The Power of Words and Images


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During the last decade, debates on the role of religion in the public space, migration, social cohesion and other issues have revealed increasing social tensions and polarisation in public opinion. Misperceptions and misinformation often dominate public dialogue about relations between Muslims and others. Although they don’t speak with the loudest voice, academics, scholars and thought leaders have a key role to play in helping to rebalance these debates by providing fact-based opinion and informed arguments. In the ‘Building a Shared Future’ series, these opinion leaders offer insights into the issues facing Muslims through American and European communities today.

In the decade since 9/11, the media and public opinion have propagated many misconceptions about Muslims and Islam, but there also exists great opportunity to use the media to correct them. This volume explores the representation of Islam in both the media and the public sphere.

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The Power of Words and Images

  1. 1. Building aSharedFuture:The Power of Wordsand ImagesA joint publication of the British Council’s Our SharedFuture project and the Centre of Islamic Studiesat the University of Cambridge a
  2. 2. This work is licensed under a Creative CommonsAttribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0Unported License.ISBN: 978-0-9563743-9-4A joint publication of the British Council’s OurShared Future project and the Centre of IslamicStudies at the University of CambridgeOur Shared FutureBritish Councilwww.oursharedfuture.orgPrince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic StudiesUniversity of Cambridge publication was supported in part by theCarnegie Corporation of New York.The essays in this collection reflect the personalviews of the participants. The British Council,the Carnegie Corporation, and the University ofCambridge bear no responsibility for the contentof the essays or the views expressed by theirauthors.© Photo by Mat Wright
  3. 3. About the PublishersThese books were produced in conjunction with a conference titled‘Acknowledging a Shared Past to Build a Shared Future: Rethinking Muslim/non-Muslim Relations’, convened at the University of Cambridge in March2012 by the following partners:British CouncilThe British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educationalopportunities and cultural relations. We create international opportunitiesfor the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between themworldwide. We work in over 100 countries in the arts, education, society andEnglish. The Our Shared Future project, based in the US, aims to improve thepublic conversation about Muslims and intercultural relations in the US andEurope. Our Shared Future is supported in large part by a grant from theCarnegie Corporation of New York.The related Our Shared Europe project, a partner in convening theconference held in Cambridge, creates opportunities to discuss and shareperspectives on diversity, migration, community cohesion, inter-cultural andinter-faith dialogue in contemporary | | www.oursharedeurope.orgHRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies, University ofCambridgeThe Centre of Islamic Studies is at the forefront of research and publicengagement on the role of Islam in wider society. Working with partnersacross the University of Cambridge and beyond, from academic institutes tocivil society organisations and the government, the Centre has developed areputation for enriching public debate and knowledge through high-profileand innovative research projects about Islam in the UK, Europe and
  4. 4. Table of ContentsIntroduction 1Executive summary 2Lies, damned lies, statistics and statistics about Muslimsby Nabila Ramdani 4Finding new perspectives on Muslim/non-Muslim relationsby Laurna Strikwerda 6Let’s lose the religious labels by Simon Kuper 8Nation and narrative by Hussein Rashid 10Reframing public perceptions of Islam and Muslimsby Jeremy Henzell-Thomas 12The GOP’s war on Islam: Misrepresentation and public perceptionsby Sarah Wildman 14Europe’s Muslim communities: Creating a new narrative forintegration by Shada Islam 17Dealing with misleading images: Results from the case studyon ‘Muslims in the European Mediascape’ by Jörg Heerenand Andreas Zick 19The ‘Facebook generation’ and the movement of ideasby Dr Edward Kessler MBE 21Humanisation: The necessary education by Stephen Shashoua 24Endnotes 26 i
  5. 5. It’s time to fill thegap between academicexpertise and publicknowledge of Muslimsand Islam. ii
  6. 6. IntroductionDuring the last decade, debates on the role of religion in the public space, migration, social cohesion andother issues have revealed increasing social tensions and polarisation in public opinion. Misperceptionsand misinformation often dominate public dialogue about relations between Muslims and others. Althoughthey don’t speak with the loudest voice, academics, scholars and thought leaders have a key role to playin helping to rebalance these debates by providing fact-based opinion and informed arguments.In March 2012, the Our Shared Future and Our Shared Europe programmes in the British Council and thePrince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies (CIS) at the University of Cambridge invited seventyscholars, civil society leaders, journalists and other influencers to the University’s Møller Centre for threedays of discussion, training and collaboration in a conference titled ‘Acknowledging a Shared Past to Builda Shared Future: Rethinking Muslim/non-Muslim Relations’.One of the key objectives of this conference was to help fill the gap between academic expertiseand public knowledge of cross-cultural relations involving Muslims. Participants broke into discussiongroups around five themes to pinpoint new, more inclusive narratives to reshape the conversation aboutintercultural relations. They explored areas of research and partnerships among institutions in the US,Europe, the Middle East and North Africa that can help shed light on deep connections between Muslimand non-Muslim societies in the fields of culture, the arts, humanities and science. Rounding out thesediscussions, participants had the opportunity to work with media professionals to develop effectivemessaging and gain practical skills to improve their engagement with online, print and broadcast media.The essays that follow reflect the ideas that participants arrived at the conference with as well as theconversations that ensued throughout its three days. We have produced four books covering each ofthe themes undertaken at Cambridge: The Power of Words and Images; Islam, Knowledge and Innovation;Citizenship and Identity; and Religion, Politics and the Public Sphere.While those who came together in Cambridge strive to take forward the ideas and opportunities that arosefrom the conference, we invite our readers to take up new calls to action and engage in dialogue informedby the arguments set forth in the following pages. We owe deep gratitude to our partners in organisingthe conference: the Carnegie Corporation of New York; the Association of Muslim Social Scientists; theWoolf Institute; and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary Worldat the University of Edinburgh.To access the companion books in this series and explore further resources on improving the publicconversation about civilisation, identity and religion, please visit — Dr Emmanuel Kattan, Project and Partnerships Manager, Our Shared Future, British Council — Prof Yasir Suleiman, Founding Director, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies, University of CambridgeJune 2012 1
  7. 7. Executive summaryThe working group on ‘The Power of Words and Images’ focussed on misrepresentations andmisconceptions of Islam, Muslims, Europe and the US that emerged after 9/11. On the one hand, the ‘waron terror’ provided frequent opportunities for stereotyping Muslim communities, including misguideddebates around Shari’a law and the building of mosques that persist today. On the other hand, inseveral Muslim-majority countries, people hold misperceptions of the imperial ambitions, arrogance andfundamental hostility to Muslims of Europe and the US.Since 9/11, Islam has been seen in the US and Europe through the lens of terrorism and extremism,reinforcing the ‘clash of civilisations’ narrative that Samuel Huntington introduced in the 1990s. Manyof the essays that follow highlight evolving trends in anti-Muslim sentiment, including the role of‘Islamophobic’ rhetoric among Republicans in the US and others who have introduced narratives aboutShari’a law and ‘stealth jihad’ into the mainstream.The prism of ‘security’ through which many Arab countries are portrayed in European and US mediaalso restricts our understanding of this region. Europe has seen a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment, fuellingsupport for several far-right movements. However, the picture is not as grim as often portrayed. Europeangovernments are increasingly balancing security-focused approaches with strategies that combineintegration measures and Muslim outreach programmes. Moreover, European Muslims’ economiccontribution is becoming more significant with the rise of new entrepreneurs. This is leading to a growingrecognition that diversity can be a competitive advantage and a source of dynamism for Europeaneconomies, thus having a positive impact on the public perception of Muslims. Furthermore, the spread ofdemocracy through Arab countries and the accompanying increased free flow of information should alsoimprove mutual perceptions on these issues.In their discussions throughout the conference, the authors in this volume brainstormed additional waysto positively affect the public perception of Muslims by harnessing the power of communication in themany media available to us today. In doing so, they addressed