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The Role Of The Media Politics Essay

The role in which the media has played has had an enormous impact on society and more so on ethnic minorities such as the Muslim faith. The growth of Islamophobia and a moral panic occurrence has significantly developed and this in turn explains why social exclusion has now dwelled within society. It is clear that post 9/11 that social exclusion within the Muslim community has progressively increased and this has influenced many aspects of social policy. For instance, key areas of social policy such as employment, health and housing have all been affected post 9/11 for the Muslim population.

The impact that the media has played within this matter has indeed had a negative effect on the public and this in turn has influenced others such as politicians and the public. In several newspapers there have been headlines that portray the Muslim religion in a negative light and this is significantly increased post 9/11. It has been notified that the media can place great pressure on the public as they can persuade absolutely anyone with their strong techniques and traditions. For instance, many headlines have shown the way in which their influence can persuade a target audience. In the current news it has been mentioned that a “Christian teacher forced out after complaining Muslim pupils praised 9/11 hijackers as heroes” which illustrates the response that society has with this incident. In The Sun headlines such as “Racism against Muslims has rocketed since 9/11” and “Stoking racism after 9/11” demonstrates the change post 9/11 and how it has become in the limelight. More so, in The Mirror it has been stated “There is racialisation on Muslims” and “Reason we’re a terror target” clearly show the opposing viewpoint of discrimination and prejudice of the Muslim faith.

A Moral Panic

In addition, one more element that has influence on the public opinion is a moral panic as this can be created from the basis of media messages and engagement with society. The term ‘moral panic’ is frequently applied to sudden outbreaks of concern about social problems. Chas Critcher ‘critically evaluates the usefulness of moral panic models for understanding how politicians, the public and pressure groups come to recognise apparent new threats to the social order, and he scrutinises the role of the media, especially the popular press.’ (Critcher 2008: 89) However, the pressure that a moral panic can have cannot be underestimated as Stanley Cohen 2009 rightly points out that, ‘moral panic is the intensity of feeling expressed in a population about an issue which appears to be a threat to the social order.’ It has been notified that a moral panic occurs when a major incident has happened and therefore with the 9/11 episode it did create a moral panic and this hugely influenced the public. For example, Stanley Cohen 2009: 56 states, ‘moral panic occurs when a condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests.’ Furthermore, McRobbie and Thorton 1995: 559 define a moral panic as, ‘a rethinking “moral panic” for multi-mediated social worlds’. It is true to say that ‘moral panic is now a term regularly used by journalists to describe a process which politicians, commercial promoters and media habitually attempt to incite’ (McRobbie and Thorton 1995: 559). From this it has been recognised that a “moral panic” did occur after the 9/11 event and many moral panics appear to assure the kind of emotional participation that keeps up the awareness of not just tabloid, but broadsheet newspaper readers, the news and the television.

The Growth of Islamophobia

One could suggest that the term ‘Islamophobia’ has significantly developed since the 9/11 event. Many theorists have put forward arguments that Islamophobia exists within society and that this causes real problems that perpetuate social divisions. For instance, In the article, ‘Muslims in western Europe after 9/11: why the term islamophobia is more a predicament than an explanation’ Jocelyne 2006: 1 states that, ‘although the first occurrence of the term islamophobia appeared in an essay by the orientalist Etienne Dinet in L’Orient vu de l’Occident (1922), it is only in the 1990s that the term became common parlance in defining the discrimination faced by Muslims in western Europe.’

As theorist Jocelyne 2006: 1 puts forward that, ‘Islamophobia is a modern and secular anti-Islamic discourse and practice appearing in the public sphere with the integration of Muslim immigrant communities and intensifying after 9/11.’ It is clear that Islamophobia has become apparent post 9/11 and this in turn solidifies discrimination and prejudice amongst the Muslim faith. ‘The term has been used increasingly amongst political circles and the media, and even Muslim organisations. However, academics are still debating the legitimacy of the term and questioning how it differs from other terms such as racism, anti-Islamism, anti-Muslimness, and anti-Semitism.’ (Jocelyne 2006: 1) From this point of view it can be said that Islamophobia has existed before and perhaps this is just another term for racism, however, one could argue that this has developed into Islamophobia. Furthermore, Jocelyne 2006: 1 presents that, ‘the term islamophobia is contested because it is often imprecisely applied to very diverse phenomena, ranging from xenophobia to anti-terrorism.’

For example, it has been recognised by theorist Jocelyne 2006: 2

‘The use of the word is very common in the United Kingdom (UK report), where the aforementioned Runnymede Report of 1997 helped launch its popularity. An examination of the archives of The Guardian reveals that the term has been used hundreds of times within the last year, often by prominent politicians and commentators. Notable also is the existence of the group FAIR. Forum against Islamophobia and Racism, created by Muslim activists, always refers to the situation in Europe.’

