NEWS
09/07/2019 00:01 BST

'Serious Problem' With Media Portrayal Of Muslims And Islam, Study Claims

More than a third of the articles that were checked “misrepresented or generalised”.

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Sections of the British media have a “serious problem” in the way they portray Islam and Muslims, a study has claimed.

Some 59% of reports published towards the end of last year associated Muslims with “negative behaviour”, research by the Centre for Media Monitoring (CfMM) suggested.

The project, run by the Muslim Council of Britain, said it analysed 10,931 published articles and broadcast reports between October to December 2018 by most major national titles and news television programmes.

More than a third of the articles that were checked “misrepresented or generalised” about Muslims, according to the report.

CfMM director Rizwana Hamid said the findings - to be presented to parliament on Tuesday - showed there was “no doubt about the seriousness of Islamophobia within sections of British media”.

The report claimed 37% of religious and “right-leaning” publications and 14% of Sky News broadcasts analysed were “very biased”.

Analyst Faisal Hanif, a former BBC researcher and Times reporter who co-wrote the report, said the overall picture was “mixed” despite “many examples” of misrepresentation.

He said the media can be an “effective balance” against misreporting and prejudices and also have a bigger impact on issues than those in power.

But this was in contrast to the “constant drip feed of misinformation seen in rolling news coverage, particularly concerning suspected ‘terror’ attacks and the misreporting of Muslim beliefs, actions and ideas”, he said.

He added: “Of particular concern is what can only be reasonably interpreted as a deliberate attempt by some online news platforms, in particular, to associate Muslims and/or Islam with anything negative.”

microgen via Getty Images
The study claimed that parts of the media are "biased" when it comes to reporting about Muslims and Islam.

ITV regional channels that were checked were said to have “no biased content”.

Daily Mail Australia had the “highest proportion of articles” analysed as being “very biased” (37%), followed by Christian Today (35%) and The Spectator (29%), the findings suggested.

The most recurring theme in the reports was terrorism, the CfMM said.

In one example, the report warned “repeated” use of an image of Westminster Bridge terrorist Khalid Masood pictured next to the Kaaba in Makkah - Islam’s holiest site and a place of pilgrimage - “subconsciously links Muslim practice to terror and terrorism”.

The report also claimed drama “proportionately misrepresented Muslims and Islam the most” as it hit out at award-winning television series Bodyguard.

The most watched BBC drama in a decade “pandered to stereotypes of Muslim women who wear the hijab as oppressed or subservient”, according to the CfMM.

The research also raised the example of a storyline in EastEnders - where mother Chloe reacts to news her son had been given a copy of the Koran by his foster parents.

The report said: “Chloe’s reaction of looking on in horror when the Qur’an is mentioned could be there to show how some people react to the Qur’an but it can also be interpreted as her finding the Muslim holy book as something to be feared.”

The centre monitors all main British media outlets including 31 websites and five broadcasters using 50 key words in various forms.

Factors including generalisation and misrepresentation are considered during the analysis, with imagery and headlines also assessed.

It hopes its findings will serve as a “valuable resource for journalists and editors” and help to bring “greater accuracy and balance in media coverage”.

The BBC, Sky News, Daily Mail Australia, Christian Today and The Spectator have all been contacted for comment.

This report comes as concerns around Islamophobia in Britain continue to intensify. 

On Monday Hope Not Hate published a YouGov poll of Conservative party members which reveal that 60% believe that ‘Islam is generally a threat to Western civilisation’.

Just 17% of Conservative members agreed that Islam was ‘generally compatible with Western civilisation’, while a shocking 54% thought that Islam was also ‘generally a threat to the British way of life’.