a number of pressing questions. First,what can be done to develop a more nuanced understanding of these complex notions in the generalpublic? What role do scholars, academics and opinion leaders have in helping to address misinformationand manufactured misunderstandings about Muslims and Muslim communities in the US and Europe?What is the potential of new media in changing and positively informing global public opinion aboutrelations between Muslims and non-Muslims through personal testimonies, humour and innovative use oftechnology? What tools do journalists need for sensitive and balanced reporting on stories that go to thecore of religious and cultural difference, and how can scholars and opinion leaders help in that regard?The ensuing discussion focused on efforts to move away from binary narratives and language (‘Muslim/non-Muslim’, ‘Muslim-West’, ‘Muslim world/western world’), since such narratives entrench divisiveand polarising perceptions even when the intent is not to do so. Instead, binary oppositions shouldbe discarded in favour of perspectives that recognise links among multiple faiths (beyond the threemonotheistic faiths), multi-layered identities and shared concerns for human rights. Disentangling‘muddled terminology’ can also help to improve public discourse on relations between Muslims andnon-Muslims. Confusion over the meaning of ‘multiculturalism’, for instance, is particularly worrying, if itsuggests that multiculturalism, understood as active intercultural engagement, is defunct.Many contributors agree that media and public spokespeople can begin to change negative perceptionsbetween Muslims and non-Muslims by focusing on positive stories featuring intercultural engagement. 2
  8. 8. Illustrating the diversity of opinion and worldviews among Muslim communities can help break down themonolithic view of Islam that often dominates media coverage, as can the use of humour and efforts tohighlight ordinary stories of individuals creating change. The process of inclusion of Muslims can also besupported through cultural production: hip-hop, literature, theatre and television shows can help includeMuslim communities in national narratives. As Hussein Rashid writes later in this volume, ‘It is the storiesthat make the people part of the nation’.Greater efforts should be deployed to highlight positive contributions of Muslims to the societies they livein, including in the areas of arts, entertainment, science and politics. Since prejudice relies on a processof ‘dehumanisation’, education and intercultural encounters should focus on efforts to ‘humanise’ Muslimsin order to deconstruct misperceptions and confront anti-Muslim sentiments. Engagement should takeplace at all levels of society, involving teachers, parents, artists and sports personalities, and interculturaleducation should become an integrated part of educational systems. The following essays reflect on thepotential of language, communication and both new and traditional media to begin to introduce thesechanges. — Dr Emmanuel Kattan, Project and Partnerships Manager, Our Shared Future, British Council 3
  9. 9. Lies, damned lies, statistics andstatistics about MuslimsBy Nabila RamdaniThere is a famous old saying about untruths, media concentrating on positive aspects ofwhich suggests that there are three types—lies, Islam. Crass clichés range from bushy beardeddamned lies and statistics. For the purpose of radical preachers to unfriendly women wearingthis paper, I think it would be fair to add a fourth: burkas, and all have stuck fast over the paststatistics about Muslims. few years. These simple depictions of ‘Muslim types’ fit neatly alongside reports about IslamicYou see these statistics everywhere nowadays, suicide bombers or oppressive Islamic regimesand—sadly—they are invariably negative. To advocating Shari’a Law.quote a relatively recent survey by the IslamicEducation and Research Academy on Britishperceptions of Islam, 75% of respondents Irresponsible fictionbelieved Islam and Muslims had provided really does play a deeplya negative contribution to society. Of all distressing part inrespondents, 70% did not disagree with thestatement ‘Muslims preach hatred’, 94% did not stigmatising Muslims.disagree with the statement ‘Islam oppresses The Islam we see portrayed by the news media iswomen’ and 85% did not disagree with the currently dominated by the fast-moving crisis in80%statement ‘Islam is irrational’. the Middle East and North Africa. Day in day out, we see images of Muslims blowing themselves to pieces—as in Syria—or else being ‘tamed’ by the western military—as in counties like Afghanistan and, until a few months ago, Libya. All the while, the public face of Islam is distorted into a kind of horror mask. How many people in the West canKnow Very Little name a single post-Arab Spring leader? Very few, I would contend, while the names of pantomimeAll very damning, not to stay extremely villains like Khomeini, Gaddafi, Saddam Husseindisturbing, but then you look at a statistic and Bin Laden can be reeled out by even theproduced in the same survey, and it pretty much most uninterested schoolchildren.sums the whole subject up: 80% had less thanvery little knowledge about Islam. One of the worst aspects of all this is the way that selective, unrepresentative aspects of MuslimIn these days of instant communication, of behaviour—hands being cut off because of awall-to-wall rolling international news, of iPhones theft in Saudi Arabia, or a young woman beingand personal communication, it is certainly killed for dishonouring a Muslim husband—areworrying that people appear only too happy to projected as if they were the ignorant views while also admitting thatthese ignorant views are based on . . . absolute It is not just the news media that is at fault either.ignorance. Hollywood filmmakers are as notorious nowadays for making their Muslims as swarthy, distrustfulNo news is good news, and there seldom and dangerous as they once made Mexicansseems to be any question of the western and Red Indians. This might sound amusing, but 4
  10. 10. irresponsible fiction really does play a deeply So many of the debates and forums I attenddistressing part in stigmatising Muslims. and so many of the TV and radio discussions I take part in solely want to explore the extremes.My fear is that these perceptions are ones that Non-Muslims need to be made aware of ago beyond any problems inherent within Islam Muslim culture that is characterised by goodwillitself. Just as the media concentrates on the and decency and achievement. Few realise,paedophile priests of the Catholic Church, or the however, that Muslims were making huge stridesAnglican bishops who do not really believe in in science, mathematics, medicine, philosophyGod, so it is that a vibrant and hugely influential and literature while huge parts of Europe werereligion like Islam is associated with bigotry, still submerged in the dark ages. In the sameinsularity and hatred. way, few westerners who have a negative view of Islam appreciate its closeness to Christianity andOur reaction to this should not be to make Judaism.the situation worse by walling in the negativestereotypes and bad publicity—it should be Solely focusing on the fanatical and violentto get out into society and change them. As side of Islam is just like solely focusing on thesomeone who works in the media, I am always perception that many westerners are immoralastonished by the bright, articulate Muslims I and greedy—these ridiculous simplifications domeet around the world. They work in industry, not take us anywhere. Islam has always been atin the professions, in the law and, of course, the forefront of social and political journalism and politics—arguably, the two As we are seeing in newly liberated Arab Springmost important professions as far as changing countries, Islamic politicians are just as likelyperceptions is concerned. to offer democratic policies concentrating on social justice and equality as they are socialBeyond their specific subject areas, it is up to conservatism and traditional values. FormerMuslims, young and old, to affirm a faith that is British Prime Minister Harold Wilson oncepeaceful, unifying and, above all else, positive. described the Labour Party as a Broad Church—Just as there is no such thing as a Catholic or once Muslims and non-Muslims alike start usingAnglican who has no other role in society beyond that metaphor for Islam, we will really be gettingtheir faith, so it is with Muslims. Muslims play somewhere, and can even start forgetting aboutactive roles in every part of society. They can be statistics about proud of their nationality, or their job or theirlocal sports team as they are of their faith. Once — Nabila Ramdani is a freelancepeople start to realise this, then we will be well journalist.on the road to improving relations and fostering adeeper understanding between communities thatare often viewed as being irrevocably distant.As far as negative images are concerned, anobvious way forward would be for influentialMuslims to start accentuating the positive—thepart Muslim politicians play in changing societyfor the better, the Muslim arts and entertainmentscene, Muslim sport, Muslim tourists . . . It soundssimple, but it really is incredibly easy to spend allyour time concentrating on the violence, humanrights abuses and oppression that have cometo be associated with Islam, especially since theWar on Terror started following the 9/11 terroristattacks on the USA in 2001. 5
