Anyone who watches or reads the news could have told you this, but now research says so, too.
A study conducted by American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker activist group, came to a conclusion that the rest of us already knew: Mainstream media helps promote Islamophobia. In fact, dangerous correlations between Islam and militancy, and misattribution of “terrorist” motives help to promote the denigrating violent Muslim stereotype.
The report, Mixed Messages: How the Media Covers “Violent Extremism” and What You Can Do About It, samples 600 articles from over 20 different mediums from April to June 2015. It covered a wide range of material, from casual sites such as the New York Times to more-esteemed politically based publications like the CQ Weekly.
The following was found:
- 90% of the material studied–both related and unrelated to Muslims–mentioned Islam, whereas 13% percent mentioned Christianity and 4% of articles mentioned Judaism.
- Despite evidence of diplomatic negotiations boasting more effective long-lasting solutions, violence from extremist groups is portrayed as one-dimensional and only resolvable by abject violence, such as drone strikes and military warfare.
To change this narrative, reporters recommended these three steps.
- Portray Muslims as relatable human beings and not foreign agents of despair. Provide nuanced narratives that don’t collapse into solely victim and villain binaries.
- Give accurate and contextual historical accounts of extremist groups. Political organized violence always has a root cause and no viable solution can be sought if Islamophobic tropes replace honest journalism.
- Highlight non-violent means of combattng extremism. Showcasing their effectiveness will allow audiences to understand violence rarely creates long-term solutions.
The report concludes:
“Wars on terror, extremism, or other nations do not happen by accident. Islamophobia in the media or in public discourse does not happen by accident. Both are choices. We have been able to choose to create lasting social change in the past, and make great strides forward towards peace with justice. We can do it again today.”
Beth Hallowell presented this report in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, May 24, 2016, at Next Gen Peace: #PeaceCon2016, the annual conference of the Alliance for Peacebuilding. The Alliance is a network of over 100 organizations working to resolve conflict and create sustainable peace in 153 countries.