Are British Muslims Are Presented In A Negative Context In The British Newspapers
(Aims, Objectives and Research Question)
The aim of this study was to find out if British Muslims are presented in a negative context in the British Newspapers. Being a British Muslim and not wearing the Hijab (an Islamic term for headscarf) I have not experienced any form of racism. However talking to many Muslim individuals in an Islamic discussion on “Jihad” held in the London Muslim Centre (In the East End of London)in Aug 2005, it gave me the opportunity to talk to other Muslims about their experiences following the 7/7 2005 attack. Muslim men with beards and women with headscarves have experienced some form of racial abuse either verbally or physically while innocently walking through streets. These are crimes that do not get reported nor get recorded, but as a BA Sociology student I felt the need to take this responsibility and the opportunity to explore the aftermath of 7/7 bombing in terms of the portrayal of British Muslims in the Press, as my final year project.
The coverage of Muslims in the media has had a huge influence on the negative images of Muslims and has contributed to the growing fear of Islam in the West. The more there are stories on British Muslims, the more the group are resented and the more people develop stereotypical views of Muslims, thinking of them to be a problem.
My aim was to challenge and understand newspaper commentary in a wider context, not to just take it on face value but to understand the hidden meaning assigned to the effective use of language, along with rhetorical terms in British newspaper articles, also develop and challenge hegemonic truth implanted on society.
I intend to investigate my problem through discourse analysis to understand the power the media holds (specifically the British Newspapers). My target was to enlighten and empower newspaper readers of Tabloid and Broadsheet papers with understanding that newspapers may partially present the truth in a way to hide essential facts to accumulate Western values and status. This will perhaps equip readers with knowledge to challenge and question dominant meanings and discourses contained within newspapers.
Knowledge is revealed to us by those in authority. Foucault (1979) has been influential in the variety of discourses which he referred to as a system of knowledge and their associated practices which constructs the contemporary sense of self.
To achieve my goals I collected articles from various newspapers on British Muslims from August 2005 right through to March 2006 to analyse how various British Muslims are presented. The first chapter explores my research question, “Are British Muslims portrayed negatively in the British newspapers after the 7/7 bombing?” through the use of articles in The Sun, The Guardian and The Times. Many theorists are employed like Said (1978) supported by Sardar (1999) to sustain my argument. The main sociological literature review (Elizabeth Poole, 2000) was used to introduce the main themes in the study. This is followed by a section on Discourse analysis, along with its benefits and weaknesses in relation to the portrayal of British Muslims in the press taking in consideration the importance of Ethics. Finally the data is analysed and supported with sociological theorists like Said (1985) who is used once again, Townshend (2002) along with Seidler (1994) to discuss the main themes arising in the Discourse.
Theoretical/ Methodological Framework and Sociological Concepts:
Are British Muslims portrayed negatively in the British Newspapers after 7/7 Bombing?
On July 7th 2005 London was under attack by Home grown British Muslim individuals. Shehzad Tanweer, Hasib Hussain, Sidique Khan along with Germaine Lindsay had an “appointment with paradise” (7/7: Attack on London- Channel 5). All four bombers carried out a series of co-ordinated suicide bombings on London’s public transport during the morning rush hour (Wikepedia, the free encyclopaedia).
It was the deadliest terrorist attack in the UK. It all happened the day after the announcement of London to host the 2012 summer Olympics, two days after the beginning of the trail of “fundamentalist cleric Abu Hamza” (Wikepedia, the free encyclopaedia). London was under attack once again in the same approach on July 21st 2005 where a second series of four bomb explosions were carried out but none of the main explosive charges detonated. Immediately after 7/7 bombing a man was shot and killed (The Guardian 23rd July 2005- The chase, the shooting and the fear at Stockwell station). Why? Only because he was a potential suspect, “running”, but because he had an Asian appearance, he was shot and killed; the fact that the victim was of Asian look becomes a significant factor in the study, since it all took place after the 7/7 bombing and conveys the concern of ethnic minorities facing racism in Britain.
Londoners are warned every so often of a new terrorist attack, “Britain’s terrorists alert has been raised to its highest- ever level because the London rush- hour bombers are alive and planning another attack” (“Terror alert highest ever as police fear new attack”- The Times July 11th 2005). The sudden awareness of another attack on its way imposes a fright on Londoners. Is it Paranoia? Or Islamophobia?
When discussing British newspapers, I am referring to the newspapers read in England. Newspapers provide us with the knowledge (that can be argued upon), understanding culture of our own life as well as the life of others. There is a curiosity of Islam since the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11th along with the Madrid Bombing on March 11th 2004 and London bombings on July 7th and the 21st 2005. All of which has left uninformed individuals with questions of Islam. The British newspapers have taken up this responsibility of enlightening individuals with knowledge and understanding of such civilisation, as they are fully aware that in Britain about 67% of the population read a national newspaper (the Newspaper society, 2003, 1). The question is: are Journalists taking advantage of citizens relying on them for information? Or are they simply doing their job? Whose job is to act as a “conductor of public journal” (English Dictionary www.english-dictionary.us )
Newspapers are powerful agents as it tends to “come ahead of friends, family, politicians or other sources of information when it comes to influencing option” (McNair, 1994, 14). It does not only shape but controls public opinion simply by creating agendas of reporting on issues like the 7/7 bombing or on British Muslims.
Newspapers are “messenger” who decide and manipulate the way readers think, behave and act. It is a powerful tool that provides a “version of a social reality” (Wetherall, 2001:17) for the readers. It becomes a window to a virtual reality, where it cannot be touched, seen nor experienced but can only be read and understood. The media is available to bridge the gap between the actual and virtual world (but it depends on how well this “gap” is bridged).