  11. 11. Finding new perspectives onMuslim/non-Muslim relationsBy Laurna StrikwerdaCurrently, the predominant images that To begin to shift the narrative of Muslim–non-characterise mutual perceptions between Muslim relations, we should envision whatMuslims and non-Muslims are all too often based sort of future we want to see—one based onon a sense of ‘otherness’. While many individuals cooperation, on understanding; one wherehave moved past this narrative, it is one that is difference might be met with curiosity rather thanstill perpetuated by members of the media and fear and in which we are able to recognise thekey analysts and leaders in the public sphere. humanity in the ‘other’.All too often, the media cover inflammatory Media and public spokespeople can play a keyevents related to Islam or Muslim–non-Muslim role in fostering such narratives by promotingrelations without giving voice to legitimate, positive stories of Muslim–non-Muslim relationsqualified Islamic scholars and mainstream Muslim and demonstrating the diversity and depth withinfigures. Mainstream Muslims do speak in favour Islam and Muslim communities.of tolerance and peaceful coexistence, but theirvoices are largely absent in the media both inthe West and Muslim-majority countries. As a Demonstrating theconsequence, mainstream Muslims’ commitment diversity and depth ofto integration, investing in their communities and Muslim communities iscombating extremism is not as widely knownas it should be. This omission is exacerbated the western media’s frequent preoccupation The question of how the media specifically canwith questions such as ‘Is Islam a religion of be used to promote better Muslim–non-Muslimviolence?’, creating a narrative in which Islam is relations is addressed in a 2009 Soliya/Alliancetreated as ‘other’, separate and different from of Civilisations study, Media and Intergroupother religions. Relations: Research on Media and Social Change, which sought to examine exactly how mediaSimilarly, negative stories about the United States can undo stereotypes and change attitudes.1and Europe all too often dominate the media in What the study found was that concrete,Muslim-majority countries; such stories frequently explicit efforts to change people’s attitudes andfocus on the US military or problematic aspects behaviours do not fare as well as efforts to showof foreign policy. Grassroots efforts in the West that other people’s attitudes and behavioursto promote dialogue, the diversity of faith groups have changed.2 This research suggests that ifand Muslim contributions to the West are less individuals begin to perceive that those aroundwell known. them see positive Muslim–non-Muslim relations as ‘normal’, they may be more likely to emulateMany of the images of violence, human rights such perspectives and related behaviours.abuses and oppression are linked to concrete Perhaps, if we begin to see Muslim and Christianand legitimate questions about policy. However, it leaders together discussing the issue ofis possible to shift how such news is understood religion and violence—rather than watchingand what narratives it feeds into. Muslims singled out and asked why one religion 6
  12. 12. promotes violence—we might begin to see such non-Muslims, they can help create new heroes,interreligious efforts as normal. individuals who demonstrate the best values of our times.In addition to efforts to highlight positiveintergroup relations, demonstrating the diversity We should not only respond to and opposeand depth of Muslim communities is essential. negative coverage in Muslim–non-MuslimReligions and religious communities are living relations with counterarguments, but alsoand evolving. They are not static, nor one- actively make our vision of the future heard.dimensional. Too often, Islam and Muslim We must be proactive as well as reactive. Incommunities are seen in monolithic terms in both doing so, we can draw both on recent historywestern media and in media in Muslim-majority and contemporary narratives that can overturncountries: There is a perception that one can stereotypes while demonstrating a positive visionask what Islam says about women, or violence of what Muslim–non-Muslim relations should lookor non-Muslims and find one answer. Such an like. We can also use humour, bringing someapproach, however, fails to acknowledge the lightness into what is all too often an intense anddiversity within any religious tradition. heavy debate, and highlight ordinary stories of individuals creating change—the showcasing of a community organisation, for instance, which Foster a new norm, one happens to have Muslim, Christian and Jewish that is based on a shared volunteers. sense of humanity and a By changing the narrative presented about sense of a mutual destiny Muslim–non-Muslim relations in the media, we can help foster a new norm, one that is basedFor this reason, it is essential to highlight on a shared sense of humanity and a sense of acontemporary narratives and stories from mutual destiny.recent history that put a human face on Islam.For instance, when there is a terrorist attack — Laurna Strikwerda is the programmecommitted in the name of Islam, there are usually coordinator for the Muslim-Westernmedia pundits who ask why Islam supports dialogue programme at Search forviolence—and then experts who point out the Common Ground.problematic implications of such a question. We,as experts and practitioners trying to improveMuslim–non-Muslim relations, often point toverses in the Qur’an or examples from the lifeof the prophet Muhammad to demonstrate thatIslam is not inherently violent. Such efforts arecritical and should continue. In addition, though,we should also highlight contemporary narrativesthat show the diversity of how Islam is livedout as a faith. When it comes to violence andnonviolence, for instance, we should consider thestories of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a contemporaryof Gandhi who drew on Islamic teachings tofoster a nonviolent movement in what is nowPakistan, or Rais Bhuiyan, a survivor of a 9/11hate crime who fought to have his attacker’s—awhite supremacist—death sentence for a relatedcrime overturned. Stories like these undo themisperception that Islam is inherently violentand demonstrate that peaceful, mainstreamIslam is present and real. And for Muslims and 7
  13. 13. Let’s lose the religious labelsBy Simon KuperYou’d almost think Muslims really do control terrorist attacks in Europe, did researchers startthe world. Certainly, the American and French calling them ‘Muslims’. Instead of national origins,elections seem to be mostly about them. or social class, suddenly only religion mattered.After Mohammed Merah killed seven people This was true even if the ‘Muslims’ didn’t havein Toulouse in the name of Islam, Nicolas any religion. Only a small minority of France’sSarkozy has tried to turn the election into a five million nominal Muslims attend mosque eachreferendum on who can best protect the French Friday. This begs the question of what makes thefrom Muslims. In a curious echo of medieval others ‘Muslims’, but no matter. Since 9/11, ‘Islam’controversies in Europe, he also wants to protect explains everything from the French riots tothe French from halal meat, which they have Saddam Hussein.belatedly discovered they’re all eating. In thatother Enlightenment nation, Newt Gingrich is Of course, if politicians, media and researcherswarning of Shari’a law being imposed on the keep telling nominal Muslims that they areUS through ‘stealth jihad’. That won’t surprise ‘Muslims’, that that is their prime identity, andthe many Americans who already believe they that they are unlike everyone else, then theseare ruled by a Muslim. I had the impression in people will tend to start thinking of themselvesrecent years that the US and France had other as ‘Muslims’. That has happened in Europe andproblems, but clearly, I was wrong. the US. This is good news for a small set of professional Muslims, who proclaim themselves leaders of the non-existent ‘Muslim community’ We’d get a better take on and then ‘build bridges’ with other ‘communities’. Iran if we stripped away In doing this, they are duplicating the language religious labels and just of crusaders such as Gingrich. Like him, they see two separate groups: Muslims and everyone else. interpreted its behaviour through old-fashioned But as the economist-philosopher Amartya Sen realpolitik. points out, people have multiple identities. Sen writes, ‘I can be at the same time an Asian, anThe words ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ are overused Indian citizen, a US resident, a British academic,and have lost almost all meaning in western a Bengali with Bangladeshi ancestry’, etc.discussion. They have become catchall terms Similarly, for most Muslims in the West, ‘Muslim’to explain everything. I’m not calling for a is only one of their identities, and not always amoratorium on the use of ‘Islam’ in public debate, very prominent one. This is how most of thembut nearly. Once the word is used as sparingly as, live: They wake up, take the kids to school,say, ‘Shinto’, the volume of daily nonsense talked do mundane work or errands, watch bad TVwill plummet. and then collapse asleep. It’s hard to distil the essential Muslim component here. A French‘Muslims’ were discovered in the West only Muslim once told me the key difference: ‘We haveon September 11, 2001. Riem Spielhaus, an a barbecue, some people don’t eat pork’.expert on Islam (not a self-appointed one)at Copenhagen University, says that in the The one thing all religious Muslims have in1990s, ‘Muslims’ usually appeared in European common is a book written fourteen hundredsurveys under rubrics like ‘Turks’ or ‘former years ago. That hardly explains the gamut ofguest workers’. Only after 9/11, and subsequent them from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Zinedine 8
