Wednesday, 05 December 2018 12:50

BELGIUM – News story singles out woman for wearing a headscarf

In an article about the roundtables attended by French president Macron in Molenbeek, one person is singled out as “a young veiled woman” while most of the other people are described by profession. This is Belgium's media monitoring highlight for November.

This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of November, 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.

Macron MolenbeekDate of publication: 21 November 2018

Media Outlet:  Le Vif, weekly magazine of francophone Belgium

Author: Belga, Belgian Press Agency

Link: https://goo.gl/PchCU6

Headline: “Macron in Molenbeek”

Description of the anti-Muslim content:  In an article about the roundtables attended by French president Macron in Molenbeek, Brussels, one person is singled out as “a young veiled woman” while most of the other people are described by profession. The article originated from the Belgian Press Agency, Belga, and was republished by a number of online news outlets. 

Myth debunked: The reference to the woman’s headscarf, and therefore religion, is not relevant to her business acumen. Describing a person according to their religious garment reinforces the Islamophobic assumption that a person is always defined by their religion. This is even more pertinent a Muslim woman is singled out in a neighbourhood like Molenbeek that it’s often associated with Islamist extremism by some media outlets. Muslims are often singled out in news stories where their religious identity is not relevant, especially in crime stories. This case is more neutral but highlights how it has become normalised to speak about Muslim people differently to how people from other religions are spoken about The European Forum of Muslim Women (EFOMW), GTTO partner for francophone media in Belgium, wrote a formal complaint to Le Vif’s editorial team. The editor-in-chief of the magazine Vincent Genot replied agreeing that “the fact that this young woman is veiled, practically, offers no interest for our readers”, and the reference to the veil has been removed from the article on Le Vif’s website. However, the reference remains online in other media outlets because it’s in the original article by Belga. EFOMW has also sent a complaint to Belga and is waiting for an answer.

More to read:

Whose niqab is this? Challenging, Creating and Communicating Female Muslim Identity via Social Media

 The conflict between religion and media has deep roots

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