Professor Roy Greenslade blogs on Media Guardian on the Islam Channel’s proposed ‘Alternative Leveson Inquiry’.
The Alternative Leveson Inquiry has been set up to investigate the causal relationship between media representations of Islam and Muslims and popular social attitudes towards Muslims and other minority communities in the UK.
“The Islam Channel is planning to appoint a judge with an independent panel of assessors - just like Leveson - to carry out the inquiry.
“Its springboard was a public opinion poll which found that people believe the media are responsible for "whipping up a climate of fear of Islam in the UK."
“According to its findings, people are twice as likely to say the media is to blame for Islamophobia (29%) than far-right groups (13%), or Muslims themselves, whether abroad (14%) or in the UK (11%).”
The public opinion poll cited above was conducted by ComRes last July and its findings on media scaremongering about Islam are reinforced by academic research, like the study recently completed by academics at Lancaster University. In ‘The representation of Muslims in the British press 1998-2009,’ the authors argue that “Explicit references to extremism were also found next to the word Islamic 1 in 6 times across all the newspapers – indeed it is likely that Islamic is now difficult to use in a neutral way as it is so heavily laden with negative overtones and disapproval.”
Moreover, in a study by Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin on ‘Framing Muslims,’ the authors "examine stereotyping through the lens of Maxwell McCombs' analysis of news media "frames", which through selective emphasis restricts audience interpretation.”
Morey and Yaqin argue that “Muslims now tend to be represented in film, television and the media as a problem community, rather than the "model minority" of earlier generations.”
To investigate the social consequences of such media representations is the purpose of the Alternative Leveson Inquiry.
With the British Social Attitudes survey of 2010 concluding that:
- 52 per cent think of people interviewed think Britain is deeply divided along religious lines
- 55 per cent of people said they would be 'bothered' if a large mosque was built in their locality while only 15 per cent said they would have similar concerns about a church being built locally
- Only one in four people in Britain feel positively about Islam
- Less than half, 45 per cent, feel that diversity has brought benefits to the UK