The main sociological literature that inspired me to formulate my research question was the work of Elizabeth Poole (2000) who completed a study on “Media representation and British Muslims” who used Qualitative Discourse analysis to examine the “tone” of articles in The Sun and The Mail to see whether it is positive or negative, “taking into account a wider range of public discourse” Poole (2000) inspected newspapers between 1993-1996. Debates concerning the representation of British Muslims in the media was “demonised and distorted by the West”. Many have attempted to explain this issue via the use of systematic empirical research but do not attempt to examine it in rhetorical terms which Poole looked at. Poole discovered a vast range of topics in the Newspapers when discussing British Islam which ranged from Education system, Political activity, Prince Charles and Islam right through to Islamic Fundamentalism in Britain. Problem with Poole (2000)’s work was that articles may have been presented in a positive manner but Poole may have interpreted in the way she wanted to. Although the use of Discourse analysis on media representation of British Muslims allows access to ontological and epistemological assumptions, it does not provide a tangible answer (www.ischool.utexas.edu ). Another problem with Poole (2000)’s work is that the articles were taken out of The Guardian, The Times, The Sun and The Mail, it is not representative of the rest of the “Media” because to talk about the Media is a big topic, it includes Videos, Documentary’s, Radios, Television, Internet and many more. It is difficult to generalise to the rest of the media. Being able to identify the problems in Poole’s study I tried to avoid them in mine, so for instance when talking about British Newspapers I collected the various newspapers in Britain so it will be easy to generalise to the rest of the British newspaper population. There have not been many literature regarding the problem of 7/7 and the after affects on British Muslims, so therefore Poole (2000) was highly significant, the difference with Poole’s study and mine is that my study aroused from a historical event (7/7 Bombing), whereas Poole’s argument came out of debates concerning Muslims in the Press.
Islam has become a social question and a cause of concern as we can see from current debates regarding the representation of Islam in the media. Poole’s (2000) article on “Media representation and British Muslims” supports my argument on how British Muslims are portrayed negatively in the British newspapers to say that, “Muslims are homogenised as backward, irrational, unchanging, fundamentalist, misogynists, threatening and manipulative in the use of their faith for political and personal gain” (Poole, 2000) who claims such presentation of British Muslims is not a contemporary issue but something that has developed from historical events to only grow to become worse.
When referring to the depiction of British Muslims I will write about Muslims that have originated from South Asia (Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India). Up until the 1980’s Muslims were seen as quiet, peaceful and law abiding citizens, but then the “war on terror” as a response to 9/11 but more recently the July 7th 2005 bombing which was the first ever suicide bombing on European soil has led to a “process of acute economic, social, cultural and political marginalisation of British Muslims” (Abbas, 2005).
Portrayed negatively: (Racism, Genre, Terrorism and Security)
Edward Said (1978) uses the concept “Orientalism” his argument is that the Western media’s stereotypical bias against Muslims are based on historical half truths and misconception that have been ingrained in the minds of the Europeans. The question is how long is the media going to continue to write “from the standpoint of a white man’s world?” As the Kerner Commission put it in its report (Van Dijk, 1991). Said (1978) defines Orientalism as a sub- genre of the post- colonial obsession with “otherness”, “Corporate institution for dealing with the orient….dealing with it by making statements about it, authoring views of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it, in short….a western style for dominating, restructuring and having authority over the orient” (Said, 1978:3) to suit its own needs and desires. The West represented and created the “orient”/other. It never really existed except in the mind of Westerners. Orientalism is simply a prejudice held towards anyone not European, it provided a structure of difference between Us (Europe, West)/Familiar with Them/ Strange (the Orient, the East) (Ibid, 43). Although Bernard Lewis (1993) believed otherwise to state how the “Orient” was used to merely refer to the study of culture and history of the “Orient”. He believed theorists like Said have given the concept “Orientalism” entirely a new meaning, “Orientalism has been emptied of its previous content and given an entirely new one that of unsympathetic or hostile treatment of Orient people” (Ibid, 100). The concept was recycled and the ideas were borrowed to fit the cultural and historical framework of the West.
To discuss “Orientalism” British citizens have to go “beyond this understanding and see what has been made invisible: to distinguish a different outline in a picture that has been distorted by centuries of myopic visions” (Sardar, 1999: vii). Although the concept of Orientalism has passed “its sell by date” it is conquering new territories.
Muslims were treated as Alien and hostile, not sharing Western values. Only through the historical period the misrepresentation of Islam came from ignorance, the problem is not just ignorance but what passes as knowledge through the media “experts” who portray Islam as something foreign and opposed to “our” values.
Having scholars like Edward Said highlighting divisions in society creates prejudice in the hearts and minds of individuals, “anybody who comes to this country feels twinges of hostility and sometimes that’s attributed to xenophobia or discrimination. We can’t just pretend that there’s no discrimination here. Whether in large or small doses, racism has infected all spheres of life” (Ali, 2005:70).
British Muslims are portrayed in a negative light in the British newspapers since the 7/7 bombing there has been many changes. Tightening of laws, extra securities on the transport and even new schemes have been introduced for “preachers” entering UK from abroad. An article in The Guardian 20th Dec 2005 titled “Britishness test for preachers to be scrapped” indicates how Britain is slowly moving towards segregation, we live in a society where without noticing, “is becoming more divided by race and religion” (After 7/7: Sleepwalking to segregation- www.cre.gov.uk). One of the main ideologies of the British press is of “keeping white dominance in place” by denying racism (Van Dijk, 1991). It is the racial minority groups like Muslims who are sleepwalking to segregation. Muslims are represented negatively or stereotypically by the press as a problem but not as a threat. Articles like “Britishness test…” do not directly promote racism but the “increased subtlety and indirectness of public discourse about race relations” is at its highest since the London attacks (Van Dijk, 1991: x).
