A new study by the Muslim Council of Britain found that most coverage of Muslims in British media negatively portray Muslims and Islam, largely contributing to Islamophobia within the UK.
The study found that the Mail on Sunday ranked the worst, with 78% of its stories featuring Muslims negatively portraying Islam. Analysing more than 11,000 articles and news broadcasts, the study found that the New Statesman, the Observer, and the Guardian were the least likely to negatively portray Muslims.
In regards to the outcome of this study, Miqdaad Versi of the Muslim Council of Britain stated:
You need to ensure that when you write a negative story it is fair and reflective and doesn’t generalize about all Muslims and feed into a broader far-right narrative. Are we only covering the worst Muslims out there?”
The study found that television stations, which have a stricter code for balance by broadcasting codes, were less likely than newspapers to negatively portray Muslims or Islam. News outlets have a large tendency to over-generalize and sensationalize the story, often blasting a picture of a woman in niqab on a story about terrorists; even if the two themes have nothing in common.
This timely study comes at a time with blatant Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, and the normalization of right-wing media. A YouGov poll of Conservative members found that 60% believed that “Islam is generally a threat to western civilization”, with more than 50% believing that “Islam is generally a threat to the British way of life”. When politicians at the top of the government have such deeply worrying views on a specific religion, studies like this shed an important light on both a symptom and a cause of Islamophobia.
The way that media reports on Islam and Muslims plays a role in Islamophobia. This is not about censorship, this is about transparency.”
While news outlets should never change the stories being covered, Versi stresses the importance in being conscious of the tone being used when story-telling. Blatant Islamophobia and a constant focus on shifting the blame has largely contributed to the rise in Islamophobia, and this is where the media has a duty to report responsibility and without biases.
The Muslim Council of Britain plans to produce a quarterly report that looks at all mentions of Muslims and Islam within UK mainstream media, and to analyze how this might contribute to Islamophobia within the country.