More so, Jocelyn 2006: 2 point out to,

‘The report on the impact of the July 7 2005 bombings lauds the UK political spectrum were counterbalanced by concerted efforts by European government to make sharp distinctions between those who committed the acts of terrorism and that of the general populace. The report on the impact of the July 7 2005 bombings lauds the UK political and community leaders for their immediate reassurances to the Muslim community; government initiatives of engaging with the Muslim community through setting up Muslim consultation groups and the police for implementing reporting and communication mechanisms in order to de-escalate potential community tension.’

Multiculturalism playing a part

In contrary to all of these matters many academics and theorists have put forward an argument that multiculturalism plays a part. For instance, Enoch Powell, outspoken critic of multiculturalism poses this question. Journalist Sunder Katwala 2002 states that, ‘segregation and rioting in the northern towns; post 9/11 fears of both fundamentalism and Islamophobia; council seats for the BNP. It is never difficult to argue that the race relations glass is half-empty.’ However, this has been considered to be a huge change since 9/11 occurred. Sunder Katwala 2002 suggests,

‘The most significant change is recognition of the concrete, positive gains from diversity, demonstrated in many of our most cherished national institutions today-the National Health Service, the BBC, our global football culture. Even the gradual decline of the Asian corner shop, as another generation makes its own choices, is repeated as the passing of part of the traditional British way of life. Yet many still discuss our multicultural society in terms of “immigrant communities” and “the host culture”, and what “the ethnic minorities” think-in a way that regards them as outside and separate from the mainstream.’

It is correct to point out as Sunder Katwala 2002 suggests that, ‘too often, the politics of multiculturalism have seen Britain’s traditional political elites taking the easy option and seeking out their counterparts within ethnic minorities.’ Nevertheless, academic Salma Yaqoob 2009 places emphasis on the government and the state as. ‘the challenge for progressive politics is to build coalitions among the most dispossessed and excluded, anchored in a commitment to multiculturalism, social justice for all, and tackling exclusion from economic and political power.’ Salma Yaqoob 2009 concludes to point out that, ‘the organising verve shown by the anti-war movement was the critical factor in building unity between the Muslim community and other communities in the dangerous period after 9/11. We could do with a touch of the same to build unity between those from all communities feeling worried and powerless in the face of recession.’

Since the 9/11 incident it has cost many Muslim’s to face such discrimination, Islamophobia, and social exclusion. It has been notified that the Muslim faith has indeed had to live with things such as these that cause a great issue to society on a whole. It has been signified that,

‘Many of the issues highlighted by the Cantle Report particularly concerned the Muslim community and its relations with the wider community. The fact that international terrorists have claimed Islamic justification has caused huge problems for the overwhelmingly law-abiding Muslim community. On the evidence we received, Muslims in Britain are more likely than other groups to feel that they are suffering as a result of the response to international terrorism.’ (www.parliament.uk)

However, it is believed that ‘most believed that the situation had got worse and that divisions between communities had increased. The Muslim Council of Britain said that over 76% of their members felt that the attitude of the general public towards Muslims had changed for the worse since September 2001. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken MacDonald QC’, told us:

‘terrorism is creating divisions between communities, which of course is one of its purposes; it is intended to do that. We have evidence from our point of view of an increase in…low-level tensions…One is talking about racially and religiously aggravated crimes involving racist and religiously motivated abuse of cab drivers at night, shop owners, people in the street, that sort of low level aggressive criminal conduct which we find has increasingly been accompanied by that sort of abuse, so it was a feeling which my front line prosecutors have that there are increasing tensions at that sort of low level which are probably inspired or contextualised by the threat of international terrorism.’ (www.parliament.uk)

Clearly, the argument that the Muslim faith has experienced a change post 9/11 and the consequences of these are not just minor and one can suggest that occasionally they are ignored. ‘The Muslim Council told us that more than 76% of their members felt that the attitude of the general public towards Muslims had changed for the worse since 2001 and that Islamophobia was increasingly becoming acceptable and was already a legitimate form of discrimination’ (www.parliament.uk). Here it is clear that not only do these problems get worse but also they seem to keep reoccurring and this complicates it further. Research illustrates that, ‘it is also clear that PeaceMaker’s evidence that young Muslim felt that they were worse treated than before September 2001: indeed most of the young people in the survey believed that the overall attitude towards Muslims had worsened’ (www.parliament.uk). Again, the concept of Islamophobia developing is supported by ‘work by bodies such as the Islamic Human Rights Centre, the Minority Rights Group and the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia also points to an increase in Islamophobia’ (www.parliament.uk).

