Alan Judd, a journalist from The Telegraph recently wrote an article entitled ‘How to spot a terrorist living in your neighbourhood’. The article attempts to educate readers on how to identify potential extremists by being aware of their social interactions and changes in behaviour.
While the article suggests that certain attributes are often portrayed by potential extremists; what the article actually does is stir hatred, suspicion and animosity amongst people without any sort of evidence or solid foundation.
Mass media is a popular and influential method of conveying information, through television, radio and newspapers, online articles and more increasingly through forms of social media such as twitter, thus being a vital aspect in informing, challenging and supporting major issues that arise and views of the public. Its immense responsibility is fundamental as a first point of call when issues arise and it is therefore important to be able to think critically in order to keep a clear perspective on events occurring in the world. This is frequently seen through Islamophobia which is perpetuated through the media, causing scepticism and outrage.
Islamophobia through the media are often ‘Press-generated myths about Islam that fuel misunderstandings and feed prejudice, and thus bedevil rational discussion’.
The articles main aim is to ‘To call for neighbours they suspect of extremism’. This in fact causes more harm than good and increases suspicion, causing distrust within the community counteracting the idea of community cohesion. Suspicions of extremism are often subjective such as the suggestion of the ‘disapproval of feminine dress’. There is a difference between someone holding these views and practising them and someone who wishes to implement their views through harmful and offensive means.
A main chunk of this article contains how one should suspect changes in behaviour, such as ‘disapproval of feminine dress’, ‘collect jihadi material’ and ‘withdrawal from social interaction’. These connotations lack any strength and encourage the community to be aware of such behaviours which do not necessarily mean they are an ‘extremist’. For example, hatred towards the west and Israel is a common misconception for someone who is increasingly becoming radical. Those who are not Muslim are also an advocate to the rights of those civilians who are suffering. Does this then mean Nelson Mandela who stated “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians’’ is considered an extremist for holding these views? It is obtuse to tarnish someone who disagrees with Israel’s policies and movements as someone who has a ’vociferous hatred of the West and Israel’. Similarly an individual does not have to be a terrorist to be a political activist. Many activists who do not ascribe to any particular faith believe passionately in travelling to affected areas to be of service.
‘Someone may adopt traditional Arab dress or abruptly abandon it’, So let me get this right, this person we are all meant to be on the lookout for could be wearing a traditional dress or they could not be wearing it; this really narrows it down. Similar opinions were voiced on twitter in response to Judd’s intolerant views amongst which ‘My son and I do pull ups in the park- terrorist training camp #spotaterrorist’.
Moving on, another ridiculous notion suggested in this article was that terrorists are influenced by ‘ Images of Muslim casualties from western bombs, or ill-treated prisoners …’ The fact that publishing these pictures are seen as the problem, and no emphasis is put on the act itself shows the depth of knowledge Judd has. If the casualties are shown to have negative consequences such as inspiring individuals to pursue acts of radical behaviour, the suggested solution would then be to remove or not display the casualties of innocent civilians in these countries which could potentially be more harmful. In turn this would cause unrest amongst those who are unable to obtain information on what is happening in the world. It would also allow little screening or control in regards to the actions of the agencies out there, for example, the recent atrocity involving two former servicemen. They were fined a mere £1,000 for abusing innocent Afghan civilians; this brought to attention one of the many incidents which go unreported and suggesting this is a breeding ground for radicalisation is absurd, rather it should be a matter of public concern and awareness.
Overall, Islamophobia in the media is seen all too often in many forms, the article in itself is a good example to show how Islamophobia is present and how it attempts to socially exclude Muslims by instilling fear and concern in the community; In effect creating a negative atmosphere. Guilty until proven innocent is the theme that runs throughout this article, and is becoming increasing commonplace when discussing Muslims – within the media and within our community. This is a problem, and needs to be tackled as such. Individuals should be entitled to practice their faith to whichever extent they feel necessary, so long as it does not become harmful to others around them.