  14. 14. Zidane. As the French scholar Olivier Roy says, starts talking about Islam, he’s generally up to‘Islam is whatever Muslims say it is’, and with one something. And—probably deliberately—he’sbillion ‘Muslims’, you’ll get quite a range of views. missing what’s going on in his country.True, Merah considered himself Muslim. Most — Simon Kuper is a journalist for Theterrorists in the Irish Republican Army considered Financial Times. This essay wasthemselves Catholics. However, using Catholicism originally published in The Financial(let alone Christianity) as a tool to understand Times on April 7, 2012.them doesn’t help much. Rather than wieldingIslam as the great explanatory device, wecould class Merah with other young men drawnto death cults: Anders Breivik in Norway, theOklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, andOne Goh who is charged with killing sevenpeople in Oakland on Tuesday. After all, MuslimMerahs are pretty rare: Of the 12,996 murdersin the US in 2010, Islamic fundamentalistscommitted zero. The words ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ have been contaminated.‘Islam’ cannot explain the world. I hesitate tosay this in the FT, but: bring back Marx! Hereminds us that people act on economic motives.Alternatively, we could understand nominalMuslims in the West as ‘immigrants’ who havetypical immigrant problems. For instance, theytend to have high unemployment rates. Well, sodo Christian immigrants from Africa.Banging on about ‘Muslims’ is boring andmisleading. Nobody calls David Cameron the‘Anglican prime minister’ or Paul Simon the‘Jewish singer’. Similarly, we’d get a better take onIran if we stripped away religious labels and justinterpreted its behaviour through old-fashionedrealpolitik.In any case, the words ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ havebeen contaminated. For the purposes of westernpublic debate, they are still owned by Osama BinLaden. That being so, when a western politician 9
  15. 15. Nation and narrativeBy Hussein RashidBenedict Anderson, in his seminal work Imagined are constructing a narrative of exclusion, and ourCommunities, talks about the way in which print concern is constructing a narrative of inclusion.capitalism helps to craft a sense of nationalidentity. In the twenty-first century, the idea of In recent American popular culture, thebelonging is extended beyond print into what mechanism of inclusion via cultural productionI refer to as ‘media capitalism’, the multitude of can most clearly be seen in hip-hop. It is aways in which information is consumed to create sub-culture that is initially heavily identifieda group identification. This media capitalism with African-American resistive discourse. Theconstructs narratives of belonging to the sub-culture was outside and in oppositionnation-state. Competing narratives, as much as to the mainstream, generally understoodlegal instruments, are integral to understanding as White culture. It was met with counter-how different communities forge a common resistance from this mainstream, but consumeridentification. This paper will consider various culture brought rap, the music of hip-hop, intopopular cultural interventions in the US as mainstream cultural production. On one hand,they relate to the integration of recent Muslim this incorporation has allowed the reificationcommunities. of the stereotypes of African-Americans as poor, criminally inclined and hyper-sexualised.Individuals like Howard Zinn, A People’s History However, that imagery has been matched byof the United States, helped to popularise a increased awareness of issues facing the Blackstory of America that incorporates the voices community in America, including many of theof people written out of history. However, the structural causes amongst the White listeningstory of a nation is not the same as its history. audience. In other words, the work of the CivilThat story is one of integration of various sub- Rights Movement was to create a legal basisnational communities. The transition of American of equality, but hip-hop created a narrative ofimmigration theory from a subsuming ‘melting- actual equality. I do not mean to suggest that thispot’ model to a broader ‘mosaic’ model reflects equality has been reached. Rather, it is part of athe fact that many communities want their stories larger process, where one element cannot existto be part of the American story. and succeed without the other.With respect to Muslims, we must recognise thatthey have been present in America since the It is incumbent to find thefounding of the country. However, as history is stories that help clarify ourwritten to exclude the contribution of slaves, meanings.many of whom were Muslim, the Arab migrationof the nineteenth century is similarly written In terms of production outside of the realm ofin a way that minimises their contributions, music, literature seems to be the logical place toincluding those who were Muslim. In the modern talk about the idea of stories. Although so-calledperiod, Muslim-ness is being written out of ethnic literature is a mainstay of the AmericanAmerican history through Orientalist fantasy, as landscape, the stories that I am most interesteddescribed by figures like Edward Said (Covering in are the ones that demonstrate a comfort withIslam) and Jack Shaheen (Reel Bad Arabs), or both a Muslim and an American identification,by active processes of Islamophobia. For our rather than being self-conscious about either.purposes, the writers of history and the current I believe part of the success of hip-hop is theIslamophobic actors are not our concern. They navigation of multiple identifications as being 10
  16. 16. authentically American. G. Willow Wilson’s find the stories that help them realise the gaps inButterfly Mosque is a memoir of her conversion the history they Islam, a religion she says she ‘inhabits’. Whileshe is conscious of the conversion process, and History is written to explain the nation-state andwhat it means to those close to her, it is also its structures. However, it is stories that makenatural, and her national identification is never the people part of the nation. When the story isseen in conflict with her religious one. Recent compelling, the way individuals see themselvesMuslim immigrants, meaning first- and second- with respect to one another and to the nationgeneration immigrants, are also creating stories changes. One of the key tools in any marginalisedthat relate to an American experience, flavoured community’s collection is that of culturalwith Muslim specifics. Wajahat Ali’s The Domestic production that changes the national narrative.Crusaders is a play of three generations of a This particular pathway should not be discountedfamily of Pakistani descent. Although there are simply because of the generational change thatelements that are unique to the family, in its it engenders.broad outlook, it speaks to multiple issues ofwhat it means to be American, including how to — Hussein Rashid is an adjunct instructorraise children. Ali is also co-editor of the second of religion at Hofstra University, anbook in the I Speak for Myself series, anthologies activist and a lecturer.of American Muslim women (vol. 1) and men (vol.2)3 writing about their experiences. A similaranthology is Love, InshAllah, about the love livesof American Muslim women. These anthologiesare at their best when there is no awareness ofthe multiple identifications at play, just stories thatresonate with other readers. It is stories that make the people part of the nation. When the story is compelling, the way individuals see themselves with respect to one another and to the nation changes.As a scholar of Islam who sits in both Study ofReligion and Theology, I must say that it seemsthat part of the education project is exposingour students to the lived voices of Muslims.Theological norms are the idée fixe around whichthe symphonies of religion are constructed.These symphonies are created in culturally andtemporally bound conditions and express thoserealities. In all aspects of education, whether inthe formal classroom setting or in more publicgatherings, I believe it is incumbent to find thestories that help clarify our meanings. It is alsoimportant to help those seeking information to 11
  17. 17. Reframing public perceptions ofIslam and MuslimsBy Jeremy Henzell-ThomasReframing perceptions of Islam and Muslims a golden age of Islamic civilisation. Through thedepends to a large extent on the development excavation of authentic Islamic principles andof a more nuanced understanding of complex values, Muslims have much to contribute to thenotions in the general public. Central to the renewal of British society.accomplishment of this aim is the long-termimpact of better education in producing well-informed, enquiring, critically minded and Development of criticalinsightful individuals who are not taken in by thinking skills anddiscourses that perpetuate persistent myths and philosophical enquiryingrained prejudices. during the educationalThis process needs to encompass not only process needs to begin atbetter and more balanced information within the an early curriculum and the media, but also thedevelopment of independent critical thinking, Better education also depends crucially onphilosophical enquiry, aesthetic awareness, the valuation of open dialogue and discussionethical values, empathy and spiritual insight. The as a means of developing dialectical marginalisation of the humanities Genuine learning depends on the capacity ofand the arts in the education system, as well as human faculties to assimilate new input andthe unremitting intrusion of a debilitating testing modify existing cognitive structures. Conversely,regime and the drilling of ‘right answers’, can prejudice; bigotry; confirmation bias; and theonly work against a more nuanced understanding fixed, prescriptive and authoritarian ideasof complex notions as well as a more sensitive associated with the foreclosed mind proceedappreciation of ‘the other’. from rigid schemata, frames and scripts that tend to dichotomise reality into diametrically opposingIt is vital that any restoration and revitalisation views, competing dogmas and irreconcilableof history within the curriculum is not politicised differences.and disproportionately motivated by the desireto impose a ‘dominant narrative’ based on a Skill in engaging in discourse requires anselective reading of history, but reaches out to understanding that schemata are not typicallyall communities by recognising the pervasive dislodged by adversarial confrontation, but byeurocentric and occidentalist biases in much approximating new information as far as possiblewestern historical writing. to an existing schema. In other words, the possibility of moving forward depends on findingThe inclusion of present-day contributions to common ground, an area within the landscapea shared future is important. True, Islam once of discourse where there is some intersectioninspired in the West an intellectual enlightenment of ideas, framed in language that is accessibleand scientific revolution through the spirit to both sides. In such a way, new ideas areof enquiry fostered by the Qur’an, but the assimilated and perceptions reframed. Wholecontribution of Muslims to the development of paradigms of thought can be shifted in this way.western civilisation should not be confined to theannals of history and to nostalgic reminders of 12
