Mainstream media encourages hostility towards Islam and Muslims in pursuit of profit: Expert

Mainstream press only allows one version of events which paints Islam as a threat to the West, says prominent British journalist

Leila Nezirevic  | 11.05.2023 - Update : 12.05.2023
Mainstream media encourages hostility towards Islam and Muslims in pursuit of profit: Expert


In February 2002, the Indian state of Gujarat witnessed one of the country's biggest massacres in which more than 2,000 Muslims were murdered and at least 150,000 were made homeless.

Hindu mobs rampaged across the state, then ruled by current nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, brutally killing, raping and looting for several months.

Even infants and children were not spared as the mobs were seen smashing the heads of Muslim children against rocks.

According to critics, the mobs’ rampage was triggered by media reports in which Muslims were accused of setting fire to a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, killing 58 of them.

A senior police officer and Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya claimed that Modi himself instructed civil servants and police not to stand in the killers' way, and this allegedly led to Pandya being murdered in 2003.

Modi has always denied involvement in the massacre and has publicly condemned the riots.

However in 2007, politicians, police officers, officials and businessmen were caught on a leaked tape saying how they murdered and raped Muslims with the full approval of their superiors.

Yasser Louati, a French political analyst and human rights advocate who is currently head of the Committee for Justice & Liberties (CJL), a transnational human rights and civil liberties organization, told Anadolu that the media plays a central role when it comes to Islamophobia or any other form of racism because it shapes the public discourse concerning specific minorities.

Media outlets give a platform to “racists ideologies and neo-fascists and even new Nazis,” who then have a capacity to reach a broader public way beyond their immediate base, he argued.

“In the case of France, the UK or the US, we see that every single time when governments start targeting minorities, the media are there to act as an amplifier of this discourse.”

This he said leads to harassment of these communities, “in the media, on television or the radio, in the written press or even in blockbusters.”

But this also paves the way “for legislation of exception” that targets these minorities and further empowers people “who want to take up arms against them,” said Louati, adding the media is playing an active role in especially normalizing Islamophobia.

In recent years, one of the most brutal examples of how the media fuels Islamophobia was when Facebook’s negligence enabled the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar after its algorithms promoted hate speech and the social media outlet failed to remove inflammatory posts, according to legal action launched in 2021 by the Rohingya victims in the US and the UK.

As a result, Facebook faces compensation claims --- worth more than $190 billion.

In 2018, Facebook confessed that it failed to prevent the incitement of violence and hate speech against the Muslim minority in Myanmar.

The independent report initiated by the social media company stated that “Facebook has become a means for those seeking to spread hate and cause harm.”

According to the charity Médecins sans Frontières, in 2017 alone, more than 10,000 Rohingya were brutally killed during the Myanmar military’s so-called “clearance operations.”

- ‘Hostile to Muslims’

Peter Oborne, a prominent British political journalist and the author of the book The Fate of Abraham: Why the West is Wrong about Islam, told Anadolu that during his time at The Spectator magazine 20 years ago, in the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US, he started to get very concerned after reading reports in British newspapers about Muslims and the way in which Islam was discussed.

“It was clearly very false. A large number of stories were being published which placed Muslims in a terrible light,” said Oborne.

He made it his business to research those stories and would go and talk to people who were being demonized in the mainstream British press.

“Always, I found that those stories about Muslims were completely false and the opposite of the truth,” he added.

Oborne argued that the mainstream press and the big newspapers in Britain are hostile to Muslims, judging by the way they report and write about them.

According to him, his book on Islam was completely ignored by the British mainstream media, including the BBC and newspapers owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

“They only allow one version of events, which is that Islam is in some way a threat to the West,” he said.

In his book, Oborne described the various ways in which an image of Islam and Muslims is being constructed in the West.

Muslims are negatively portrayed by the media, politicians and think tanks, he said.

“I think this is very dangerous,” he said.

In Oborne’s opinion, the media coverage of Muslims has gotten worse in the last few years.

In his book, he gave an example of the so-called Trojan Horse conspiracy, which was a “fabricated media event” according to which Muslim teachers in schools in a heavily Muslim area of East Berlin were accused of trying to take over the schools.

“In fact, there was no such plot, but over there was a kind of media frenzy.”

After the investigation, the teachers were not found guilty, “but enormous damage had been done,” said Oborne, adding that “this was an attack on a community.”

“The anti-Muslim bigotry does exist often among those people who know Muslims least because they read the newspapers and it's all bad things about Muslims. But If you're lucky enough to have a Muslim neighbor or to know Muslim communities, well, you know how generous they are,” he added.

Louati argued that even if Muslims have been in Western countries for generations or centuries, they are still being portrayed by the media as people who are inherently a domestic threat and a foreign entity “to be dealt with through the most exceptional measures.”

- Media profiting from Islamophobia

Around the globe, the media is inviting “notorious Islamophobes,” without any contradiction, said Louati, adding there is a huge problem with subsidies from the government or taxpayers’ money to racist media outlets.

“How is it, for example, that a person can spew racist discourse against one minority and get banned altogether from any media platform, but when they spew anti-Muslim rhetoric, they are still invited?”

The hyper-concentration of media ownership in the hands of about 10 billionaires that does not allow diversity of opinion is one of the major issues, according to him.

The negative portrayal of Muslims that is amounting to institutionalized Islamophobia has been shaped and nurtured by mainstream media that has become increasingly “hostile towards Islam” because instilling a fear of Muslims helps to sell more newspapers, said Louati.

However, newspapers, broadcasters or social media platforms are not alone in reaping benefits as even video game producers are capitalizing from Islamophobia.

They too are known to promote far-right extremism by for instance recreating footage of the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks and for rewarding game players for killing Muslims inside a mosque.

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue conducted a study in 2019 in which it claimed that popular discourse regarding Muslims is becoming increasingly worse.

The extreme right-wing propaganda that inspired the Christchurch mosque shooter to brutally murder 51 Muslim worshipers and injure 40 has penetrated the mainstream media and politics, it said.

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