by Alex Sligo-Young
The Western media currently seems to have a fixation on any crimes committed by Muslims, and, worryingly, the language used in the reporting of these events seems to be getting increasingly violent. David Cameron recently declared that “we all have a role to play in stopping people from having their minds poisoned by this appalling death cult”. However, is this well-meaning action focused in the wrong place?
According to the media, ISIS is the biggest threat to the world since the non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Their tendrils of hatred seem to extend into every street in Britain, with daily extremist conversions and a mass exodus of British citizens that join the fight for the caliphate. The recent shootings in Paris and Denmark have only added fuel to the fire. But is the problem really that great, or is it just a figment of the Western media’s imagination? The man who perpetrated the killings in Copenhagen is believed to have had a mental illness, making him easily susceptible to any extremist propaganda that may have been circulated on social media. Unfortunately, the media seems to be blind to this, instead focusing on his religion as the reason for his attack. This seems to perpetuate the extremist cycle as it provides justification for right-wing groups protesting against Muslims (a minority group in most European countries); often, this only makes the problem worse, causing retaliation from extremist Muslims. This focus on the killer’s religion seems ironic, especially as it took place in a Scandinavian country like Denmark.
Anders Breivik is infamous for committing the worst mass-shooting in Norway’s history. Breivik brutally murdered 77 people (mostly young adults) who were on a holiday camp on an island in Norway. His calculated attack drew attention away from the scene via a car bomb his set off in Oslo. He then drove to Utoya Island and ruthlessly slaughtered the teens. However, Breivik’s religion was never brought into the debate about the cause of the attacks and his fellow Christians were not persecuted for his actions, even though he is a self confessed “Militant Christian” fighting against the “de-Christianity of Europe”. Instead Breivik was ruled clinically insane and his mental state was fully investigated by the judicial system and covered by the media. This example shows how western media pursues the anti-Islamic message, while ignoring extremist Christians.
The detrimental effects of this aggressive media coverage are clear. The Metropolitan Police reported that hate crimes against Muslims rose 65% in the last year, a staggering increase that hints at serious societal rifts developing. This is possibly due to a far-right backlash against Islamic extremism that is taking hold in both the UK and Europe. This is shown by the increase in popularity of Pegida, a far right movement in Germany that has seen a surge in popularity and has even spread into traditionally social democratic countries like Denmark. Pegida also recently drew a record crowd of 25,000 people to protest in Germany. Showing an alarming movement towards the extreme views present in Europe in the 1930s.
However, this anti-Islamic view is not just limited to Europe. Unfortunately, America also has an anti-Islamic media, and this is having extremely negative effects on American society. This is exemplified by the Chapel Hill shooting in America, where the “execution style” murder of three Muslims was carried out. The murder has been recognized as a hate crime that was motivated by anti-Islamic feelings in the murderer. This begs the question: what climate is the media creating where someone can be so full of hatred that they kill three innocent people?
When people are constantly bombarded with news about the atrocities that Muslims are committing against their compatriots, it is natural for them to acquire an anti-Islamic mindset. This is particularly worrying due to a recent study that reveals the televised media’s influence on people’s views of Islam. The study claims that TV news and documentaries have the strongest influence on people's views of Islam, followed by newspaper coverage. Of the 2,420 people interviewed in the US and Western Europe, nearly half said TV documentaries had a strong or very strong influence on their views of Arab Muslims. For television news, the figure was 41%, while 36% of respondents said the same about newspaper coverage. This is probably due to the graphic nature of reports. These show the atrocities committed in more detail than in newspapers, causing people to quickly form judgments against the perpetrators of these actions. Again, this is compounded by the media's large brush, which seems to paint all Muslims as responsible for these actions.
Hopefully this shows how you should take all headlines with a pinch of salt. The ruthless news world only rewards the organization that can present the most shocking news and abhorrent images, thus providing a market for exaggerated anti-Islamic reports, which are in turn snapped up by readers who find it easy to blame someone different from them (nationality or ethnicity). This helps to perpetuate the eye-for-an eye extremism that simply repeats the past. For example, after 9/11 Frank Silva Roque (a white supremacist) killed a Sikh who owned a gas station because he believed him to be Muslim, a perfect example of the blind hatred that is created by media coverage of terrorist attacks. All religions contain extremists, but this minority should not be presented by the media as the face of the religion.
Islam is fundamentally a religion of love and peace and should be shown as such by the media. In my opinion, the media’s anti-Islamic fetish highlighted in this article has no place within the multicultural society we live in today, and should certainly be challenged and removed.