Sam Jones, the writer of “Britishness test for preachers to be scrapped” uses the immigration minister Tony McNulty’s statement/ speech to discuss the (issue of “imams” entering the British land) plan. The Statement is formed with consideration and issues “raised by Ministers, Police and the Security services” from the historical event of July 2005 Bombings. The various groups within the Western border discuss the entering of preachers who are referred to as “imams” an Islamic word used to refer to a leader who leads prayer and practices Islam, but is the test designed for Muslim individuals entering Britain or preachers of other religious groups too? A group of people that were practically unknown to a majority of the population before the London attacks have suddenly become the object of “public attention and discussion” (Van Dijk, 1991:2) by authoritative group who feel threatened by the arrival of preachers correspond to “media panic”.
Jones relying on the Immigration minister for information about the change of plan on “britishness test” rather than approaching British Muslim leaders indicates the insignificant role of Muslim leaders in Britain today in terms of legislation. “from the standpoint of a white mans’ world” third world people like “Foreign imams preaching hateful sermons” are categorised as “them” a problem that needs to be “dealt” with by the Police service, Security service along with Ministers, but the ethnic/ religious minority groups are effectively excluded from something that is purely to do with them.
It is too easy to blame the British newspapers for the negative portrayal of British Muslims but after the atrocities of 7/7 2005 bombing the British newspapers went to great extents to talk about the Muslim victims who died at the attack. On 9th July 2005 The Independent used Shahara Islam to discuss the issue of the bombers and how she “was a lively 20-year old, a devout Muslim with all her life before her” was killed by the “Terrorists of Al-Qa’ida, murdering and maiming in the name of her faith” (Shahara Akther Islam was a lively 20- year old, a devout Muslim with all her life before her”- The Independent, 09/07/2005). The discreet form of racism exposed within an article and the language used to describe the killers as Muslims who often represent crime and violence (Abbas, 2005) promotes the fear of Islam as a religion that is understood to “use their faith to political or military advantage”. According to Abbas (2005) the media coverage of British Muslims as “Extremist groups” and “Islamic terrorism” has increased dramatically, (since the attack on the London underground) more and more individuals/ mosques have been attacked, even Sikhs have been attacked, mistakenly classed as Muslims, who feel the need to advertise their Sikh identity by wearing T-shirts with “Don’t freak, I’m a Sikh” (“Mistaken identity” The Guardian, 5th Sept 2005). A study carried out by Shivani Nagarajah who carried out an open ended interview with various people ranging from Sikh individuals to Tariq Modood (a Sociology Professor) along with Roger Ballard (director of the centre for applied South Asian studies) and many more. Sikhs and Hindus do not like to be associated with Muslims as stated in the article, even going to extent of wearing a “large crucifix so no one would mistake him for a Muslim” (Ibid) suggests Muslims are alone, “let the Muslims take care of themselves” (Ibid). This segregation is the result of racism and discrimination. Muslims since the cold war have been soft target that continues to remain in Britain today, an issue that has progressed and developed to such an extent that the “fear of Islam is mixed with racist hostility to immigration; and Islamophobia is assumed to be natural and unproblematic” (Abbas, 2005:12). The death of Ka’mal Raza Butt, 48 from Pakistan who was beaten to death after initially being called a “Taliban” by a gang of youths (“Islamophobia blamed for attack”- The Guardian, 13/07/2005). An attack that was classed by the police as a racist abuse but according to the Muslims Safety Forum chaired by Azad Ali stated how, “you can’t class this as racist, there was no racist abuse shouted at him, it was Islamophobic” (Ibid). Islamophobia is the new form of racism experienced by Muslims although many institutions are aware of such religious tension yet not responding to the challenges that Islamophobia holds (Stone, 2004:7) continues to promote further segregation in society.
“Terrorism” is something that has existed before the attack on the London underground. Although it has been applied to various groups, for example the IRA, ANO, LTTE and many more, it is mainly used to “step up security surveillance, target and intimidate Muslims, increase censorship, threaten deportation and increase racial profiling” (“Hysteria, racism behind new terror laws” www.greenleft.org.au). There is a widespread perception that the war on terror is not really on “terror” but on “Islam.
Nearly all terrorists have been Islamic by name (although not by deed) (Abbas, 2005). A new “evil” has been discovered within the religion of Islam. Although it may be an attack on “radical political Islam” it has become an attack on Islam in everyday life. According to Townshend (2002) Terrorism appears to be more of a state of mind rather than an activity, “one persons’ terrorist is another’s freedom fighter” it allows the freedom fighters to produce new laws like the “90 day terror law” (which came into force after the 7/7 attack). It is only because there is a thirst for order and security and to stop and search (Asian) individuals. The Terror bill 2005 was drafted in the aftermath of July 7th bombing, the government felt it was necessary to have such terrorist threat so British Muslim communities do not turn to violence, “the bill has drawn media attention” as stated in the Wikepedia, free encyclopaedia.
According to the British transport police, “people of Asian appearance were five times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people” (“Asian Men targeted in stop and search”- The Guardian, 17th Aug 2005). Although none of the stops have resulted in a terror charge since the 7/7 attacks’, knowing the capital is in a vulnerable state, any terrorist group can be a suspect, that could even include the IRA who clearly would not fall under the Asian category. So is it right to only stop and search “Asian” individuals? And how many of these “Asian” men are actually Muslim?
