.6% were undecided. It also shows that 23.9% of people would support any policy to stop the building of a new mosque and 17.7% of people were undecided. Although these statistics are quite low, it still shows that a few Australians are somewhat Islamophobic
Islamophobia is not a new concept or ideology, as this prejudice towards Islam has been an ever-growing fire which traditional journalism and political figures have been adding fuel to. However, these media outlets and politicians are basing their perception of the ‘truth’ on events that are happening in our current society to further their political agenda of isolating and eliminating Muslims and their religion.
POLITICAL AGENDA OR GENUINE CONCERN?
Traditional media outlets and advocacy journalists are not the only way in which society can receive the ‘truth’ about issues. Powerful political figures, such as the American Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton and also Australian politicians, Pauline Hanson and Sam Dastyari all contribute and influence the ways in which society perceives Muslims and their religion.
Politicians have the ability to persuade and manipulate the views of their followers and also society in general to further their political agenda. Political figures and traditional journalists are similar in they ways in which they tell their version of the ‘truth’. They both perceive an individual Muslim extremists act as an appropriate representation of the entire Islamic religion. Thus, branding all Muslims to be extremists and terrorists.
AMERICA: LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL… APPARENTLY
Donald Trump is the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States.
It is evident in Trump’s campaign speeches that the number one emotion he wishes to instil into his supporters is fear. Fear is an effective and powerful emotion which can turn rational thinkers into individuals with irrational ideas about certain religious groups or a particular country. Trump advocates the deportation of Muslims from the United States and furthermore keeping out all immigrants wanting to enter the US.
Islam and its followers have constantly been a scapegoat in the past and is continuing to be one to this day. Trump states, “we cannot continue to allow thousand upon thousands of people into our country, many of whom have the same thought process as this savage killer”.
By constantly assuming that one extremist is an accurate representation of an entire religion can lead society to be governed by bigots with closed minds, which could then possibly be an accurate representation of our society.
However, Hilary Clinton, the nominee of the Democratic Party promotes that Islam and its followers are not the issue. She is an advocate in this video for Muslims. She asserts that Muslim extremists are the problem, not the entire religion.
AUSTRALIA: THE LAND OF THE FREE?
Australian politician Pauline Hanson has her own agenda which matches Donald Trumps. By instilling fear within society, people are drawn to be misinformed and not understand what the religion of Islam actually means. Hanson uses her position of power to alienate Muslims and their beliefs just as journalists use their power to report their version of the ‘truth’.
By taking the Quran passages out of context, Islam becomes susceptible to prejudice from Australian society. By preaching these words of hate, Hanson and other political figures drive a wedge between Muslims and society.
Social media is an extremely influential platform, where people can share their thoughts, beliefs and ideas to the entire world. Journalists and politicians use this to their advantage, when reporting on issues or giving opinions to further serve their agenda.
Pauline Hanson and numerous other political figures use social media platforms for their own propaganda. Hanson and One Nation have been campaigning against halal certification, claiming that tax/surcharges paid for halal certified food funds terrorism.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation policy is simple. Stop Muslim immigration, ban halal certification, to ban the burqa and niquab in public places and many more unreasonable policies to enact.
Politicians do not need to be truthful, as the only truth they need is the one that will bring them into power. The ‘truth’ and facts can be twisted in any way which will help aid their political campaign. Just as traditional journalists can interpret facts wrong in order to make Muslims look a certain way, in order to brainwash society into thinking that Islam is a problem that needs to be stopped.
However, Iranian born Sam Dastyari has been a big advocate for Muslims in Australia, thus combatting the prejudice policies that Hanson wants to enact.
Dastyari uses his position of power to assert the truth about Muslims in Australian society and all over the world. Coming from an Islamic background allows Sam to understand and explain the reality of Islam, and not what journalists and bigots say in the media.
It is extremely important that society hears both sides to this anti-Islam debate, so people can make their own unbiased decision. Islam needs positive advocates like Sam Dastyari in order for our society to live cohesively regardless of a person’s religion, political preference or gender and other contributing factors.
There is also a need for advocacy journalists who’s aim it is to report truthful information. However, there will always be biases and unreasonable people in the world and people that will say or do anything which will further their own agenda. But as long as there is someone advocating for the scapegoat which in this case is Islam and its followers, there will be a chance that the real truth will eventually come out.
Cozine k 2016, ‘Social Media and the Globalization of the Sicarii’, Global Security Studies, Vol. 7, no. 1, viewed 26 August 2016, < http://globalsecuritystudies.com/Cozine%20Sacarii.pdf>
Gardner, R, Karakasoglu, Y & Luchtenberg, S 2008 ‘Islamophobia in the Media a Response from Multicultural Education’, vol. 19, no. 2, viewed 26 August, <http://www98.griffith.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/handle/10072/21472/51872_1.pdf?sequence=1>
MEŠIĆ M 2011, ‘The Perception of Islam and Muslims in the Media and the Responsibility of European Muslims towards the Media’, viewed 26 August 2016, <http://www.culturelink.org/conf/dialogue/mesic.pdf>
Niles R 2011, ‘Why We Need Advocacy Journalism’, The Online Journalism Review, viewed 25 August 2015, < http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/robert/201112/2042/>
Quraiehy, B & Deltombe, T 2006, ‘Islamophobia in the Media’ viewed 27 August 2016, < http://p9445.typo3server.info/uploads/media/21Jan2006_en.pdf>
Walsh J I 2010, ‘Causes and Consequences’, Media Attention to Terrorist Attacks, viewed 23 August 2016, <http://www.jamesigoewalsh.com/ihss.pdf>
Weimann, G 2004, ‘How Modern Terrorism uses the Internet’ Special Report, viewed 23 August 2016, <https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/sr116.pdf>