  18. 18. Ideally, development of critical thinking skills and also deliberately manipulated to reinforce powerphilosophical enquiry during the educational relations.process needs to begin at an early age. Theexperience of many philosophers and teachers A topical example of muddling differentworking with young children supports the meanings of the same word is the use of theview that children benefit from philosophical word ‘multiculturalism’ without explainingenquiry even in early primary school. The best what is meant by it. The word might refer to atthinking skills programmes not only go beyond least three different notions: the existence ofthe sharpening of a narrow set of functional plurality or diversity (‘multiculturality’); the modelthinking skills and develop many higher-order of multiculturalism that promotes tolerancecognitive faculties, but also create a community between separate communities within pluralof enquiry committed to developing a range of societies (sometimes referred to as ‘pluralethical values essential to participation in a plural monoculturalism’); and pluralism as an activesociety. process of constructive engagement between different communities (sometimes calledThe established academic tradition of Critical ‘interculturalism’). While some might legitimatelyDiscourse Analysis (CDA) is based on the premise argue that social cohesion and the building ofthat discourse is an instrument of ideology a shared narrative is not facilitated by mereas well as a means of perpetuating social tolerance between isolated encampmentsand political inequality. Ideological discourse, within society, it is profoundly misleadingwhether openly extremist or masquerading as to appear to suggest that multiculturalism‘rational debate’ and ‘open discussion’ based in its critically important sense of activeon supposedly ‘superior values’, sustains intercultural engagement is dead. Lack ofmany forms of bigotry and continues to exert care in distinguishing such concepts can haveconsiderable influence on debates about national profoundly negative consequences not only forvalues, multiculturalism, immigration and the minority communities but also for wider society.formulation of policy to restrict the rights ofminority groups. The unpicking of such discourse Another example is the use of the wordis an essential discipline that can contribute ‘radicalisation’. We have in Britain an honourablemuch to improving the quality of public debate ‘radical’ tradition of reforming liberalism,and thereby establishing greater social justice. intelligent social activism and legitimate dissent, which has historically guided our nationalImproving the quality of public discourse also evolution towards a free, just and tolerant society,depends on reclaiming amongst journalists a but the word ‘radicalisation’, when appliedculture that reveres the disinterested pursuit to Muslims, invariably has the connotation ofof truth, respects evidence and rejects the extremism, and even violent extremism.fabrication of ‘pseudo-events’. The same appliesto those who do research and compile reports It would be most useful to draw up an expandedfor think tanks. A succession of reports produced glossary of terms that are vulnerable toby some think tanks has been criticised as being confusion and distortion (whether by non-ideologically motivated with ‘findings’ not based Muslims or Muslims), with particular attentionon the methodological integrity that should to examples that impinge on the quality ofgovern fair and balanced research and the public discourse about Islam and Muslims ingathering of credible evidence. contemporary contexts.One of the chief causes of muddled thinking — Jeremy Henzell-Thomas is a Visitingin public discourse is poor definition of key Fellow at the Prince Alwaleed Centreterminology. This takes various forms, including of Islamic Studies at the Universitylack of distinction between different meanings of Cambridge and a member of theof the same word. Poor understanding of foreign Advisory Board of the Prince Alwaleedterms is also a major problem, represented in a Centre for the Study of Islam in thestrikingly repetitive way by misuse of terms such Contemporary World at the Universityas fatwa and jihad. Sometimes terminology is of Edinburgh. 13
  19. 19. The GOP’s war on Islam:Misrepresentation and publicperceptionsBy Sarah WildmanThe 2012 primary race for a Republican The juxtaposition of western civilisation as thepresidential candidate has been marked by antidote/antipathy of Islamic law is purposefulgaffes and missteps, flip-flops and obfuscations, and clear: One is Right, and one is Wrong; oneforeign policy misunderstandings and aggression is darkness, one is light. And while rational-towards women’s reproductive rights. In the thinking Americans may understand that themelee, it would be easy to downplay what is ‘radical imposition of Shari’a’ is neither wantedperhaps one of the nastier components of by the Muslim population of this country northe season: the exposure of a base strain of remotely likely, that doesn’t much matter to thexenophobia in the Grand Old Party, a distinctive populations to whom Gingrich speaks. It is aswing towards a virulent Islamophobia so Manichean sentiment increasingly present in therampant among, and so contagious between, the new GOP’s rhetoric.candidates for president it can become difficultto cover as journalists without inadvertently (or, Running for president did nothing to soften theat least, unnecessarily) airing stereotypes and former history professor’s views: ‘I’d support afalsehoods. The slights are so common they Muslim running for president, only if they wouldhave become commonplace. The narratives commit to give up Sharia’, Mr Gingrich told votersare borrowed from those we have heard over in South Carolina. He later won that primary.the last few decades in Europe. While they arenewcomers to these shores, they are no less ugly For close followers of the former congressman,in American English. And with this election cycle, this rhetoric comes as no surprise. Mr Gingrichthey have entered mainstream American thinking. was an early and outspoken critic of Cordoba Mosque (Park51)—the so-called Ground ZeroThe master, and perhaps originator, of this new Mosque. In similar language to his generalhate speech is the former Speaker of the House speeches elsewhere, he criticised the organisers,of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, whose targets claimed they had ample opportunity to buildtends to be the bogeymen of Shari’a law and mosques elsewhere and offered a faux-academic‘jihad’, terms wielded rhetorically in ways familiar critique of the effort; in an op-ed published at theto the Front National in France, the Vlaams time, he opined:Belang in Belgium and the FPÖ in Austria. ‘Ibelieve Shari’a is a mortal threat to the survival [Most] don’t understand that ‘Cordobaof freedom in the United States and in the world House’ is a deliberately insulting term. Itas we know it’, Speaker Gingrich boomed in a refers to Cordoba, Spain—the capital of2010 speech to the American Enterprise Institute. Muslim conquerors who symbolized their‘Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, victory over the Christian Spaniards byreligious, intellectual tools; violent jihadis use transforming a church there into the world’sviolence’, Mr Gingrich proclaimed that day. ‘But third-largest mosque complex. Today,in fact they’re both engaged in jihad, and they’re some of the Mosque’s backers insist thisboth seeking to impose the same end state, term is being used to ‘symbolize interfaithwhich is to replace western civilisation with a cooperation’ when, in fact, every Islamistradical imposition of Shari’a’. in the world recognizes Cordoba as a 14