As mentioned earlier I was looking into British newspapers rather than the media as a whole due to the scarcity of time by taking a Post Structuralist approach. The main advantage was that it allowed me to analyse and speculate the hidden motivations behind a text. The whole purpose was to unveil the hidden politics within the socially dominant forms of discourse. To also find out what is going on behind our backs which determine our actions, it allowed the correction of bias ways of understanding knowledge which is created in our societies with a specific purpose or effect as Foucault (1981) would say.
Advantage of Discourse analysis is that language can be analysed in its natural setting, (Crystal, 1987). According to Tonkiss (1998) language is used in a way to construct and organise social reality in order for us to form a specific type of identity, however Discourse analysis comes in effective use to rescue readers from shaping such identity to reproduce words back to its original context. For example the word “Jihad” has been used a great deal in British newspapers after the 7/7 bombing. It is an Arabic term that is adopted in the British press to explain Islam’s justification for war and violence. Taking Islamic terms for granted, “He said Muslims had an obligation to fight Jihad and to join Al- Qaeda” (The Times, Aug 8th 2005 “Preachers may face Treason charges over 7/7”). Another benefit of the method is that articles like the one mentioned above presents itself in an unbiased, innocent style that is simply describing the case as it is. It is during times like this that criticism becomes most effective as Wetherall (2001) pointed out. It is through the connotations and deep rooted messages encoded within the language that the reader (like myself) is able to analyse what really lies beneath. The newspapers abuse the meaning of the concept of “Jihad” by referring to it as a Holy war as revealed in The Sun (March 6th 2005) “Hate- filled Muslim returns” an article based on Zeeshan Sidique to argue about “his desire for a Jihad or holy war” however Saikal (2003) stated how there are two types of Jihad, one as “the greater Jihad or personal; spiritual struggle; and lesser Jihad; or the warfare form of struggle” (26). Discourse analysis is helpful as it raises public awareness as Saikal (2003) had done on the concept of “Jihad” to provide readers to change popular perceptions and stereotypes.
Although the use of discourse analysis has many advantages it does not provide an answer to the problem but only helped to understand the problem and provided me with a resolution. Due to a biased interpretation, there is an instant problem with “representativeness, selectivity, partiality, prejudice” (ibid).
No other method looks at language as closely, it is a cheap method that can be accessed easily. I was more interested in how people use language to construct their accounts of the social world only because “language is both active and functional in shaping and reproducing social relations, identities and ideas” (Tonkiss, 1998:248). No other method socialises individuals to think and behave in a certain way (Ibid).
Other Methods (like interviews) will not work well with my topic because the sample (of interviewing British Muslims as well as some non-Muslims on their thoughts on British Muslims being portrayed negatively in the British newspapers,) has to be carefully selected to ensure useful meaning, they also have to be regular newspaper readers. There is a risk of misinterpretation depending on how questions are designed and asked. The response from individuals on topics may be less honest and thoughtful; interviews’ presence and characteristics may bias the result. To involve individuals there are many ethical issues to also consider. (“Date Collection and Analysis table” Dr Kelsey from www.okstate.edu).
The articles selected for analysis were taken out of The Sun and The Times. Broadsheet papers are “commonly perceived to be more intellectual in content than their Tabloid counterparts, using their greater size to examine stories in more depth (Wikepedia, the free encyclopaedia), it is taken far more seriously than The Sun which carries an immense sensationalist and celebrity material. According to Curran (2002) factual and tentative journalism like The Times does not sell newspapers well. The Times tends to provide readers with information on a left wing political argument with “higher quality journalism” in comparison to the Tabloid (Red Top Papers).
The main reason I chose to analyse articles from The Sun is because it is the most outspoken in its negative headline, “some headlines are often syntactically ambiguous or unclear” (Van Dijk, 1991). Stories simplified and designing the headings with dazzling colours tends to grab the readers “sensory perception” which is the best way of making profit and boosting the economy at large. Time is taken on designing the paper and providing the latest gossip in the celebrity worlds, while articles on controversial issues like British Muslims after 7/7 bombing is presented in a careless and cynical way with slight effort and research, an example: an article in The Sun on March 6th 2006 on Zeeshan Sidiqui, 26 who was described as a “terror suspect living on benefits” with an “easy life”, I personally think the words speak for themselves in terms of negligent use of words. Shouldn’t the historical context of why Sidiqui is living on benefits be taken into consideration? And is he really having an easy life? Who gives the press the right to judge?
Samples were selected to fit into concepts of “After 7/7” and “British Muslims” to validate my study. British newspapers have covered many Muslims after the event but several of them happen to be International Muslim citizens like Osama Bin laden, Ayman Al-Za Wahiri, and many more.
The articles were taken from both the Tabloid and the Broadsheet to provide a balance of the “British newspapers” but it can only be generalised and representative of the sub- genre of its own newspaper (as certain papers write in a specific genre) but cannot be representative of all British newspapers. Using two articles from The Sun and one from The Times, it is not enough to make generalisations to the rest of the “British newspaper” population nonetheless due to the scarcity of time and word it is only possible to use limited articles for now. I have selected articles specifically from the left and right wing political argument to welcome opposing views.
Although the research method and the articles are capable of providing me with answers through the specialised use of language and the themes for my research question. It makes it highly (face) valid (Seale and Filmer, 1998). However it lacks reliability because if another researcher was to replicate my work, certain words and phrases may not be picked up and may be considered unimportant (Ibid). Researchers are likely to analyse discourse in different ways depending on the individual experience and understanding of the method in relation to British Muslims.
