Western media fueling Islamophobia
SOURCE: Press TV
In their 1988 book titled “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media”, political analysts and public intellectuals Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman alluded to a concept which they referred to as “manufactured consent”.
This concept posits that corporate-owned news mass communication media, including print, radio and television, are businesses subject to commercial competition for advertising revenue and profit; therefore, they’re usually inclined to a distorted and biased coverage of the current affairs and events in favor of the large-scale policies of their owners and managers which makes them lose their impartiality, reportorial balance and ethical values.
If a certain media outlet such as a magazine, newspaper or news website provokes governmental disfavor, it will be deprived of free access to information sources and may also face punitive measures, including the abolition of publication license or financial penalties. So, the claim that the Western media outlets are unrestrictedly free to broadcast the diverse viewpoints and opinions of the commentators, opposition parties, political dissidents and anti-government activists seems to be basically unfounded.
According to Chomsky and Herman, mass media in the West editorially distort their reporting to favor government and corporate policies so as not to lose their business and sources of funding.
Western media’s portrayal of Islam and Muslims around the world is a simple example of how the policies of the Western governments shape and specify the trajectory and strategies of the media outlets in these countries.
As one looks at the image the Western media have depicted of the Islamic world, it can be clearly figured out that Islam and Muslims are conventionally associated with certain dogmatic and assertive stereotypes, including extremism, fundamentalism and violence.
Islam is portrayed as a religion which promotes aggression and intolerability for the followers of other religions; Muslims are introduced as terrorists and fanatics and it’s frequently advertised that Muslims pose a serious threat to global peace and security.
Khaled Al-Aswar of the Egypt-based “International Politics Journal” gives an overview of how the Western media’s portrayal of Islam has become so lopsided and unfair following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon: “Chief among the negative consequences of the events of 11 September was the deformation of the image of Islam in the Western media. A fixed model was formulated linking terrorism to Islam. The violent attacks in which Muslims were convicted brought about a state of direct animosity against Islam in Europe and the United States. Most Arab and Islamic countries were listed among the zones that endanger European and US security.”
But, what’s the reason? Why do the Western media which usually boast of being professionally independent of their respective governments, portray such a rigid and biased view of Muslims and put it before the eyes of the public?
There may be variant answers to these questions. First, the Western mainstream media are extremely under the pressure of their governments to portray a prejudiced and distorted image of Muslims and prevent the growing penetration of Islam in the world. On the one hand, they are well aware of the fact that Islam is becoming increasingly popular in the four corners of the world, and every day, a great number of non-Muslims convert to this divine religion and embrace it willingly. On the other hand, they know that the integrity and solidarity of Muslims who constitute some 25% of the world population will contribute to the formation of a new global order that can potentially dissolve the Western hegemony and supremacy. So, measures should be adopted to avert the growth and empowerment of Islam and its rising popularity, and one of the formulas to implement this plan is to stage propaganda campaigns against Islam and Muslims. The media outlets which go to the opposite direction and refuse to take part in this campaign will be isolated and deprived of the facilities and sources which are offered to the others.
Another reason may be simply ignorance and unawareness. Western journalists have long clung to stereotypes and clichés with regard to Islam and Muslims which are essentially untrue and unjustifiably fallacious. The mainstream media in the West have basically neglected the cultural and social diversity of more than 1.5 billion Muslims who live in the five continents. This negligence is indicative of their unprofessional and dogmatic stance. The majority of Western journalists who write about Islam have very insignificant information about Muslims and make their judgments on the basis of their little knowledge about the denominations which are deemed by Islam as deviant and unsanctioned, such as Wahhabism which was established by a number of extremist Saudis and endorsed by the United States as well as its European cronies. The Western media are used to associating the extremist, inhumane activities and rigid views of Wahhabis with the beliefs and actions of real Muslims. This is one of the main reasons behind growing Islamophobia in the West.
Islam is now considered to be the fastest growing religion in the world. Statistics released by the “German Central Institute Islam Archive” show that there are more than 53 million Muslims in Europe. Despite their constructive contributions to the scientific progress, society and culture of Western societies, Muslims are exposed to the unfair misconceptions and prejudices of the European and American citizens. The the Western mainstream media’s biased treatment of Muslims is another factor contributing to the growing fear of Islam in the world.
Edward Said has accurately pointed out that the Western mainstream media employ Islam as an instrument for their corporate interests. He says: “for the general public in America and Europe today, Islam is “news” of a particularly unpleasant sort. The media, the government, the geopolitical strategists, and although they are marginal to the culture at large – the academic experts on Islam – are all in concert: Islam is a threat to Western civilization. Now this is by no means the same as saying that only derogatory or racist caricatures of Islam are to be found in the West…What I am saying is that negative images of Islam are very much more prevalent than any others, and that such images correspond, not to what Islam “is”…but to what prominent sectors of a particular society take it to be: Those sectors have the power and the will to propagate that particular image of Islam, and this image therefore becomes more prevalent, more present, than all others.”
The Western media have shown no sign of willingness to put an end to their hostile stance towards Islam and Muslims, thus making Islamophobia a prevalent and uncontroversial scheme in the daily life of the Western citizens. The responsibility lies on the shoulders of the Muslims to unite, congregate and take action against the agonistic policies of those who want to pull the wool over the Western citizens’ eyes and misrepresent their religion. This is the solution to combat Islamophobia.