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British newspaper stereotypes Muslims

July 1, 2012

Monday, May 15. 2006

A British newspaper published a review which has raised concerns among Muslim readers. The review, published in the Evening Standard last week (2/5/06), is based on the new film Love + Hate, released in cinemas on Friday May 5th.

The writer, Zenab Eve Ahmed shared her own “damaging experience” with the bold headline, “…a new film, Love + Hate is released, which is set to spark more debate about how Islam continues to repress young women today.” In another bold headline she said, “At 13, my stepfather imprisoned me in my own home. Nothing has changed for Muslim girls.”

What has raised concerns among Muslims is the fact that Zenab’s unfortunate experiences are generalised and stereotyped as something occurring to all Muslim girls living in an ‘Islamic’ environment, when in fact these experiences have more to do with culture. Even Zenab writes, “I had no one to confide in about this culture clash”, which shows that the sensationalist headlines were put there to give false impression that Islam permits this, thereby encouraging discrimination against Muslims. Moreover, the remark of “Islam continues to repress young women today” not only shows prejudice but also inaccurate reporting.

“The religion of Islam does not repress young women today; this is incorrect information which misleads readers since these experiences are to do with culture. The review’s headlines typically stereotypes Muslims, and encourages Islamophobia.” Akram Iqbal, a reader of the Evening Standard, told The Muslim Weekly: “This is merely reflective of the shoddy biased journalism that is rampant in

the western press when it comes to Islam. Unless a conscious effort is made to educate the press in making a distinction between Islamic and non-Islamic

culturally driven actions, including laying down concrete rules, then this

type of Islamophobia will continue unabated as it has done for over a decade.” Hamza Bajwa, a Muslim journalist told The Muslim Weekly.

This is not new for Muslims. Beating and oppressing women are major misconceptions non-Muslims have of Islam. Muslims and some non-Muslims acknowledge that Islam actually liberated women more than 1400 years ago, giving them rights, including the right to vote, something women in the West were only recently entitled to.

Conservative members of other religions and cultures do not allow their children to have boyfriends or to go out as Zenab had experienced. “I’m a devout Catholic and I am against my daughter having a boyfriend,” Katherine, a local resident in the Borough of Brent, told The Muslim Weekly.

“Honestly, if my daughter married a Muslim the family would kill her. And it’s not just my family, these are sentiments many Hindu families have and is reflected in the film ‘Bend it like Beckham’” said Sanjai, a local resident in Camden.

Despite these testimonies, ironically it is generally Muslims that are stereotypically highlighted in the media, when it is clear Zenab could have easily had “damaging experiences” if she belonged to another culture or religion.

The review comes on the same day Malaysia proposed to set up an international Islamic journalism centre to counter mounting Islamophobia and coach non-Muslim journalists about Islam and Muslims.

Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin blamed certain parties in the West for fuelling the anti-Muslim campaigns. “There is no denying that there is an agenda to belittle Islam and Muslims among certain quarters in the West, using the media,” he said.

“Various tactics, including deception, are used in the onslaught against Muslims to work up their emotions because these people know full well that Muslims would respond in full agitation when their religion is attacked.”

Akram Iqbal agrees. “What is confusing is that after the dreadful attacks on July 7, the British people said Muslims have to integrate more into society. Here we are trying to build positive relations with them, but discriminative remarks that belittle Islam and Muslims destroy the efforts made by British Muslims to reach out to the public.” he said.

“This just shows how far the West is to understanding the true nature of Islam, which is why I welcome the proposals made by Malaysia. People must understand that Islam and culture are two different things, and these narrow-minded comments threaten to encourage Islamophobia and disrupt the peace between communities.”

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