It is essential in any sociological study to consider Ethics. The necessary documentation was signed and dated in October 2005 to reach the Universities ethical standards for conducting a Discourse analysis on Media representation of British Muslims. The need for a fully informed consent was absent from the Journalists’ who wrote the articles. Even though articles were published and publicised, identifying the individuals may directly make the writer feel uneasy about their editorial (Rudestam and Newton, 2001). However if an informed consent was obtained at the start of the project the feedback of results will not upset readers nor the writers. Baring in mind language is sensitive to diverse groups, making sure words are carefully used not to offend readers makes it ethical, “what was accepted terminology yesterday may not be accepted today” (ibid, 273). Research involving potential controversial and political themes on “Terrorism” as a sensitive topic, for legal reasons it is dealt with great care and sympathy. Not all ethical standards were met in the project due to inadequate time to complete the research (see Time Plan in Appendix II).
Analysis of Samples/ Discourse:
Samples were collected to support my argument, to begin with, the first discourse on a:
“A Sick killer” The Sun:
The Discourse is simply informing readers in a partial approach of “tube bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan” who justified his action by claming to be a “soldier of war”; however there is no mention of where “The Sun” gained this specific knowledge from. Nonetheless the Discourse continuous to describe Khan as a “sick, deluded murderer who had allowed himself to be brainwashed by fanatics” when one gets brainwashed there is mental “coercive techniques” used to “change the beliefs or behaviour of one…for political purposes” (Wikepedia, the free encyclopaedia). I personally do not think it is possible for any individual to allow themselves to get brainwashed because to be brainwashed force is imposed on you without your knowledge, a force that controls the mind, body and soul. The word “allow” is used in a way to blame Khan for making the choice of listening and acting on the words of those in power of him. The writer progresses to mention “his video” where he “tried” to claim authority for his actions. Khan’s child is mentioned to keep readers securely intact with the article. The word “child” is used purposefully to provide a contrast of the “innocence” of a child and the “sick, deluded murderer” as the father. So readers can sympathise with the child and the writer, to bring themselves to form an opinion of Khan (an opinion that is already made for readers). Words like “child” represents innocence, it is used in a devilish style by writers to convey anger towards the bomber. This is followed by dragging the “name of his religion in the mud” without mentioning Islam as there is fear of offending Muslim readers. Religion being a broad concept, partly allows readers to finally think for themselves of which religion it may be. Religion that represents “evil” as stated in the following passage, “that day he represented only evil”. Having the two “religion” and “evil” words in two sentences adjacent to each other allows the outsider to bring the words together as one to provide an oversimplified understanding. “If the men who controlled Khan” with uncertainty, “can break Britain…they are wrong” with a great deal of certainty. The variation of tone within one given sentence provides emphasis, contrast and emotion.
From speculating the entire discourse on “A Sick Killer” a clear theme emerged from the covert language used. The Sun took the opportunity to express its heated opinion in 160 words on 02 Sept 2005. It is apparent that the Discourse is making negative stereotype by dividing the world into “us” and “them” where irrational presumptions are made about “Others”.
The Sun offers its thought in Page 6 in ways that make decisions and snap judgements. The continuous use of “us” and “them” in the Discourse segregates society into an “out-group” and “in-group” that is socially constructed by the use of language in The Sun in a way that the structure of the brain learns to activate people to make associations (Dr Fiske, “the Infinite mind”, public radio).
“If the men who controlled Khan think they can break Britain by
Random acts of murder they are wrong”
“They only reveal how little they understand the democratic west”
“We have fought many battles to build our tolerant, liberal society”
“We are not going to hand it over to the twisted monsters of al- Qaeda”
(A Sick Killer- The Sun, 2nd Sept 2005)
The “Out-group” is perceived less favourable than members of the “in-group” (Krueger, 1996). Simple words like “we” and “they” are used in a crafty style to belittle the out-group to make oneself (as in the writers of the Discourse) feel superior and help affirm ones self worth. Being undermined by “Some sort of superior moral authority” almost as though they (the “bomber”/ “fanatics”) had no power or authority but acted like they did. No one can “break Britain by random acts of murder” only because it has “fought many battles to build our tolerant, liberal society”.
From analysing the Discourse and the use of language to discuss the theme of “us” and “them” is supported by the work of Said (1985) as discussed earlier in the study. The notion of the “other” is much used and abused in discourse today. According to Said (1985) the other is marginalised as observed in the discourse from the West, they are put down and dominated. The West promotes narratives like “A Sick Killer” that does in fact marginalise “Them”. That is how “they” are discriminated against (as Akhter, 2005 stated). From the historical context of July 7th 2005 the people of the “religion” Khan was part of (without mentioning Islam) are presented as “backward and anti- modern” (Ibid, 168) which sets “them” apart from all that is progressive and “Western”. The focus seems very much on the religion and the men of al-Qaeda as a rival world system, a system that should be taken seriously and feared. “They” are classed as foreign threats to Western ideology and domestic security. Franklin (1999:17) supports my analysis of this discourse to state how, “Islamic nations are often portrayed in news reports as uniformly intolerant and anti-democratic”.
The Discourse is introduced with an un-neutral heading, the “lexicalisation of semantic content” (Van Dijk, 1991:53) signals the opinions, emotions and the social position of the writer. The headline simply defines, summarises and evaluates Khan in just two simple aggressive words “Sick Killer” words that carry immense passion. “Fanatics” and “monsters”: words are used to provoke readers to create a reaction through the use of provocative language. It raises public anger and conveys the message whilst at the same time maintains the commercial appeal of the newspaper. “Monster” a word that associates with ugly and cruel immediately arouses the readers’ interest. Countless adjectives are used to describe and create a sense of awareness and emotion. Words include “sick, deluded murderer” to describe Khan. “Tolerant, liberal” to illustrate the way society has evolved to become. Al- Qaeda as “twisted monsters” keeps the spirit of journalism alive yet at the same time segregates society into two large groups creating stereotypes.
