chapter  5
22 Pages

Neo-Orientalism and Islamophobia: media and print news

Notions of cultural and social identification of the ‘Muslim other’ emerge from an understanding and experience of imperialism and colonialism, and this ‘fear or dread of Islam or Muslims’ is described as Islamophobia. Since the emergence of Islam in the year 622, the general representation of Muslims in Europe has been largely negative. Throughout the history of Western European contact with Islam, it has been convenient for the established powers to portray Islam and Muslims in the worst possible light in order to prevent conversions as well as to encourage Europeans to resist Muslim forces at their borders. There have been periods of learning and understanding on the part of the British and Europeans, but there has also been ignorance, conflict and the demonisation of Islam.1 Periodically, Muslims have been portrayed as ‘barbaric’, ‘ignorant’, ‘narrow-minded’ or ‘intolerant religious zealots’. This characterisation of Islam is still present today in the sometimes damaging representation and treatment of the ‘Muslim other’, which exists as part of an effort to aggrandise established powers and, in the process, to legitimise existing modes of domination and subordination. It is important to explore how Muslims and Islam have come to be represented in such destructive terms through an analysis of the concept of Orientalism and Islamophobia, and, in particular, the intersection between media and politics, and using case study examples to illustrate the case being made. As much as present-day Islamophobia relies on history to fill the essence of

its stereotypes, the present fears of Islam and Muslims have their own idiosyncratic features that connect them with more recent experiences of colonialism, decolonisation, immigration and racism. The Runnymede Trust stated that Islamophobia is created analogously to xenophobia, which is the disdain or dislike of all things ‘foreign’. Seven features of Islamophobiawere identified in the initial Runnymede Trust report of 1997, and they are still relevant today:

1. Muslim cultures are seen as monolithic. 2. Islamic cultures are substantially different from other cultures.