European Media views on Islam
The Image of the Islam in the European Media
In the past thirty years, the Western world has started to approach to Islam, the Muslim world, and the position of Muslims in Europe, specifically in west Europe, where the long influence of the Ottoman Empire, left a large Muslim population. Events such as the Iranian Revolution, The Gulf War, 9/11, and ultimately, the American occupation of Iraq, have raised awareness on the Islam. In the same way, the ever-changing nature of the Middle-Eastern and Maghreb politics, have led to a diaspora of Muslims to Europe (Shadid & van Koningsveld 174). For instance, given its position as a former colonial state, France attracts many Muslim immigrants from Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria. The influence of the Muslim immigrants in the country can be perceived, as they amount for the 7.5% of the population, which means, 4.7 million people. On the other hand, former communist countries such as Russia, and Bulgaria have seen a steady increase in their Muslim population. Russia has approximately 14 million of Muslims, which means a 10% of the population. Bulgaria has a Muslim population of 1,020,000, which amounts to a 13.7% of the Muslim population. (PEW Research Center). It is important to understand as well, that Islam and Muslim do not refer only to Arabic population, and Muslim people are not necessarily of Arabic descent. There are Iranian, Afghan, Turkish, Indonesian, and even American Muslims. What we are trying to say is that Muslim people comes from many backgrounds, and to subject them to discrimination based on their religion and origins is almost nonsensical.
In the same way, it is important to highlight the difficult relation that European and Muslim countries have had during the history. Since the middle ages, the Muslims have been treated as enemies, and even today, in the second decade of the 21st century, some European countries still have a negative image of the Islam, and the Muslims. In countries such as Greece and Italy, the opinion toward Muslims is quite unfavorable. For instance, the 53% of the Greeks have an unfavorable image of the Muslims, and the 63% of the Italians have an unfavorable image as well. On the other hand, France and England are among the countries with the most favorable images of Muslims, with 72, and 64% of a favorable opinion each.
In this essay, we aim to show how Media shapes the minds of the individuals, and in the Islam’s case, this tends to happen with a relative frequency. Media representations, and common perceptions of Islam, form a sort of common perceptions that are visible on media, and if Media depicts them in a way, they will surely influence those who are unwilling to forge proper criteria toward a largely unknown subject. In the same way, media is a social barometer, which serves us to measure social and political state of things. Media have a broad impact on people’s minds, but that media is at the same time shaped by political and social realities of a country. Our essay will focus on how the European Media, have shown Islam, and ultimately show if that image has been positive or negative.
The image of Islam in the European Media. European media have always depicted Islam as an alien religion, and Muslims as alien people. This can be perceived in the way media tends to show them. Modern European media shows only the worse part of Islam. They choose to cover wars and terrorist attacks instead of undergoing educational campaigns that show Muslims as people with the same desires of living a fulfilling life. Media depicts Islam as “fundamentalism”, and “radicalism”, and while Islam has its fundamentalist, and radical wings, they amount for a small fraction of total Muslims in the world. (Mesic 1). In the same way, let us think about the U.S. case. After 9/11, American media depicted Muslims as a threat, which ultimately led to the Iraq, and Afghanistan wars. At the beginning of 9/11 craze, many Muslims faced a rampant discrimination, mostly fueled by media. This had led to the emergence of a new “Islamophobia”, fueled by the mass Media. For the European Union, the Islamophobia has become a concern in the last years. They consider that the only way to pave the road of understanding is by trying to avoid stereotypical generalization that could eventually lead to reduce the fear of Islam. In the EU, integration is not an important part of their agenda, as they understand that European Muslims have their own ethnical identities, which add up something to the diversity in the Union. In the same light, not all European Muslims share cultural identities, that means that regardless of sharing a faith, they might not share an ethnicity, this makes discrimination harder to spot, as sometimes it does not have to do necessarily with religion, but with racism and xenophobia (EUMC 3)
In the same way, for Muslims, a fear of losing their identity when westernizing is also a concern. Most of them consider that is possible to integrate if they feel like a “protected” part of the society, rather than a free one that is able to do its own valid contributions. That is why, many Muslims feel mortified when thinking about themselves. For instance, do they belong to the west? And, who are they? (Ramadan 62) Those are tough questions to ask, but many Muslims have opted to thoroughly westernize to avoid that discrimination. They continue on being Muslim, and being part of the Islamic culture, but they try to blend with the Westerns, to avoid confrontations. To many Muslim scholars, this is not the way to go, as it does not lead to any real advancement. People in Europe must learn to accept and educate themselves on what they do not know, before jumping to biased conclusions.
Instead of depicting cases of violence and terrorism as what they are, Media depicts them as some sort of religious violence, this “religionization” of crime, is a pivotal point in our essay, as we consider that many crimes that people would consider “Islamic” in nature are just crimes performed by Muslim people. Media depict Muslims as an angry, and threatening mob, who have violent tendencies and are always up for a confrontation. (Creutz-Kämppi 299). In the same light, Islam is depicted as backward religion, which is social and culturally retrograde. Most western societies consider they need to help Islam to advance into the modern world. They depict Islam as underdeveloped, and always try to patronize Islam, and offer them help, like in the Middle Ages, when Islam and Muslims were outside of the civilization.
We can say that the European image of Islam and Muslims is what is really retrograde, not the Islam itself. This might obey to a cultural bias that many people does not observe so easily. Muslims do not ask for the integration, they mostly ask to be left alone to their own devices, far from the patronizing western looks. They intend to live their lives as Muslims in the Western world without hindering themselves and those who surround them. To consider every Muslim as a threat, like in the post-9/11 craze, would be returning to the Middle ages were Islam was an alien culture that needed to be converted. Media must understand that their depictions are based on prejudices and most of the times, not in real facts. If the attacks in Charlie Hebdo were done by Islamic Integrists, write about the differences between been Islamic, Islamist and an Integrist, do not just simply put all Muslims in the same wagon and expect people to sort them out accordingly. Media has a responsibility toward their viewers, and they are clearly failing to fulfill it.
Creutz-Kämppi, K. “The Othering of Islam in a European Context.” Nordicom Review 29.2 (2008): 295-308. Web.
Mesic, M. “The Perception of Islam and Muslims in the Media and the Responsibility of European Muslims Towards the Media.” (2008). Culturelink.org. Web.
Morey, Peter, and Amina Yaqin. Framing Muslims Stereotyping and Representation after 9/11. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2011. Online
Muslims in the European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia. Vienna: European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, EUMC, 2006. Online.
Ramadan, Tariq. Western Muslims and the Future of Islam. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Online.
Shadid, W., and P.S. Van Koningsveld. “The Negative Image of Islam and Muslims in the West: Causes and Solutions.” Religious Freedom and the Neutrality of the State: The Position of Islam in the European Union. (2002): 177-96. Leuven, Peeters. Web.