Another theme that emerges in the discourse is “war”. An article that is purely based on a “Sick Killer”. What is the relevance in bringing up battles Britain has fought? It is understood in many ways, one of which is that Britain will not be overpowered by “Them”. It has fought many battles in the past which has contributed to the society to become “Tolerant” and “Liberal”. The Historical Discourse of 7/7 bombing has become one big genre of popular political debate (Blommaert, 2005). It is the movements of crisis that leads to “hidden transcripts” that rise to the surface of public discourse (Scott, 1990). Assembling bits of history means the position of the West generates the position of “us” in the text; citizens are provided with reasons not to like “them”. “A Sick Killer” is a short text that tends to drift away from the headline and goes into issues of war.
We get an understanding of Khan from an interpretive context; everything is explained from the “democratic” West’s perspective. The commentary of Khan appears overwhelmingly slanted against him, however taking the eleven passages of commentary on face value, the reader can sympathise with Khan only when he is described in a way to suggest that he had no control over his own mind therefore was manipulated. He was a perfectly normal individual who even had a “Child”; the people who are to blame are the men of al- Qaeda.
The variations within the discourse is significant, it is not clear who the enemy is, if it is “Khan”, the “men of al-Qaeda” or “them”. A thought that is left with readers to reflect upon. The discourse is produced to make connections with readers that are part of the “in-group”. Making the bond with readers gets the individual actively and mentally engrossed into the opinion of the Discourse.
From the diverse use of manipulative language, the style in which “they” are portrayed is enough to support my argument, although it is open for criticism.
“British imam praises London Tube bombers” The Times:
Fourteen passages of commentary based on British Imam Hamid Ali and how he was praising London tube bombers published on Feb 12th 2006. The article brings in the work of a covert reporter “posing as a student” that lived amongst the community of where three of the (July 7th) bombers grew up. The undercover reporter (no names were mentioned) spoke to the Imam who said: what the bombers did was good and acted as “children” of Al- Faisal.
The article consists of a six weeks worth of investigation which makes it highly valid. Using another research into the Discourse means readers can rely on it, even the negative portrayal of the British Muslims becomes subtle in its choice of words. Readers instantly think the discourse is providing a balance of argument and not just taking the opportunity to express their anger or opinion (as The Sun performed in the previous Discourse). It remains faithful to its democratic concern for issues of “Imam’s”. Inviting commentary from academics and using The Sunday Times: YouGov Poll statistics. The use of figures from a survey establishes the thoughts and perception of voters at the same time having a respected piece used to add professional judgement against the Imam before passing judgement on him makes the Discourse believable. The use of statistics to backup the newspapers adversary position against British Muslim community rather than just take the word from a Journalist represents the argument to be held in high regard and seem more palatable.
Using academic research into the Discourse does not necessarily make it liberal, although the researcher was of Bangladeshi origin he was working and writing for The Times. All newspapers follow generic rules where certain demands are set. Even though Rupert Murdoch owns both The Times and The Sun, both use varied genres as supported by Barker (1997). When quoting Ali, not everything was exposed in the text, in fact readers got an edited version of what was “really” said as illustrated in passage 11, “they died so that people would take notice……..big meetings and conferences make no change at all” the silence is organised to pay attention and place emphasis on other things said. The writer is careful with what to present to the reader, information is selected and portrayed with a great deal of thought so everything supports a particular argument. Unwanted information is replaced with pauses so readers cannot argue with what is presented but conveniently take it for granted. The researcher’s interpretation becomes our knowledge and understanding. The negative portrayal of Ali, Al- Faisal and Khan are regarded as a problem that is sensationalised.
The use of statistics published in the public’s view of Muslim community in Britain is highly problematic in public discourse. The discourse is simply making sense of how the world “will” or “ought” to become by classifying peoples views into “tensions will rise” or “optimistic about the outlook” even illustrating the fact that “recent events have made them less tolerant of other religions” applying such classification there is complete package of images and prejudices portrayed along with it. Organising people’s views into groups instantly makes readers treat the group according to the label as supported by the work of Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968)’s theory on Labelling. The writer provide readers with figures “63% think tensions will rise…17% are optimistic…by 10 to one, 52%…say that recent events have made them less tolerant of other religions” instantly has a negative impact. Even if the reader does not think like the majority, his opinion becomes influenced by the majority vote. Another issue is with newspapers putting item in the public agenda and fashioning the narrative with selective language, for example “YouGov poll today shows”, and the word “today” is used deliberately to imply a matter of urgency.
“Evidence of continuing extremism….in the Bomber’s community”. Whether it’s true or not readers will instantly regard Muslim communities with suspicion, even if the behaviour is innocent. Labels are used to identify and mark individual delivers a bias against “them”. Words like “Extremism”, “Radicalism”, “Cockroaches” draws attention to the article, which simultaneously becomes associated with individuals mentioned in the Discourse. Informing readers of the opinion held by Muslim individuals (Ali and Al-Faisal) instantly frightens readers, is that the writer’s intention? Ali, Khan and Al-Fiasal are belittled and made a scapegoat by the commentary to make readers believe they are marginalised in society, “Al- Faisal….serving a seven- year prison sentence”, even the “Community had closed ranks in the aftermath of the London attacks”. The discourse points out the divided party in the Muslim Community, there are the Muslim leaders and there are the quiet ones who are blindly led by the “continuing extremism” insinuating men like Ali, Faisal and Khan as the main culprits of the crime.