  20. 20. symbol of Islamic conquest. It is a sign of come from Islam. It doesn’t come from the East their contempt for Americans and their and Eastern religions. It comes from the God confidence in our historic ignorance that of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’. Never mind that they would deliberately insult us this way. Islam is an Abrahamic religion. When President Obama apologised for the This election cycle has accidental burning of Qur’ans in Afghanistan, done nothing for the an act that sparked riots and deaths, Santorum American image abroad in called the move ‘appeasement’ and was joined by his fellow candidates in condemning the White the Muslim world, let alone House apology. for the domestic Muslim population of the United And it wasn’t just putative frontrunners in the States. race for the White House who joined in this new war on Islam. Just before he dropped outIt’s a brilliant piece of twisted history: It was of the race, former Texas Governor Rick Perryeffective, it sounded correct and it was endlessly added his own, addled, contribution, with arepeated. means of fear mongering that should be easily recognisable in a European context. Egged onWhile the former Speaker has staked a claim by Fox News host Bret Baier, who wonderedin the Islamophobic territory, his noxious aloud whether the current conservative ‘Islamist’grandstanding hardly stands alone; indeed, it government and worsening relationship withwould seem his fellow Republicans worry that Israel should preclude Turkey from remaining aif they don’t advance a similarly xenophobic part of NATO, the Governor replied:position, they might not be taken seriously in theparty. Obviously when you have a country that is being ruled by what many would perceive to be IslamicSenator Rick Santorum quickly, and easily, veered terrorists, when you start seeing that type ofinto the realm of Muslim bashing in the debates. activity against their own citizens, then . . . notIn November, asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about only is it time for us to have a conversation aboutethnic profiling for terrorists, Santorum replied whether or not they belong to be in NATO but it’sthat searching for terror began with searching for time for the United States, when we look at their‘the folks who are most likely to be committing foreign aid, to go to zero with it.these crimes . . . Obviously, Muslims would besomeone you’d look at’, he said, concluding, At first blush, the comment seems a simple case‘the radical Muslims are the people that are of crass falsehoods—‘Islamic terrorists’ obviouslycommitting these crimes, by and large, as well do not run the government of Turkey. But theas younger males’. Though soon after those idea of expelling Turkey from NATO, of isolatingstatements were made, the Triangle Center on the Muslim nation at the edge of Europe, isTerrorism and Homeland Security published a one that is championed by some of the morethorough study showing that, in fact, ‘Muslims virulent and prolific Muslim bashers peddling[pose] a miniscule threat to public security’ and their ideas today. Indeed, a compilation ofthe New York Times duly reported that radical statements published on the left-leaning CenterIslam had not, in fact, emerged as a domestic for American Progress blog Think Progressor home-grown threat to the United States, the this past fall showed from whence Governordamage was done. The ideas were already out Perry’s idea had hailed—from the blogs of Danielthere. It had permeated into the mainstream Pipes, Pamela Geller and the like. Words likeconversation on Islam. jihad, Islamist and domination abound. Last fall, Daniel Pipes wrote an essay boldly stating that,Santorum continued to campaign on an with the military under their control, ‘A secondIslamophobic platform. ‘Where do you think the republic headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyipconcept of equality comes from?’ Santorum Erdoğan and his Islamist colleagues of the AKsaid at a campaign stop in January. ‘It doesn‘t Party (AKP) . . . [can] now pursue their ambitions 15
  21. 21. to create an Islamic order’. Pamela Geller, onher blog ‘Atlas Shrugged’, wrote Istanbul was‘dreaming of Ottoman domination and Turkishimperialism’, and Robert Spencer added similarstatements on his blog ‘Jihad Watch’. And at theInvestigative Project, Steve Emerson wrote, ‘Thestruggle against Israel is one facet of the Muslimnation’s new Islamist foreign policy under theleadership of Erdoğan and his AKP party. Turkeyhas distanced itself from membership in theEuropean Union, a former goal of the nation, inorder to pursue better ties with terror-supportingnations like Syria and Iran’. The juxtaposition of western civilisation as the antidote/antipathy of Islamic law is purposeful and clear: One is Right, and one is Wrong; one is darkness, one is light.As one State Department official told me off therecord, this election cycle has done nothing forthe American image abroad in the Muslim world,let alone for the domestic Muslim populationof the United States. More worrisome, it hasmainstreamed a rhetoric once associated onlywith the far right, and once quite anathema anddistanced from these shores. — Sarah Wildman is a writer, journalist and blogger. 16
  22. 22. Europe’s Muslim communities:Creating a new narrative forintegrationBy Shada IslamEurope is currently home to an estimated 44 German identity under threat from Muslimmillion Muslims, with the number expected to immigrants.increase to more than 58 million by 2030.4About 11 million live in Kosovo, Bosnia- Europe is uneasy about its future, its moodHerzegovina, Albania and other Eastern soured by the economic slowdown, the euroEuropean countries with long-established Muslim sovereign debt crisis and public anxieties aboutcommunities; 16 million live in Russia and over 18 the impact of globalisation on European jobs.million live in Western and Northern Europe.5 Of However, more than ever, Europe’s responsethe latter group, a large majority are immigrants to the challenge of integrating its Muslimfrom Muslim nations who were either invited minority will define the continent’s internationalto come and work in Europe in the 1960s and reputation, global credibility and social profile in1970s or have made their way to the continent in the coming years. European Muslims, meanwhile,recent years to look for jobs, seek asylum or join face the daunting choice of becoming full-their families. fledged and active European citizens or living on the periphery of society and Europe’s economicThe presence and expected rise in the number and political structures.European Muslims in the coming decades,because of high fertility rates and through The current picture is not as grim as oftenincreased immigration from North Africa and depicted. The last ten years have actually beenthe Middle East, has prompted an increasingly marked by transition and change in the lives ofacrimonious debate about Islam and Muslims’ European Muslims as both mainstream societyplace in European society. In addition to the and Muslim communities have confronted difficultfurore over the publication of caricatures issues of integration and multiple identities thatof Prophet Mohammed and other similar had been neglected and overlooked for decades.controversies, over the past year, David Cameron, European governments are slowly combining aAngela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy—the centre- security-focused approach with a more balancedright leaders of the UK, Germany and France, view that includes an integration agenda andrespectively—have given speeches proclaiming Muslim outreach programmes. Government andthat multiculturalism in their respective countries business recruitment policies are being graduallyhas proven a failure, and populist, xenophobic changed to increase the employment of Muslimsand anti-Islamist parties are now represented in and minorities. In fact, business leaders arelegislatures from Belgium, the Netherlands and demanding an increase in immigration, includingItaly to Finland, Sweden and Switzerland. Anti- that from Muslim countries, to meet Europe’sMuslim sentiments are partly responsible for skills shortage, and in the most recent Lisbonthe rise in popularity of Marine Le Pen’s Front Treaty, the EU adopted a new anti-discriminationNational as France prepares for elections in directive that strengthens existing rules onMay. In Germany, Thilo Sarrazin, a former board combating racism. For their part, Europeanmember of the Bundesbank, one of the nation’s Muslims are becoming significantly more active inmost venerated institutions, caused a furore in demanding equal rights as fully fledged citizens,2010 with a best-selling book that portrayed organising themselves into pressure groups and 17
  23. 23. emerging as influential politicians, entrepreneurs whose workforce is expected to decline byand cultural icons. approximately 50 million between 2008 and 2060.7However, this slow but steady recognitionthat all Europeans—whatever their religion, European politicians face the challenge ofethnic origins or cultural background—share a engaging in an intelligent debate on immigrationcommon space has not been translated into a and integration, which is not about accusatoryrallying and attractive narrative that can dispel interventions over minarets and the sartorialmisperceptions between European Muslims and choices of Muslim women but about realnon-Muslims. questions of discrimination.Developing a new discourse on Islam and Given the present sorry lack of representation ofMuslims requires the joint efforts of politicians Muslims and other ethnic minorities in nationaland policymakers, scholars as well as thought governments, parliaments and EU institutions,and religious leaders, civil society organisations, some form of affirmative action (e.g. support forbusiness representatives and the media. It higher education, facilitation of job promotion) ismeans highlighting that Europe is a truly needed that will encourage minorities to becomediverse continent that celebrates all its citizens, active social participants.regardless of race and religion, and recognisesthat if it is to compete on the global stage, Business leaders, for their part, must becomeit needs to capitalise on the talents of all its less timid in pointing out that ageing and skills-citizens. deficient Europe needs foreign labour.The Way Ahead European Muslims meanwhile must further switchThe ingredients of such a new narrative are not attention from the defence of Islam to the uphilldifficult to identify. Here are some options: struggle to gain more political power, to move up the employment ladder and gain professionalEuropean policymakers face the task of renown.highlighting Europe’s integration agenda ratherthan allowing security and immigration concerns Europe’s struggle to build a society thatto take priority. EU anti-discrimination policies accommodates Muslims and other minorities isshould not be lost in the maze of measures to challenged by uncertainty about what it means tocombat radicalisation, especially of young men of be ‘European’, suggestions that national identitiesMuslim descent. should be replaced with a single European one and the struggle between religion and secularAs European economies continue to stagnate, beliefs.there is an interesting story to be told aboutEuropean Muslims’ economic contribution to There is a need to develop a new lexicontheir host nations, especially the fact that many that refers to ‘European Muslims’ rather than‘new European’ (immigrant) entrepreneurs ‘foreigners’ and ‘immigrants’. The stakes ofare actively fostering the revitalisation of meeting these challenges are high: Failure toimpoverished urban neighbourhoods, creating accept difference and diversity will foster furtherjobs and prompting innovation in products and fear and unease, sap Europe’s vitality, exacerbateservices and account for 10% of overall self- social tensions and erode European influenceemployed businesses in Germany, 11% in France on the global stage. Europe’s ability to punchand an impressive 14% in Britain.6 its weight in a rapidly changing global stage depends on its capacity to celebrate diversity,A recent European Commission study stresses not fear and denounce it.that diversity brought about by migration canbe a competitive advantage and a source — Shada Islam is head of policy at Friendsof dynamism for the European economies, of Europe. 18
