From a non-Muslim journalist wearing a burka to mock those who wear it, to headlines deceiving readers to believing that Islam is taking the role of the Protestant Church in schools, these August highlights are an overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
UK – White non-Muslim female journalist dismisses claims of Islamophobia in Britain
Date of publication: 16 July 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 shows 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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France – Philosopher claims Muslim migrants are a cultural threat to France
Date of broadcasting: 17 August 2018
Media outlet: France Inter, major mainstream French public radio channel and part of Radio France
Author: Chantal Delsol, French philosopher
Description of the anti-Muslim content: Into the microphones of radio France Inter, philosopher Chantal Delsol says migrants, the majority of which are Muslims, are a cultural threat. The philosopher said “Before being an asset, migrants are a cultural threat, because we are not used to living that way […].”According to Delsol, migrants cannot fully integrate into European societies (“primarily Christian”) because of their religious and cultural differences because Europe has evolved the concept of freedom, particularly for women “since the Enlightenment". When the radio show host points out that sociologists prefer the word “social inclusion” to “integration”, Delsol answers that “integration” is enough and that it would be good to impose a form of integration on them.
Myth debunked: The “problem of integration” of Muslim minorities into traditionally Christian European societies has been at the centre of the migration debate for some time. But what is the problem of integration? According to researcher Liz Fekete at the Institute of Race Relations, “the problem of integration […]lies in the interpretation of integration itself.” There is no consensus about what integration means. Across the European Union, it is generally used to refer to the migrant participation into the social and economic sphere, “maintaining identity and belief while being able to celebrate differences and work with others in civic society”, as the Cardiff University Islam UK Centre defines it. However, the word integration has been increasingly used to actually refer to “assimilation”, which is “the process whereby outsiders, immigrants, or subordinate groups become indistinguishable within the dominant host society, eventually conforming to the existing cultural norms of society.” In other words, it’s the cleansing of cultural differences between ethnic minorities in order to have a homogenous society in the nation-state – which implies the moral superiority of the culture of the majority to the one of the minority. Fekete and her team of researchers “had started out looking for a solution to ‘the problem of integration’ objectively, in ‘structural and policy barriers’, but it soon became apparent that ‘the primary barrier to integration was Islamophobia and the debate around integration, which, in turn, necessitated an investigation into the construction of an Islamophobic discourse conducted by political parties, the media and the ‘liberati’ in pursuit of an assimilationist agenda.”
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Germany –Bild’s misleading headline feeds the far-right Muslim invasion narrative
Date of publication: 26 August 2018
Media outlet: Bild, Germany’s most-read tabloid
Headline: “Now only Islamic studies instead of Protestant Religion”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: The headline states that religious education in a school in Berlin has been limited to Islamic Studies only and that the Protestant religion had been removed from the curriculum. This is intentionally misleading, as it gives the impression that is was a decision by the school to include only Islamic studies, and therefore deceives readers into believing that Islam is taking over German schools.
Myth debunked: Only subscribers can access the full article in which the real reason why Protestant education is not in this school’s curriculum is fully explained. In Berlin, religious education is a service provided by the churches. In this incident, the Protestant Church announced that, due to a shortage of staff, they would not be able to offer their service to this school at the moment. But the impression left to the millions of non-subscribers who visit the website is that Islamic education is replacing Protestant education. This feeds the Islamophobic narrative of invasion and of Islam replacing Christian culture in Germany and Europe, taking control over all areas of life.
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Greece – Christians declare abandoned building as church to oppose mosque construction
Date of publication: 30 August 2018
Media outlet: Eleftheri Ora, far- right Greek newspaper
Headline: “Extraordinary! They demolish the Christian Church in the Votanikos area in order to build a mosque”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: Eleftheri Ora reports an alleged government plan to demolish a Greek Orthodox Christian Church in Athens – “the holy temple of Panagia Eleftherotria” – to build, instead, a mosque. The article uses a very sensationalist tone against Muslims, including sentences such as “They officially start the Islamisation of our Homeland!”
Myth debunked: Is it true that “the holy temple of Panagia Elefthetoria” is being demolished to build a mosque? No, it is false. The Archdiocese of Athens has explicitly stated that there isn't any official orthodox church of "Panagia Eleftherothria" (Holy Mary the Liberator) in the area of Votanikos. What is there is an abandoned building, which is not a church. As the fact-checking website Ellinika Hoaxes explains, the self-proclaimed Priest Loukas (who has not been appointed as a priest by the official orthodox church of Greece, and does not belong to the Church of Greece or to another officially recognised doctrine) has transformed a part of an abandoned building into a church, by putting some Christian paraphernalia in one of the rooms and gathering to celebrate and profess their faith. The self-proclaimed Priest Loukas took over a part of the building and declared it a place of worship after learning about the decision to build a mosque there.
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