Rethinking Media Discourse on British Muslims

By: Nadia Haq  

Muslims are seen to be represented in a negative context in the British mainstream media, contributing to populist and essentialised perceptions of Muslims and Islam. This media discourse is seen to reflect the wider discursive and contested debate about nation, identity, and culture, and the playing out of differing interpretations and assertions of ‘Britishness’ across social and political groups in the UK. But if ‘democratic’ news coverage is ‘attempting’ to be pluralist and debate a variety of contested views, why does it remain overwhelmingly negative towards British Muslims? This paper presents preliminary qualitative findings that tie together the analysis of how print media professionals explain and understand their reporting on Muslims with the underlying ideologies and values of a democratic media. I consider how the media draws on the normative assumptions of the democratic values that underlie its journalistic ideology as an objective public service seeking to inform the people of the ‘difficult’ realities of public life when faced with criticism about discriminatory news reporting. By juxtaposing these normative assumptions against empirical literature on the representation of Muslims, I build up a hypothesis of why the media will generally fail to address the presence of discriminatory media coverage of British Muslims at moments when their very identity is being politically and socially contested. Building up a more radical normative understanding of the role of the ‘democratic’ media can provide a clearer picture of how we can publicly discuss politically contested topics without resorting to the marginalisation of a particular group.

Media, Representation, Ideologies, Journalism, Identities, Power
Media Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Ms. Nadia Haq

PhD candidate/researcher, SPAIS, University of Bristol, United Kingdom
United Kingdom

I am a third year PhD researcher based in SPAIS (the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies) at the University of Bristol (United Kingdom). Before embarking on my PhD, I worked as a journalist in the Middle East for ten years. Prior to this, I worked for several years in political communications at Westminster.