Most Muslim coverage 'negative'

Researchers looking at the way British Muslims are represented by the media say they have found that most coverage is negative in tone.

A Cardiff University team behind the study looked at nearly 1,000 newspaper articles from the past eight years.

Two-thirds focused on terrorism or cultural differences, and much of it used words such as militancy, radicalism and fundamentalist.

The research was commissioned by Channel Four's Dispatches.

Dr Paul Mason, a member of the team, said the team looked at three areas.

They carried out a statistical analysis looking at types of stories and the way Muslims were described and the language used, the photographs used alongside the stories and they analysed the types of case studies used.

He said: "We looked at both nouns and adjectives and the way in which British Muslims were described.

"And we found the highest proportion of nouns used were about things like extremism, suicide bombers, militancy, radicalism - which accounted for over 35% of the adjectives used about British Muslims - fanatic, fundamentalist - those kinds of languages were used.

"And Islam was portrayed or constructed in the language as dangerous or backward or as a threat," he said.

The team found that since the attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States and 7 July 2005 in London there had been an increase in stories about British Muslims and this peaked to more than 4,000 in 2006.


'Perceived threat'


Mr Mason added: "What you have to be careful of here is to watch the kind of generalisation of the very, very small number of people that are involved in political violence of any kind and the generalisation about Islam which is carried out by the newspapers.

"So following 9/11 and 7/7 of course there is a perceived threat from the public and the public are concerned about political violence.

"But it is wholly wrong to make what the newspapers do in the generalisation of those who carry out public violence to the whole of Islam and the whole of the British Muslim community."

He said there were concerns that journalists and editors may have sought to appeal to their own readership about some perceived threat to British unity or values.

"You get these inaccurate stories about this threat of there is going to be more mosques than churches, which is a complete nonsense.

"There are roughly 900 mosques and there are 42,000 churches, so this is a ridiculous report."

The Channel Four documentary, It Shouldn't Happen To A Muslim, investigated whether the 7/7 London bombings and the fear of terrorism had fuelled a rise in violence, intolerance and hatred against British Muslims.

Source: BBC 8/07/08




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