Social divisions

The growth of social divisions within society has significantly increased and this in result has other precautions such as prejudice and discrimination against other religions. For instance, in The Guardian “The turban effect” article demonstrates how this has occurred. Writer, Birdwell 2008 notes that, ‘before we sharpen our knives and turn on the media, it is quite possible that the “turban effect” does not reveal a deep seated (and recently received) prejudice, but rather our instinctual disposition towards inductive reasoning that is, making predictions about the future on the basis of past experience.’ Quite rightly as Birdwell 2008 points out that, ‘the fact remains that the attacks of 9/11, 7/7 and Madrid were committed by individuals in the name of Islam (albeit a perverted interpretation).’ Suggestively, it can be considered that racial discrimination exists more so post 9/11. Birdwell 2008:

‘The only problem, of course, is that none of these men were wearing turbans during their respective attacks, or in their portrayal in the media. Not only that, even though inductive reasoning forms the basis of our everyday reasoning, it is often fallacious, and in the current context it could prove particularly pernicious, if it leads to such simple and unthinking connections.’

Furthermore, the Times online 2004 clearly agrees that, ‘the tragic proof of this is that British Hindus and Sikhs of Indian origin have been attacked in the aftermath of 9/11 not as Asians but (incorrectly) as Muslims.’ It has been shown and identified that racial discrimination and prejudice has increased post 9/11. ‘UK Islamophobia levels running high was the headline on an internet news network, which claimed the CBMI warns that riots and extremism are more likely as Islamophobia continues to grow here ‘(thetimesonline). Even the‘Euro MP, rushed to offer a public warning that Britain is “institutionally Islamophobic”.’ There is a viewpoint that the government has a role to play in this and of course it has been noted that not enough has been done to stabilise it. For example, ‘we strongly feel that the government has done little to discharge its responsibilities under international law to protect its Muslim citizens and residents from discrimination, vilification, harassment and deprivation’ (thetimesonline). The case argument for this is that as a result of this discrimination and racialisation towards the Muslim faith, not only the government is put in an awkward position but so are others within the society. It is true to state that, ‘Islamophobia – dread, guilt-ridden word – is defined to include anti-Muslim comments and attacks on mosques right through to the “lack of attention to the fact that Muslims in Britain are disproportionately affected by poverty and social exclusion”.’ (thetimesonline) The picture that has been portrayed by the media has indeed reflected this that, ‘the bottom line is that British Islamophobia is breeding a generation of embittered, disaffected young Muslims who are “time bombs” likely to explode in future.’ This viewpoint is of course a little extreme but this is the picture that has been painted since the 9/11 event happened.

The main consequence of all of this portrayal is that the Muslim faith seriously experience social exclusion and this is necessary to discuss with regards to social policy and how this progressed post 9/11. There are clear examples that demonstrate the social exclusion that Muslim’s experience and this has developed from all the mass media and moral panic messages. For instance, ‘the CBMI report states that British Muslims are more likely to be very poor, sick, unsuccessful at school, unemployed and underpaid than almost all other groups. Muslims are overrepresented in jail. One third of Muslim children live in unemployed households and nearly 42% of Muslim children suffer overcrowding.’ (thetimesonline). However, it has been recognised that equality is a key concept in which determines all of this social exclusion and poverty within the Muslim faith. As such, ‘It seems to have become a universal article of faith that all religions and cultures are equal and must be shown equal respect. But nobody of any culture. I suspect, thinks that all religious beliefs and cultures are equal or equally respectable. That’s just a conventional piety and a dangerous one.’ (thetimesonline). The editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed Versi, believes that after 9/11 “we had the largest number of attacks ever on Muslims”.’ This illustrates how things have considerably changed post 9/11 and in result brought in other problems such as social exclusion and social divisions between communities and society. ‘Consider the social problems that beset British Muslim communities. Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, who make up almost two thirds of the Muslim population, are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than whites. Unemployment, poverty and poor educational achievement are not, however, new phenomena. Racism plays a role. But so does class.’ (thetimesonline). These are just a small amount of examples of social exclusion that demonstrate the change in pattern post 9/11.

It is right to point out that aspects such as the media, moral panic and Islamophobia have determined the social exclusion of the Muslim faith and this in turn results in the problems of the state and the society. To clarify that, ‘denouncing Islamophobia where it doesn’t exist is likely to make people ignore it where it does. Worse still, it’s likely to increase it.’ More so, signifying that ‘Islamophobia is such a convenient myth’ (thetimesonline) is not so true as research and evidence will demonstrate this. Of course, ‘Ten years ago, no one had heard of Islamophobia’ (thetimesonline) but this has now changed ever since the 9/11 episode occurred.

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