Research on the British Press was conducted by researchers Paul Baker, Costas Gabrielatos, Tony McEnery in 2013, titled "Discourse Analysis and Media Attitudes: the Representation of Islam in the British Press" and published by Cambridge University Press.
The study undertook a detailed analysis reviewing over 140 million words across a number of newspaper articles reporting on Muslims and Islam. The researchers use corpus linguistics and discourse analysis methods to expose attitudes of journalists and media insititutions.
Research findings were as follows:
1. Explicit Islamophobic representations were pervasive particularly in right-leaning tabloids
Some newspapers used headlines designed to create an 'us'–'them' distinction: examples include 'MUSLIMS TELL BRITISH: GO TO HELL!' (Daily Express, 4 November 2010), 'BBC PUT MUSLIMS BEFORE YOU!' (Daily Star, 18 October 2006) and 'MUSLIM SCHOOLS BAN OUR CULTURE' (Daily Express, 20 February 2009).
2. Most newspapers avoided extreme negative stereotypes about Islam
Whilst the 'Muslims hate the West' or 'Islam is a violent religion' type of claims were not made, at least openly, instead a more subtle and ambivalent picture emerges, indirectly contributing to negative stereotypes. The British press used the word terrorism (and related forms, such as terrorist) more often in stories about Muslims and Islam than words that actually referenced the concept of Islam. A significant amount of reporting across the whole of the British press involved placing Muslims in the context of conflict.
3. Some newspapers focused on 'preachers of hate' or terrorists in receipt of government benefits.
This particular practice of the press reaches back to the nineteenth century, with words such as fanaticism and Mahdi being key in nineteenth-century reporting of Islam, showing again a focus on extremists and religious leaders associated with violence. The original tabloid focus on high-profile 'hate preachers' who were 'scrounging' benefits gradually became extended, eventually encompassing any Muslim who received benefits.
4. Gender distinction presented Muslim women as victims and Muslim men as potential aggressors
Young Muslim men were consistently written about in the context of radicalisation. Women were presented as a problem in relation to the veil. Around half of the time, the veil was represented as either a form of oppression or an unreasonable demand, as opposed to a right or a choice. The conservative newspapers referenced a 'horror' discourse around veiling, by using terms such as zombies, Daleks and shroud, while the liberal broadsheets often appeared conflicted: concerned about oppression of women and averse to condoning veil wearing, while reluctant to support a ban explicitly.
Islamophobic representations are pervasive in the British Press, as are negative stereotypes, troubling gender distinctions, the veil seen with horror and young Muslim males seen through the lens of radicalisation.
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