- Lebanese/Middle Eastern
- Other, Please specify
2. Do you find that there is more positive or negative media coverage on Islamic people?
- More positive
- More negative
- About the same
- I don’t know
If more positive, skip to question 4.
If more negative, continue to question 3.
3. If more negative, has the media’s portrayal of Islamic people stereotyped all Muslims in a negative way? * Yes * No
4. Do you believe that the media’s perception on Islam has changed due to the 2001 attacks in New York?
5. Are you socially associated with Islamic people?
The Impact of Media Representations on the Understanding of Islam and Attitudes toward Muslims
Muslims comprise only a small proportion of the Australian population. Thus, rather than knowing Islam and Muslims through direct interaction, for the majority of Australians the mass media is their primary source of information about this faith and its adherents. This paper uses the term ‘mass media Islam’ to describe the version of Islam that is constructed by the media. It argues that this version is often a distortion of reality and perpetuates misunderstandings, stereotypes, and negative relations between Muslims and the wider society. Presented in this paper are the findings of analysis on the representation of Islam and Muslims in the Australian press as well as the findings of research on the impact of this content on the public’s knowledge of Islam and attitudes towards Muslims. The paper argues that interaction between Muslims and the wider Australian society is the most effective means of offsetting the impact of mass media Islam and that it results in positive perceptions of Islam and Muslims and more harmonious social relations.
The Challenges and Opportunities of Islam in the West: The Case of Australia 3 – 5 March 2008, Brisbane Convention Centre, South Bank, Queensland 2 Knowing one another: An antidote for mass media Islam Halim Rane, firstname.lastname@example.org
Relations between Muslims and the wider society have been strained over the past decades and particularly since 2001. Media coverage of domestic issues and international events involving Muslims is considered to be the central factor in the perpetuation of negative perceptions of Islam. In the absence of direct or first-hand experience of people, places, or events, the mass media generally becomes the primary source of information.1 The 2006 census, compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, shows Muslims comprising 1.7 percent of the Australian population. The wider Australian society has, therefore, a relatively limited opportunity for interpersonal interaction with Muslim people.
Since the Gulf War of 1991, and even as far back as the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Islam and Muslim people have attracted considerable media attention.2 Research, specifically content analysis, has continued to demonstrate that Islam and Muslims have overwhelmingly been portrayed pejoratively by the mass media.3 Since 11 September 2001 further research has continued to show not only a massive increase in the volume of media coverage of Islam and Muslims but also an increase in the pejorative nature of this coverage.4
This paper does not suggest that violence, terrorism, discrimination against women, and violations of human rights committed by Muslims in the name of Islam are an invention of the mass media. Undeniably, these are a reality in certain parts of the Muslim world and among certain Muslim people. However, to consider the Western media’s representation of Islam and Muslims as a mirror or a reflection of reality is inaccurate unless one recognises that, depending on their shape, mirrors are able to distort reality. Perhaps a better metaphor is to