Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin take a hard look at these questions in their excellent new book, “Framing Muslims: Stereotyping and Representation After 9/11” (Harvard University Press, 2011).
Peter Morey is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature in the School of Social Sciences, Media, and Cultural Studies at the University of East London. Amina Yaqin is a Lecturer in Urdu in the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.
Morey and Yaqin study the myriad ways in which Muslims are represented, framed and stereotyped in politics and the media in the United Kingdom and the United States. They argue that Muslims are portrayed as “unenlightened outsiders who, while they may live and work in the West, still have an allegiance to values different from those recognized in Europe and North America.” Morey and Yaqin scrutinize these distorted images of Muslims, and attempt to bridge the gap between fact and fiction. They aim to show that the “framing of Muslims amounts to a refraction, not a reflection of reality”.
Morey and Yaqin take us beyond the “sound and fury” of the multiculturalism debate in Britain. What is the basis of this contentious debate? Is it about British identity or is it a mask for racism and Islamophobia? Muslims have lived in Britain for hundreds of years and have contributed to the welfare and defense of the country. However, after the 9/11 and 7/7 terrorist attacks, Muslims were viewed with distrust and suspicion. Politicians openly questioned the loyalty of British Muslim citizens. Television and newspapers also chimed in to reinforce the “relentless depiction of Muslims as a fifth column within Britain,” according to Morey and Yaqin. Such phrases as “British born but of Pakistani origin” and “British Pakistani” crept into the news of the day. The real news was that Muslims had become second-class citizens in their own country.
Morey and Yaqin offer a critical examination of how Muslims have been represented in films, television and radio programs, and docudramas after 9/11 and 7/7. For example, they analyze a number of BBC radio programs with these provocative titles: “Inside the Harem” (2004), “Koran and Country” (2005), and “Taking the Cricket Test” (2006). The “cricket test” was invented by Conservative MP Norman Tebbit. According to Morey and Yaqin, Tebbit suggested that “the majority of Britan’s Asian population would, if quizzed, support the cricket team from their country of origin over that of England, thereby failing what became known as the cricket test – a somewhat crude and arbitrary benchmark of integration.” Readers who are unfamiliar with British programs will find Morey and Yaqin’s deconstruction of British media stereotypes very illuminating and helpful in identifying a similar catalogue of bias in their own countries.
Morey and Yaqin get to the heart of the problems faced by Muslims in Western countries. It is impossible for Muslims to feel a sense of belonging when they are bombarded with distorted images intended to alienate and marginalize them. Non-Muslims are also infected by the same images. Is it any wonder why they are resistent to welcoming Muslims into their homes and communities? Morey and Yaqin also question the cozy relationship between Western governments and the media in the framing of Muslims after 9/11. This entanglement is a cause for concern – and challenge – by concerned citizens in Western multicultural societies.
“Framing Muslims” is an enlightening book. It is sure to make us more critical of the power and influence of media in shaping our views on Muslims and Islam. Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin deserve applause for their worthy effort.
Framing Muslims: Stereotyping and Representation After 9/11. Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin.
(Harvard University Press, 2011).
– Saudi Gazette