The Equation of Islam and Terror: Media, Public Opinion and Muslim Voices

To know what is going on around the world, one need only check the bulletin. Media influences the public opinion and is designated to keep the world informed on what is happening. Media is expected to show an unbiased and clear picture of current incidents,1 but no one knows whether or not this is actually guaranteed.

A few extremist incidents in the past have moulded the media to associate Islam with terrorism – especially after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. International media is portraying a negative image of Islam to the world. Western media is one of the strongest media, and it influences the opinion of the public all over the world due to its international audience. In this respect media not only conveys the message of ongoing terrorism as an alarming situation around the world, but it also conveys the connection of Islam with extremism, and sometimes it also concludes that terrorist incidents are a result of discrimination against Muslims.2 It also concludes that terrorist incidents are a result of discrimination against Muslims – which Bülent Kenes (2014) called ‘international injustice’.3

In South Asia there have been numerous terrorist attacks in the past few years, and terrorist organisations have taken responsibility for them. They normally use media as a source in order to convey their message to society. In South Asia media works on this formula: ‘immense news immense attention’ – positive and minor incidents are mostly ignored in order to raise TRPs (Television Rating Points) and ensure more economic stability for the news channel or paper. The countries attacked in South Asia are sometime portrayed as the victim in international media, and the incidents are reported as a main story headline. In a few newspapers, terrorist attacks in Pakistan are connected to the American invasion in Afghanistan. The operation started by the Pakistani military against terrorist groups in North Waziristan, called ‘Zarb e Azb’, has been praised by the media. It can be assumed that the media do not only post negative opinions about Islam, but similarly give recognition to the efforts and fight of Islamic nations against terrorism.

On the basis of comments given by common public on a forum, they conclude that media influences their opinions.4 On this basis it can be concluded that especially positive or negative media very much affect the public opinion and frame the thinking of the public, especially in respect to international events, like terrorist attacks. But Yusof, S. H. et al. (2013) concluded that:

With most of the news are of the hard type news, it is believed that the western media are still feeding the international readers with a negative perception towards Islam as a whole, despite very little coverage on the reconciliation efforts made for Islam and the West.5

It is quite hard to determine whether the association of Islam and terrorism could be destroyed by the media, because there are hundreds of newspaper articles showing that Islam is the name of terrorism, and very few saying that we should find another name for these people who are killers and murderers. A 2015 article by London mayor Boris Johnson6 explains the association of Islam and terrorism and what Muslims say about it:

There are hundreds of millions of Muslims for whom the word “Islamic” is a term of the highest praise. They resent the constant association of “Islam” with “terrorism”, as though the one was always fated to give birth to the other. They dislike even the concept of “Islamic extremism”, since it seems to imply a seamless continuum of Muslim belief and behaviour: from liberal to tolerant to conservative to reactionary to terrorist. Their point is that terrorist violence is alien from Islam, and that is why they argue so strenuously that we should drop all references to “Muslim terrorists” or “Islamic terrorists”. They say that any use of the word Islam or Muslim in such a context is actually offensive and derogatory, and helps to alienate the very people we need to win over (Johnson, B. 2015).

In conclusion, the view of a deep association between Islam and terrorism has been fuelled by media. This approach of media towards terrorism and Islam should undergo research parameters, to find out to what extent this all influences the common public. This article is a step towards notifying people of the urgency and importance of the role of the media in building opinions.

SF

  1. Yusof, S.H. et al (2013), The framing of international media on Islam and terrorism, European Scientific Journal, March 2013, vol. 9, no. 8 []
  2. Ibid. []
  3. Keneş, B (2014), Islam, terrorism and the media []
  4. Does the media influence us? []
  5. Yusof, S.H. et al (2013), The framing of international media on Islam and terrorism, European Scientific Journal, March 2013, vol. 9, no. 8, p. 119 []
  6. Johnson, B. (2015) Islamic State? This death cult is not a state and it’s certainly not Islamic []

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