Monday, December 13, 2010

Representations of Islam in French and British Media - Julia Gage

A comparative analysis between the reporting styles of the British Broadcasting Corporation and France24 offers insight into how news reporting techniques differ between the two western powers of Britain and France, and how each respective news source frames itself as a media institution while constructing a widespread image of Islam. In Reporting Islam: Media Representations of British Muslims, Poole addresses the “manufacture” of news, which she defines as the “reproduction of dominant ideology of leading groups in society. Narrowed with regard to ‘newsworthiness,’ western news coverage of Islam often relates to terrorism or instances of civil unrest and social backwardness.

France24 assumes a drastically sensational approach to reporting. Headlines indicate emergency, violence and a direct connection between Islamic terrorists and the French public. An article titled, Bin Laden targets France, blasts burqa ban and Afghan war, published October 27, 2010, exemplifies this tendency to emphasize a direct impact on France. France24 restricts the image of Islam that is propagated throughout France by relying on news content with fascination value. In The Mediated ‘Ummah’ in Europe: Islamic Audience in the Digital Age, Ibrahim points to “media artefacts as sites of cultural and knowledge production” which can “mediate how societies experience the world beyond,” (Ibrahim 114). In addressing domestic social issues, France24 relies on a direct reporting style that builds French nationalism by referencing French cultural pride. The opening sentence in French parliament to take anti-burqa stand, published May 11, 2010 states: “France will move a step closer towards outlawing the full Islamic veil on Tuesday when parliament adopts a formal resolution condemning the burqa as an affront to the nation’s values.” France24 sets up a dichotomy of “the west and the rest”, which pits the immigrant “other” against a tolerant host society (Poole 49).

B.B.C. formats its reports in a ways that glorify British nationalism in the face of a terrorist threat. “The idea that somehow by running away from the school bully, then the bully will not come after you is… known to be completely untrue by every kid in the playground,” remarks Defence Secretary John Reid, quoted in Ministers reject Iraq terror link from July 18, 2005. The nationalistic focus of the B.B.C. presents a distinct kind of identity crisis for Muslims living in Britain as they are forced to pick a side in this ‘clash of cultures,’ and in doing so, problematizes the negotiation of British-Muslim identity. However, it situates itself as a neutral discussion forum with the inclusion of reader-response sections—an action that democratizes the press. “ Do British Muslims put being Muslim above being British?” on reader asks. “Wrong question. ‘British’ and ‘Muslim’ aren’t in the same category. One is a religion and one is a nationality… You can’t compare them.”

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