This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of August, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
Date of publication: 16 August 2018
Media Outlet: Mail on Sunday (Daily Mail Online), conservative British tabloid
Author: Liz Jones, British journalist
Headline: “I can't breathe. I'm itchy. I can't see properly and feel trapped in a mobile prison. But threatened? No! LIZ JONES describes her week in a BURKA”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: British journalist Liz Jones recounts in this piece her experience of wearing a burka for one week to see how it feels. Alongside complaining about how uncomfortable and unpractical the garment is, Jones scorns women who wear it as showing ingratitude towards those who have fought for women’s rights. In doing so, she is deploying a very common Islamophobic narrative that sees Muslim women as victims while simultaneously portraying them as accomplices in their own victimhood. By highlighting several times that everyone was nice to her, she is implicitly dismissing as false the abundance of reports of Islamophobic attacks against Muslim women. Jones also uses de-humanising terms to refer to women in burkas: "dark, depressed alien", "smudge", "a nothing" "slow-moving shuttlecock", "black crow". This article was prompted by Boris Johnson’s controversial column on the burqa ban published in The Daily Telegraph, where he compared full-face-veiled women to letter-boxes and bank robbers.
Myth debunked: In discussions around the headscarf and the full-face veil, one of the most used arguments revolves around freedom of choice, from both sides of the debate. For those who see the burqa as an imposition of a patriarchal society, the burka represents an infringement of freedom of choice. For those who see the burka as a choice, banning it or harshly criticising it represents an infringement of that same freedom. This difference in perception is arguably due to how Muslim women have been represented in mainstream media. Plenty of literature show us that, in Western media, the veil has been used to symbolise the clash of cultures, and that Muslim women are depicted as passive and submissive, except those who don’t wear the headscarf. But who speaks for them, for the few thousands of women who wear the full-face veil in Britain? Here, in the Daily Mail article, it’s a white non-Muslim female journalist who has no reason to wear a burka – other than curiosity or an opportunity to confirm her bias. In other articles, it’s often white men with no understanding of the issue. Where are the voices of Muslim women? It ’s their voices we need to hear to have a genuinely informed debate.
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