Hyderabad: Based on a study, two political scientists concluded that coverage of Muslims is “overwhelmingly” more negative on average in comparison to other ethnic groups. Professors Erik Bleich and Maurits van der Veen observed this after analyzing over 784,000 newspaper articles published over 21 years.
The study analyzed 256,000 articles from the United States and 528,000 British, Canadian and Australian publications from 1996 to 2016 before reaching the conclusion.
The study noted that Muslims are “systematically” misrepresented more than others in the Western press. This misrepresentation leads to anti-Muslim sentiment detrimentally affecting Muslims in Western countries. Daily Sabah reported this with reference to conversation.com.
The study’s central finding is that the average article mentioning Muslims or Islam in the United States is more negative than 84% of articles in random sample, which means one in six articles read in U.S. newspapers would be as negative as the average article touching on Muslims. They found that 80% of all articles related to Muslims were negative in the U.S.
After collecting and analyzing articles from U.S., U.K, Australian and Canadian newspapers related to Muslims, Catholics, Jews and Hindus, the authors made various comparisons of how the religions were represented in the articles based on religion and country. They elaborated, “Our work shows that the media are not prone to publishing negative stories when they write about other minority religions, but they are very likely to do so when they write about Muslims.”
The authors also compared newspaper articles published in other Anglosphere Western countries – Australia, Canada and the U.K. after analyzing 528,444 articles. They “found that the proportion of negative to positive articles in these countries was almost exactly the same as that in the United States.”
The study noted that an “overwhelmingly negative coverage” of Muslims was found in the U.S. U.K., Canada and Australia.
Drawing a link between negative coverage and harm to Muslims, the study observed that the impact of negative information about Muslims led to an increase in support for policies that harm Muslims. They gave the example of secret surveillance of Muslim Americans or the use of drone attacks in Muslim countries.
The authors suggested that acknowledging and then addressing “the systemic negativity” of media coverage of Muslims and Islam is “vital” to combat the “widespread stigmatization” of Muslims.
Keeping in view the rapid increase in Islamophobic attacks in most Western countries in the past few years, and the important role of the media fueling anti-Semitism, the authors’ concerns and advice should be urgently acted upon to contain the Islamophobic trend which leads to vilification and violence against Muslims living in the West.