  24. 24. Dealing with misleading images:Results from the case studyon ‘Muslims in the EuropeanMediascape’By Jörg Heeren & Andreas ZickThe studyThe following quotations and estimations result mainstream media, they observe a conflationfrom an empirical project on ‘Muslims in the of marginal Muslim groups with the majority ofEuropean Mediascape’.8 The project primarily Muslims. Another problem, which is addressedaims to get an impression of the images, stories significantly, is that the term ‘Muslims’ is oftenand production modes of Muslim and non-Muslim used synonymously with the term (im)migrants,journalists. At the same time, it aims to get an excluding that there are migrants who are notimpression of how consumers of media perceive Muslims and that there are individuals of Germanthe images of Muslims and the issues related origin that are Muslims.with Islam and Muslims in media. The empiricalapproach has three empirical parts: interviews Several interviewees believe that Muslimswith journalists in Germany and in the UK (i.e. are disproportionately depicted as not beingparticipants whose media output is consumed integrated within Germany:by the general public and participants whosemedia output is consumed to a large extent by What image has the individual as a Muslim?consumers with a Muslim background); focus [...] Unsuccessful, not integrated, criminal—groups with Muslim and non-Muslim German those are the images we have in mind. Andcitizens; and an online survey of Muslim and that has to change. (radio producer)non-Muslim media consumers. Analyses arebased on Grounded Theory and content analysis. Interviewees notice that, by associating theThe current report sketches some of the most Muslim religion with terrorism in media, a chainrelevant results. of associations emerges that conflate the term ‘Muslim’ with the term ‘terrorist’. Such imagesFindings emphasise a threatening otherness of people ofJournalists and media consumers frequently Muslim background.refer to the term ‘Muslims’ and its understandingin the German public. Participants criticise a Misleading images?!misperception of Muslims by non-Muslims and Participants in our study see journalists asstate that established media tend to create an agents being able to change predominatingimage of ‘Muslims’ that identifies individuals of and misleading images in public. One waythat religion as ‘solely Muslims’ with no other to make journalists aware of their influenceidentities and that lets Muslims appear as one on the everyday life of Muslims and on theirhomogeneous group. chance to contribute to a fairer perception of Muslims is the development of a publicThe majority of journalists sense the lack of an ‘Code of conduct on coverage on minoritiesauthentic and heterogeneous image of Muslims and their members’, initiated jointly by Muslimin mainstream media, criticising the stereotyping and non-Muslim journalists. Such a code canof Muslims by the use of extremist images. In function as a supplement of the German Press 19
  25. 25. Code.9 With focus on coverage on Muslims and of marginalised backgrounds to enter theirIslam, interviewees in our study named several organisation.13strategies for journalistic enquiry and coveragethat could be used as a starting point for such a Another suggestion is to involve more expertsguideline: on Muslims and Islam in editorial staffs—experts not necessarily because of their own religious • Involve more people of Muslim background affiliation but by qualifications and studies as sources when it comes to societal topics (especially Islamic Studies).14 beyond religion in order to show and treat Muslims as ordinary members of society The interview material shows clearly that most and in order to depict their—diversified— consumers understand and value the importance perspectives more extensively in media.10 of ‘critical media use’. Journalists believe that, • Break with predominant images by also in the end, the consumer filters or assimilates showing the efforts of Muslims seeking notions and images conveyed by media, but to lead successful, independent lives. this can be misleading in itself, since media are However, an exaggeration of this strategy not without responsibility for misleading images. can produce the additional (positive) The acquisition of media competence is one stereotype of ‘the successful Muslim’. instrument to empower children and teenagers to reflect on media content.15 Projects and • Do not hold on mainly to extreme opinions institutions to improve critical use of media of Muslims who represent an insignificant therefore need to receive continued political and share of the inhabitants of Muslim financial support.16 background—include more moderate opinions of Muslims. Interim conclusions Our study refers to a disproportional coverage • Seek not to narrow one’s perspective on on Muslims and Islam. One way of dealing with a person by simply focusing on his or her that would simply be less coverage. However, religion (as well as nationality or tradition). this goal appears to be a pious hope due to the • Cover more about individuals than about trend in media to maintain and raise the audience groups—the individual Muslim and not reach via the occupation with a subject like ‘the’ Muslims in general; be cautious with Muslims and Islam that has become a hot topic categorising and marking groups in any and stayed this way by emotionalised, pointed way. and exaggerated coverage. Thus, change in coverage and its perception needs to beWhile such a code of conduct aims at providing achieved by addressing journalists individually,constructive strategies, an online ‘black book of by making them aware of their impact and themisleading coverage’ could list publicly examples potential damage and by helping them to accessfor articles and reports that convey delusive new sources that differ from the stereotype andimages of Muslims and Islam. One example is the the often self-appointed speakers of Muslimwebsite ‘BILDblog’11 that acts as watchblog for communities. Change also needs to be achievedGerman media and documents factual errors in by helping media consumers stay alert towardscoverage, distorting and deceptive articles and misleading images, deal critically with mediareports. content and intervene in coverage as sources of journalists or as active users who share theirAnother instrument to support a more nuanced divergent opinions in letters to the editor andcoverage can be an inclusion of more journalists comments.of Muslim background who are willing tocover issues relating to Islam and Muslims in — Jörg Heeren and Andreas Zickestablished media.12 This would for example are based at the Institute forrequire media bodies to invest in internship Interdisciplinary Research on Conflictprogrammes that help talented journalists and Violence of Bielefeld University. 20
  26. 26. The ‘Facebook generation’ andthe movement of ideasBy Dr Edward Kessler MBEA seismic shift has taken place since 1990 when democratisation of information. Social mediaTim Berners-Lee, a British scientist, invented sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, havethe World Wide Web and helped it become no editors, and users are expected to editoperational. There have been, so far, in the inappropriate or inaccurate content. Thislifespan of the Internet, three stages of evolution collaborative process demonstrates thein the movement of information and ideas: from challenge to traditional hierarchies: Individualsthe One-to-One connections of the 1980s (e.g. communicate their own interpretations (of eventse-mail); to the One-to-Many connections of the and texts) rather than rely on the accounts of1990s (e.g. websites); to the Many-to-Many their leaders. This transformative developmentconnections or ‘social media’ of the 2000s (e.g. has massive implications for religious as well asFacebook (established 2004), YouTube (2005) political authority.and Twitter (2006)). Philip Clayton, in an article entitled ‘Theology andThis third and most recent phase, the social Church after Google’ in the Princeton Theologicalmedia, is still only about five years old,17 yet it Review, explores some of the implications. Hehas generated global attention partly because of argues that a couple of generations ago, in theits contribution to societal upheavals, including West at least, the priest was not only the moralthe Arab Spring as well as the UK riots last and spiritual authority—the representative ofsummer. At the time, the Prime Minister, David the ‘true religion’ and its ‘true scriptures’—butCameron, raised the possibility (August 11, 2011) also probably the most educated. He (almostof seeking to ban the use of Twitter, Facebook certainly it was a he) spoke with authority onand Blackberry Messenger, all of which were a wide variety of issues that were important toused by rioters. He sensibly decided against the society of his day. Contrast that with today’staking this course of action, which would have situation. Rarely are priests approached asfollowed the attempts by (former) Middle Eastern figures of authority, except perhaps within theirrulers to block the Internet (for example, Egypt own congregation. The Internet and the socialblocked the internet on January 27 but re- media are primary authorities for information.opened it on February 2, 2011). According to Clayton, (‘Your Trusted Source for Free Daily Inspiration &Social media sites have grown exponentially in Faith’) is for many American Christians a biggerthe last five years, and control has moved from authority on matters of Christian belief andwebsite owners (dominant in the 1990s) to practice than a priest: ‘Online blogs whichwebsite users (dominant today). This means the congregants choose to follow are a far greatersocial media is not just a communication tool; influence’.18it is also a connection tool. It enables affiliation,interest group formation and solidarity in new Social Media and Faithways, ways that do not conform to existing social Arguably, social media holds much potential ingroups or geographic locations. the context of faith and interfaith relations. There are more than 800 million active Facebook users,This means that ‘everyone is a publisher of whom more than 50% log on every day. Or,and everyone is a critic’; in other words, we for example, many churches use Facebook toare witnessing a massive and revolutionary build a sense of community within the parish, 21
  27. 27. providing updates on the community and a forum all as dialogue, exchange, solidarity and thewhere members can reach out to one another for creation of positive relations. On the othersupport. Although online communication is of a hand, this is contrasted with the limits typicalless personal nature and a virtual world will only of digital communication: the one-sidedness ofever be ‘virtual’, social media can connect users the interaction, the tendency to communicatewith those with whom they cannot physically in some parts of one’s interior world, the risk ofcommunicate. I cannot call the Archbishop of constructing a false image of oneself, which canCanterbury or the Chief Rabbi every day and become a form of self-indulgence’.19ask him for his views on a certain event andtheological conundrum, but I can follow them on Opinions on social media also tend to alignTwitter (!/lambethpalace and with their generation and area of expertise.!/chiefrabbi). Equally, social For example, younger faith leaders tend tomedia can provide a powerful tool to broadcast view new social media more positively, as adebates, lectures and documentaries on a global tool for initialising, building and maintainingscale. In 2010, the debate between Tony Blair positive relations, and tend to be more adeptand Christopher Hitchens, Is Religion a Force at using facilities such as online forums orfor Good?, provided a worldwide topic of online videoconferencing. Older leaders oftendebate and discussion. believe that the ‘impersonal’ nature of online communication significantly limits the potentialSocial media has also proved an important for substantive dialogue, stressing thetool for providing a voice for faith groups who importance of being able to physically see andhave suffered marginalisation. In the United hear ‘the other’ in an offline context.States, many Muslim websites have emerged toconfront the harmful anti-Muslim stereotypes that Whichever approach we take, it is undeniablefollowed 9/11. For example, in 2001, the website that the democratisation of information and was established to promote increase in user-generated content do make itawareness amongst Muslims and non-Muslims easier for misinformation and negative contentabout issues regarding the Muslim world, and it is to proliferate online. A coarsening of debatenow at the forefront of an emerging independent and increasing polarisation in the ‘real’ worldMuslim media in the West. More recently, have grown alongside a fashionable was launched for Ramadan in incorrectness on websites where anonymity is2011. The idea was to blog about visits to thirty guaranteed. Indeed, there is even a temptationUS mosques over the course of the thirty days among mainstream websites that moderate postsof Ramadan so as to de-mystify the mosques as be cut in favour of the extremes, for the sake ofwell as Islam. I should also mention the Centre generating controversy and greater publicity.for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (University of This ‘one-way conversation’ is becoming theSouthern California), which has developed an norm, and examples of genuine public dialogueonline resource centre for materials on Jewish- have diminished significantly.Muslim relations as well as a compendium ofMuslim and Jewish scriptures ( Anonymity and ‘Individuation’ It is my view that the disinhibiting effect ofEven Pope Benedict XVI has talked about the anonymity is a key part of an on-going processopportunities of positively engaging with social that harms society. Psychologists have appliedmedia, while recognising its limitations, in his the Jungian term, ‘Individuation’, to this process,message for the 45th World Communications which refers to the concealment of identitiesDay (June 5, 2011) when he addressed when social norms are withdrawn. Individuationthe impact of social media as follows: ‘The occurs when we sit behind the wheel of a carclear distinction between the producer and and abuse the driver in front of us; it is whatconsumer of information is relativised and the motivates football supporters to shout abusecommunication appears not only as an exchange or even hatred at matches. And it is why underof data but also as a form of sharing. This the cover of an alias—surrounded by ‘virtualdynamic has contributed to a new appreciation strangers’—individuals act in a less restrainedof communication itself, which is seen first of manner than they might in the real world. The 22
  28. 28. ordinary rules of behaviour are suspended when matter the ethics or values behind the sentiment.people believe they are anonymous and no The web is neutral. It is nothing more than alonger take responsibility for their words. machine, a tool that can be used for positive or negative purposes.The trend for anonymity, as well as the lesspersonal nature of online communication, affects Conclusioninterfaith relations by confusing the very meaning Social media, in itself, has no inherent positiveof the word ‘dialogue’. A casual conversation or negative influence on interfaith relations. The(face-to-face or online) that may add up to no impact of the social media depends solely on themore than a loose restatement of entrenched people who use it—and how they use it. In otherpositions is sometimes claimed to be dialogue. words, it is not the medium itself but the motivesIt is not! Equally, any communication between of its users that are important.persons of differing points of view is sometimesalso described as dialogue. It is not—dialogue is Although social media provides an excellentnot simply synonymous with ‘communication’. For opportunity for learning from those who havedialogue to take place, there must be a genuine perspectives that differ from yours, in reality,hearing of ‘the other’. This is not always a does it happen very often? When virtualconcern amongst users of the social media, and communities are formed, how often do weonce a message is posted online, control is lost. include those who we disagree with? How often do Israelis and Palestinians follow each other on Twitter or ‘friend’ each other on Facebook? The trend for anonymity, Studies indicate that a majority of people tend as well as the less to join social networks of like-minded individuals. personal nature of online The overall trend is that people talk to people with whom they agree. There is not much communication, affects interaction between the Salafis, the Sufis and interfaith relations by the Shias. The technology may exist, but you confusing the very still need someone with the will, curiosity and meaning of the word empathy.20 It is this that makes social media such a powerful tool for the movement of ideas; ‘dialogue’. leaders need only find ready-made groups of likeminded people and persuade them intoAnd yet social media is also used as a tool to action.promote greater transparency and the movementof ideas: creating channels to bypass traditional In the context of relations between Jews,state control (as well as religious hierarchies) so Christians and Muslims, this leads me to theothers in their countries (as well as their co- conclusion that the movement of positive ideasreligionists) and the outside world can see what for interfaith, including successful interfaithis going on. Social media has enabled people relations, depends less on the medium and moreto break state censorship and intrinsically has on the substance of the conversation. Onlinethe infrastructure to disseminate far, fast and tools themselves do not make people morewide. Social media has no respect for borders or less tolerant. Their impact depends on theor doctrines. What happens in Morocco, Egypt people who use them—and how they use them.and Libya is heard in real time and emulated inSyria, for example. Social media enables ordinary — Dr Edward Kessler MBE is Foundingpeople to tell their story to others in their Director of the Woolf, to the wider community, to the world.Although these changes are astonishing andeven revolutionary, social media does not createphysical revolutions. People create revolutions;technology enables ideas to be spread, no 23