Islamophobia is the fear، hatred of، or prejudice against، the Islamic religion or Muslims generally، especially when seen as a geopolitical force or the source of terrorism.
The term was first used in the early 20th century and became a public policy with the report by the Runnymede Trust's Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia (CBMI) entitled Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All (1997).
The introduction of the term was justified by the report's assessment that "anti-Muslim prejudice has grown so considerably and so rapidly in recent years that a new item in the vocabulary is needed".
The causes and characteristics of Islamophobia are still debated. Some commentators have posited an increase in Islamophobia resulting from the September 11 attacks، the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant، some from multiple terror attacks in Europe and the United States، while others have associated it with the increased presence of Muslims in the United States and in the European Union.
Islamophobia in Media
According to Nathan Lean، editor-in-chief of Aslan Media and a researcher at Georgetown University، the media plays a major role in promoting Islamophobia across the world.
According to Elizabeth Poole in the Encyclopedia of Race and Ethnic Studies، the media has been criticized for perpetrating Islamophobia. She cites a case study examining a sample of articles in the British press from between 1994 and 2004، which concluded that Muslim viewpoints were underrepresented and that issues involving Muslims usually depicted them in a negative light. Such portrayals، according to Poole، include the depiction of Islam and Muslims as a threat to Western security and values. Authors Benn and Jawad write that hostility towards Islam and Muslims are "closely linked to media portrayals of Islam as barbaric، irrational، primitive and sexist."
There have been various instances in the media about how the Muslim community is often misrepresented to society، mostly in a way that centers heavily on terrorism، and paints Islam with a very broad brush. This is something that is seen in two major magazines، Newsweek and Time، which have been covering relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan over the last decade. Both of these publications distributed twenty leading articles that depicted about 57% of negative coverage in regards to current events in Afghanistan، while only around 6% was positive information.
This negative content would often consist of excessive mentioning of Al-Qaida and the Taliban، mistreatment of women، the recruitment of terrorists، etc.
These are in fact very real occurrences that are present in this part of the world، but primarily focusing on activities of radical groups could lead others to develop a one sided view of Islam.
British scholars Egorova and Tudor cite European researchers in suggesting that expressions used in the media such as "Islamic terrorism"، "Islamic bombs" and "violent Islam" while not using the same terms relating to non-Muslims have resulted in a negative perception of Islam.
There have also been examples in the film industry in which Muslims are often associated with terrorism، such as in the 1998 movie The Siege. Some critics of this movie have stated that the manner in which Islam is portrayed in this film only furthers the stereotype that Muslims in are correlated with terrorism and savagery.
The 20-year longitudinal New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study has indicated Muslims experienced higher levels of prejudice than other ethnic groups، and lower levels of "warmth".
Another survey of 300 people، carried out by Victoria University's Centre for Applied Cross-cultural Research، found a "moderate to moderately high" level of perceived threat in relation to Muslim immigrants.
Fifty-one per cent agreed Muslims had "customs that are not acceptable in New Zealand"، 44 per cent agreed "Muslim immigrants increase the risk of terrorism" and 44 per cent agreed that "Muslim values are not compatible with New Zealand values".
A third of those surveyed however agreed Muslims have made an important contribution to New Zealand، and 53 per cent agreed that here should be prayer rooms for Muslims at universities and workplaces.
Another researcher who has explored the issue، Otago University religion lecturer Dr John Shaver، identified a link between high media consumption and anti-Muslim prejudice.
Not only did his 2017 study find this correlation spanned right across the political spectrum، but also، the more people watched the news، the more distorted views became.
"Our findings suggested that negative attitudes towards Muslims are، in part، the result of frequent expose to biased and inaccurate representations of Muslims in the media،" Shaver said.
"We have not examined the effects of social media on attitudes towards Muslims، although this is an important avenue for future research."
Shaver said that، given the many reports of harassment towards Muslims that have emerged in the past week، it was important that the media pay renewed attention to their responsibility to educate.
"Muslims are a minority and knowledge about minorities، almost by definition، must come second hand،" he said.
"If the media are presenting a monolithic، and therefore inaccurate، representation of an incredibly ethnically and ideologically diverse community، then they ought to consider means for better fulfilling their primary responsibility."
"Given our findings، and the recent reports of harassment towards Muslims in New Zealand، it seems vital that the media reflect on its role in these events."
Latest incident of Islamophobia in New Zealand
On 15 March 2019، 50 people were killed in shooting attacks that targeted two mosques in Christchurch، New Zealand، during Jumu'ah. The perpetrator was identified as Brenton Tarrant، a 28-year-old who was born in Australia and lived in Grafton، New South Wales. Tarrant was regarded as a white nationalist and a neo-fascist who sought to foster an "atmosphere of fear" within the Muslim community.