The text is long and tends to also drift away from the “British Imam” into Al- Faisal and then to Khan to provide us with an insight into the individuals. Every opportunity is taken to pass negative images of “them”. Even though the headline in The Times makes effort to be articulate in iconic terms, rather than aim to produce a cheap, straightforward headline like The Sun who prolongs for attention at every opportunity. The overall use of language is not as provocative, hostile nor as angry as The Sun. Words are subtle and indirect. This delicacy begins with the headline which is manipulative in an overt style. “British Imam praises London Tube bombers” without identifying the Imam welcomes readers to think that all British Imams are praising London Tube Bombers. There is an immediate generalisation made to the wider population of British Imams.
No ethical care is taken while talking to Ali, there is a desperate need of information that the researcher went to great extents to interview the Imam without his consent. What information was The Times looking for? Not obtaining consent but then publishing Ali’s thought and opinions on a public newspaper indicates no/little care for the individual, anything to portray the individual pessimistically and causing psychological stress and discomfort. Attacking Ali in that style and knowing he is unable to fight back conveys the consistent theme of “Terrorism” in the Discourse.
One of the special qualities of terrorist act is attacking the defenceless as supported by Townshend (2002). Terrorism is complex and therefore becomes predictable and part of the terrorist process. It is up to onlookers to fill in the blanks. Messages are communicated by either violent acts or “propaganda by deed”. From analysing the discourse and being aware of the atrocities of July 7th 2005 bombing. Both parties take the same approach to impose terror on innocent civilians. It is a way of intimidating individuals, it is people in the political structures inside the decision making sphere (for example the Media, Government, Police, and many more) who are protected from terror. Who is it that is really imposing terror? As a discourse analyst it is obvious The Times is attempting to inform society of Terrorism by terrorising individuals themselves (terrorising Hamid Ali).
“Secret Tube Hero of 7/7” The Sun:
Not all British Muslims are portrayed negatively in the British newspapers. The Sun went through great extents to inform society of the existence of “heroic rescuer” Imran Chaudhuri, 25 who was also a “Muslim” of Bangladeshi origin published on the 08th Nov 2005 where Kathryn Lister describes the event with extensive use of dramatic verbs to provide an image of the situation in 796 words placed in page 17 of The Sun. The article was aimed at those that were “repeatedly asking London Underground who he was” so The Sun felt the need to finally solve the mystery and “respond to the curiosity people have about others” (Keeble, 2001:125). The image is retold; readers are taken to the historical context through the use of amplified factual words and traumatised once again to guide readers’ judgement. The purpose of the discourse was to discuss the “amazing bravery” of Chaudhuri. Near to the end it was apparent the discourse betrayed the purpose. The writer provides the readers with understanding of the diverse Muslim men, bombers are described as “Ruthless murderers” and “Muslim fanatics” (words erecting with anxiety and anger) to persuade and dismiss alternative claims and produce certain outcomes of linguistic sympathy. There are also the innocent Muslims like Chaudhuri. Language is used to “stereotype and categorize different groups and individuals” (Tonkiss, 1998:247). The variation of the tones in the article is also picked up when describing the two groups of Muslims. The writer takes many attempts to win the sympathy of the reader, firstly through the extensive use of emotive words to appeal to the emotions of readers. Describing the situation Chaudhuri was at with words like “clawed his way through choking smoke” and “he tore leg tendons as he desperately kicked in windows”, “blown half his skull away leaving his brain exposed”. Words are used in a cunning way to weaken readers to rebuild and magnify the scenario to create a mood. The use of sensitive words brings out one of the key themes of “emotions” in the article. “Emotions” are not “given” by nature, they are simply conceived as “socially and historically constructed” within the discourse of culture (a subject that is also obliquely covered in the previous discourse) as Seidler (1994) suggested. The writer continues to crave for the sympathy of readers to provide a contrast between the varied Muslims, informing society of how difficult it is for someone to be only “5ft and 5in tall and weighs just 9st” but then “carry dozens of people” in his arms, this provides the richest source of analytic material for sympathy. “At the core of all human interest stories is the representation of basic emotions: love, lust, hatred, anger, tragedy, sadness, pity and joy. People can relate and identify with these emotions and the dramatic narrative structured around them” (Keeble, 2001; 125). Notifying readers about the size and weight is unnecessary to the discourse nonetheless the hidden meaning assigned to the language is used to provide the personal voice of the writer which helps to form “identities” via dominant cultural discourses. The fact that Chaudhuri was suffering from “post traumatic stress” is also learned. Opinions cannot directly be expressed by the writer; therefore Chaudhuri is used to disguise the feelings of the writer. It appears all innocent because it shows as though Chaudhuri is just describing the situation. However all information is carefully selected/ edited and then presented to support the argument. It shows how the writer is in full control of the text, like a lawyer seeking to discredit the other. Emotions are significant in this discourse because we learn to silence emotions, desires and feelings. The morality of “self- denial” becomes deeply embedded in the liberal moral culture within the text to such an extent that we hardly recognise its workings (Seidler, 1994:127). Covering sensitive topics in the discourse immediately makes every reader weak at the knees. Notifying society of the various Muslims leaves readers feeling confused about the religion, not being able to totally understand makes individuals resent the faith as a whole.
Although the discourse attempts to get in the good side of Muslims and inform society of how innocent Muslims are getting attacked by ignorant members of society as Chaudhuri experienced, “as he left hospital……..he had to run a gauntlet of racist abuse from a gang of white youths”. These are offences that do not get reported so readers assume the discourse is produced in defence of blameless Muslims, however the different speaking positions of “Muslims” is emphasised to create further problems for Muslims.
