A piece on today's Metro, a newspaper read by at least 2 million people in the UK everyday, caught my instant attention. At first I found it funny, but then it made me sad - sad to see how careless and in fact ridiculously childish reporters were, and media is at allowing (trash) news to appear. Trash not because of what it is reporting, but because of the "way" it is being reported, the language being used to described the news, the objectivity in the news item, and the neutrality a news item is supposed to have. The news item I am referring to was titled "Islam-obsessed girl disappears" and it went on to report that "it is feared she may have been brainwashed by hardline Muslims..."
Notice the use of the words "Islam-obsessed" in the title. It has instantly manipulated the story and even before jumping into the news item, the reader knows Islam was the cause of something bad. It doesn't matter any more that the only evidence the newspaper could give of the teenage girl's obsession with Islam was that she was "studying the Koran." Would me reading the Bible make me Christianity-obsessed, would you studying Mandarin make you Chinese-obsessed, or would someone studying Torah make them Judaism-obsessed?
The teenage girl has been missing for a month now, and it is claimed by Metro newspaper that it was after she had an argument over her studying Koran. In the short news item, there was no reference to her relationship with her parents, the personalities, characters or habits of her parents or her past relationship with them. It could have been a multitude of reasons that led her to run away but why are we only being told of her obsession with Islam? Maybe the parents were obsessed with shutting her intellect of every thing and it was not just about the Koran. Maybe it was an altogether different reason?
However, for some reason it didn't come as a shock to me that the words Islam-obsessed were used - in fact my first reaction was a laugh. Why? Perhaps because all around us media is using words like fanatics, ridiculous obsessions, fundamentalist, hard-liners, extremists, crazy lunatics, and terrorists to explain Muslims and Islam. It came as no surprise that this girl was "Islam obsessed" and that was the reason for her disappearance. Media flooding us with words that treat Muslims as the "others" in the society has succeeded in making us as readers numb and almost believing without questioning.
Edward Said writes in the introduction of his book "Covering Islam" that it is the "journalists making extravagant statements, which are instantly picked up and further dramatized by the media" that has resulted in this idea that Islam = fundamentalism or fundamentalism = Islam. He also says that "what is said about the Muslim mind, or character, or religion, or culture as a whole cannot be said in mainstream discussion about Africans, Jews, other Orientals, or Asians."
Dramatized is true! I can almost imagine hard-line Muslims recruiting this young girl as the next terrorist for a plan brewing up somewhere. "It is 'feared' she may have been 'brain-washed' by ...." says the news item on Metro this morning. It sounds like some parasite attack or a scary alien (hard-liners) that is injecting the society with its malicious infection stinging them and "brainwashing" them with an agenda that is beyond the Western world's comprehension. How much more drama are we going to get?
It is no wonder this is the country where BNP can be so popular that it can be worth considering coming on television. It is no wonder that people can be harrassed for being Muslims, and killed outside mosques because there is such fear structurally instigated by press and media in general. A newspaper which distributes over 1.5 million copies every day, no matter how open it is about its careless use of language should be more careful when instigating hatred spread by generalized words and sweeping statements. If not, then as readers, we should be more questioning before allowing our minds to be plagued by Islamophobia.