Independent Queensland Senator Fraser Anning released a statement shortly after the attacks.
While Anning condemned the shooting، he identified the cause as "the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place،” and stated that the event reflects increasing Islamophobia in Australia and New Zealand. Anning's comments were roundly criticised by his fellow Australian politicians and commentators.
In recent years، Islamophobia in the United States has risen to levels never seen before. While 2018 marks the 17-year anniversary of the 911 attacks، hatred and fear of Muslims and Islam has reached an all-time high instead of steadily decreasing.
The rise in Islamophobia is due in large part to the news coverage that people are exposed to، with media stories on terrorist attacks often conflating Islam and violence in both subtle and other ways.
Furthermore، we see that similar coverage of acts of violence committed by non-Muslims is often markedly different، both in tone and language.
Through American news coverage، Muslims have become the “other،” something that is proving problematic in how Americans see and portray Muslims both domestically and internationally.
Another media form that has also played a crucial role in the spread of Islamophobia is social media. The use of hashtags that promote negative views of Islam and Muslims have risen in the last five years.
Muslims have begun to learn how to combat the use of negative hashtags by creating their own; turning these hashtags into responses that find humor and that challenge incorrect or ignorant ideas of their religion.
In 2011، the Center for American Progress published Fear، Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America. The goal of the report was to expose the organizations، scholars، pundits and activists that comprised a network dedicated to the spread of misinformation and propaganda about American Muslims and Islam.
The report found that seven charitable foundations spent $42.6 million between 2001 and 2009 to support the spread of anti-Muslim rhetoric. The efforts of a small cadre of funders and misinformation experts were amplified by an echo chamber of the religious right، conservative media، grassroots organizations، and politicians who sought to introduce a fringe perspective on American Muslims into the public discourse.
A 2010 Gallup poll has even revealed that about 43% of Americans reported feeling some type of prejudice against Muslims، while the religious group itself makes up one of the smallest populations in the entire country. This indicates that individuals have developed strong opinions about this group of people based on what has been heavily displayed by the media، which has often shown to be negative information.
A report from the University of California Berkeley and the Council on American–Islamic Relations estimated that $206 million was funded to 33 groups whose primary purpose was "to promote prejudice against، or hatred of، Islam and Muslims" in the United States between 2008 and 2013، with a total of 74 groups contributing to Islamophobia in the United States during that period. This has been referred to as the "Islamophobia industry" by scholars Nathan Lean and John Esposito.
Muslims and Islam have occupied a central role in the British media following the Salman Rushdie Affair، the 2001 riots، conflicts in the Middle East and the global war on terror. Featuring also in issues surrounding multiculturalism، crime، education and faith schools، immigration، and oppressed women linked to the Burqa debate، Muslims have been the focus of numerous public issues and denunciations.
The portrayal of Muslims has been largely negative and stereotypical informed often by a virulent، racialised Islamophobic discourse. This concern has been vocalised by many Muslim advocacy groups، organisations، academics and activists who argue that representations of Muslims in the British media are persistently negative، unfair and discriminatory and have subsequently contributed to establishing a climate of fear or a ‘moral panic‘.
In 2008، Peter Oborne of The Independent wrote that British tabloids such as The Sun tend to highlight crimes committed by Muslims in an undue and disproportionate manner. In 2013، British Muslim historian Humayun Ansari said that politicians and the media are still fuelling Islamophobia.
John E. Richardson's 2004 book (Mis)representing Islam: the racism and rhetoric of British broadsheet newspapers، criticized the British media for propagating negative stereotypes of Muslims and fueling anti-Muslim prejudice. In another study conducted by John E. Richardson، he found that 85% of mainstream newspaper articles treated Muslims as a homogeneous mass who were imagined as a threat to British society.
A 2012 study indicates that Muslims across different European countries، such as France، Germany and the United Kingdom، experience the highest degree of Islamophobia in the media.
Islamophobia in Australia is understood as a set of negative beliefs concerning the Ideology of Islam، as well as a contemporary outlet for general public anger and resentment towards migration and multiculturalism.
A large-scale poll published in 2011 found that 48.6 percent of Australians had a negative opinion of Islam.
Another survey published in 2014 found that a quarter of Australians held anti-Muslim views; this incidence was five times higher than that for any other religion.
The latter survey also found that 27 percent of Muslim Australians have experienced discrimination، which was also the highest of any of the religions covered in the study.
A poll conducted by the University of South Australia's International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding released in 2016 found that 10 per cent of Australians have hostile attitudes towards Muslims.