Attention is drawn to Imran being a MUSLIM. The entire text becomes focussed around one word; no other word holds as much significance as this. Chaudhuri’s “Muslim” identity becomes the rationale of the discourse. The article discusses the importance of multicultural citizenship. British Muslims experience a great deal of racism, they have been placed in the fore front of questions in relation to “community cohesions, citizenship and multicultural and integration philosophy” (Abbas, 2005). The deep rooted word “Muslim” carries a number of discourse and controversial issues. When taking the text on face value we can see that it creates political unity among citizens, “in the present climate it is the experiences of British Muslims that are important to consider” (ibid). Problem with the use of “Muslims” is that they are either presented as terrorists against the West or innocent members of society experiencing racial attacks, yet both lack clarity. All Muslims according to Sardar (2002) are visually identical and are discriminately assigned the negative and stereotypical attribute of the terrorist. It is the new form of racism where the new racist ideologies target the same communities (of young British Muslims)”. It is the same “South Asian Muslim communities in Britain, now because of their Muslim identity, remain in focus” (Allen, 2005; 51). Islamophobia has similarities with this new indirect racism that produced through the well-established connotations in discourse today. It does not help deal with the problem but increases it.
In conclusion it is in my opinion that the British Newspapers negatively portray specific British Muslims in a problematic context, especially those with direct connection with July 7th 2005 Bombing (for example the bombers) also those that impose their “Islamic” beliefs in public instantly become a threat to society. However not all British Muslims are depicted pessimistically as detected in the last discourse analysed. The problem I think lies with the intention behind the articles, journalists can encode connotations to argument which are designed to deduce preferred meanings. From my analysis the British press tend to use words like “Muslim” and “Islam” in the same breath as terrorism to label criminals by religious affiliation grossly misrepresents an entire culture, although reading is an isolated and an individual activity. I think it is important for the newspapers to adapt and enforce a far greater commitment to balance and fairness in reportage and commentaries. I am not suggesting the British press is the cause of conflict but tends to play a significant role in not destroying the growing hatred and emotional rhetoric. The more an audience identifies with the messenger and the method of the message the more they identify with the message itself. I think it is the misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of one’s culture and religions that leads to ignorance as a result of prejudice. We live in a society that is multi- cultural and multi- racial but it is important not to just agree with the idea, but to understand and learn about each others’ cultures, beliefs and ways of life.
Chapter two set out the theoretical framework that provided the foundations to the analysis but the problem encountered with the theoretical work was with finding research on the portrayal of British Muslims in the British Newspapers after July 7th 2005 Bombing. The research found that had a close relation to my topic was in the process of being published (Tahir Abbas, 2006, on “The state we are in: identity, terror and the law of Jihad,” which covers a vast range of topics, includes the subject concerning July 7th terrorist attacks along with British Muslims).
The following section discussed the method employed that enabled this study, the practical problems experienced was with generalising to the rest of the “British Newspaper” population. Samples were carefully selected to ensure validity but using three articles from The Times and The Sun suggests the findings cannot be applied to the wider context. The “British Newspaper” population consists of Local newspapers along with Broadsheet (The Guardian, The Independent, along with others) and Tabloid (Daily express, The Mirror and many more) newspapers. Another practical problem experienced was with obtaining consent from the newspaper companies to avoid intimidation. However if I had the opportunity to carry out the research again I shall collect local newspapers from the various boroughs in England (for instance London, Birmingham, Manchester, Brighton and many more) on a weekly basis, everyday for Tabloid and Broadsheet newspapers along with the Metro (newspapers read by Commuters in London using the Public transport) over a set period of time. That way I have more samples to choose from. I also can decide which ones to analyse, also write to the newspaper companies to acquire approval from writers. Being organised and using time wisely means I can spend more time looking into the work of theorists like Bernard Lewis (1993) critique of Said (1978) and Sardar (1999). This will help me not to get caught up in my personal thoughts and opinions (as I have been tempted in the research carried out) and allow opposing arguments and open my eyes further.
(A sick killer) 1 page
(British Imam praises London Tube Bombers) 2 pages
(Secret Tube Hero of 7/7) 3 pages
15th Aug- 29th Aug 2005 Decide on dissertation topic, brainstorm around the topic. Think about reasons why the topic is interesting and what inspired me to carry out a research on the topic.
Collect newspapers from The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Sun, The Daily Mirror and The Evening Standard.
30th Aug- 20th Sept 2005 Spend at least 3 weeks on deciding exactly what the aims and objectives of the research is going to be, decide on a research question and start looking into any theoretical work around the topic.
Continue to collect articles.
21st Sept- 7th Nov 2005 Meet personal tutor. Start writing up theoretical framework of research topic and continue to collect newspapers, use articles as secondary sources.
Continue to collect articles.
8th Nov- 20th Dec 2005
Spend 6 weeks on reading on the method of discourse analysis. Look into ethics; hand in ethical form to university with the approval of dissertation tutor.
Continue to collect articles
21st Dec- 2nd Jan 2006 Christmas Break!
3rd Jan-30th Jan 2006 Analyze the first discourse found in September on “A Sick Killer”, use theorists to support argument arising in discourse.
Continue to collect articles
31st Jan- 20th Feb 2006 Analyze the next discourse on “Secret Tube hero of 7/7”. Again use theoretical research to support themes arising in articles.
Continue to collect articles.
3rd March- 5th March 2006 Put everything together as the first full draft to be looked over by dissertation tutor to get feedback.
6th March- 20th March 2006 Allow Tutor to read through work. Use this time to put bibliography together.
21st March- 2nd April 2006 Conclude study and improve on areas advised to do so.
3rd April- 10th April 2006 Put everything together along with contents page.
11th April- 24th April 2006 Easter Break!
24th April- 3rd May 2006 Finishing touches: cover page, Page numbers, appendices, spelling, grammar etc and Print work out
4th May 2006 Deadline!
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