A “torrent” of negative stories has been revealed by a study of the portrayal of Muslims and Islam in the British media, according to a report today. Research into one week’s news coverage showed that 91% of articles in national newspapers about Muslims were negative.
London mayor Ken Livingstone, who commissioned the study, said the findings were a “damning indictment” on the media and he urged editors and programme makers to review the way they portray Muslims. “The overall picture presented by the media is that Islam is profoundly different from and a threat to the West,” he said. “There is a scale of imbalance which no fair-minded person would think is right.” Only 4% of the 352 articles studied last year were positive, he said.
Mr Livingstone told his weekly news conference that the findings showed a “hostile and scaremongering attitude” among the national media towards Islam and likened the coverage to the way the Left was attacked by national newspapers in the early 1980s. “The charge is that there are virtually no positive or balanced images of Islam being portrayed,” he said. “I think there is a demonisation of Islam going on which damages community relations and creates alarm among Muslims.”
Among the examples highlighted in the study was a report which claimed that Christmas was being banned in one area because it offended Muslims, which researchers said was “inaccurate and alarmist”.
The report said that Muslims in Britain were depicted as a threat to traditional British values. Alternative world views or opinions were not mentioned and facts were frequently distorted, exaggerated or over-simplified, said the report. The researchers said that the coverage weakened government attempts to reduce and prevent extremism.
A separate opinion poll published by Mr Livingstone today showed that Muslims in London were more likely to feel “British” in their attitudes than other members of the community. More Muslims were proud of their local area compared with other members of the public.
Chris Allen, one of the experts involved in the compilation of the report, has recently published an interesting collection, The First Decade of Islamophobia, to mark the tenth anniversary of the publication of the Runnymede Trust/Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia’s report, Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All.