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The topic about the Islam religion has been a controversial issue in the Australian media. The Australian media, for a long time, has received blame for painting the Islam religion with a negative outlook. The media in Australia have misrepresented the Islam religion creating negative stereotypes on the Islam religion. The negative stereotype, as a result, of Australian media painting, has created an unfavourable image of the Islam religion and Muslims to the public. What the newspapers, articles and magazines write and the news broadcasted in the television and radio has affected how people thing of the Islam religion.
This paper explores the take of the Australian media on the Islam religion and the negative image it has created. It also looks at the impacts that have resulted from the image the Australian media have created to the public.
Today in Australia, the Muslim community, constitute a large and growing part of the population. From the turn of the century, the Muslim community has risen considerably in Australia. The 2001 Australian census estimated the number of Muslims in Australia, to constitute about two hundred and eighty thousand people (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2001). The first Muslims to reach Australia came from Afghanistan in the year 1860. In the years that followed, Muslims occasionally went to Australia but did not stay for a long period.
These Muslims came from Afghanistan and north Pakistan. Few came from Egypt, turkey and Iran. In the beginning of the twentieth century, Muslims began occupying parts of Australia including Albania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and the south east of Asia. Despite this migration, the arrival of Lebanese and Turkish migrants in Australia made the Islam community recognised in Australia.
Islam has existed in Australia for a long time now. However, the growth of the Muslim population in Australia made the Australian government change its policy on immigration. For example, the Australian white policy intended to maintain the Anglo-Celtic population composition in Australia. This made the Muslim population decline in Australia. The significant increase of the Muslim population in Australia came after the Second World War. The Australian government, multicultural policy contributed to this rise of the Muslim population. The government expected that the assimilation of several cultures in Australia would disappear as they adapted to the Australian ways of life. However, cultural and religious themes and became permanent features in the Australian society. Increased migration to Australia in the 1960s made assimilation difficult creating religious and cultural retention. This created many religious groupings in Australia. The large Muslim community developed in that manner (Elizabeth Poole, 2006).
The media in Australia have contributed to the growth of religious affiliations and the public view regarding different religious groups in Australia.
The media representations of the Muslim community in Australia began at the start of the gulf war in 1990. The events in the Persian Gulf War made the United States of America sent its troops there foe peace keeping. Although sections of the Australian community opposed the idea, Australia went ahead to post its troop to the Persian Gulf War. The world watched the events that went on in the war with Australia not an exception because its troops participated in the war.
In the gulf war, the Australian media failed to between Muslim Australians and Arab Australians. Not all Arab Australians form the Islam community. Some occupy the other religions, such as Christianity.
The topic on media representation of the Muslim population in Australia became pertinent today partly because of the terrorist attack in New York on September 2001. The same way the recent attacks on Bali linked to Islamic extremists.
The number of negative events throughout the world involving Islamic groups has made the Muslim community in Australia become concerned with how the media perceives and represents them. The representation of the Muslim community in Australian media focuses on the Arab Muslims.
The media in Australia portray the Muslim community as terrorists, Muslim lack of loyalty to Australia and a homogenous group.
The media in Australia represent Muslims as terrorists eluding this to the presence of Iraqi terrorists in Australia. Other media groups allude that Australia develops a strategy to combat terrorism from Muslim groups, creating the assumption that terrorism groups exist in Australia. They allude that the Muslim groups make up the terrorism group (Yasmeen, 2006).
The terrorist label tends to be emotive and negative especially to the public. In fact, the committee on discrimination against Arab, Australian recognises that attaching the terrorist label to a social group, for example, Muslims contributes to racism against the Muslim community. The herald sun, a media article tilted Muslim terrorist fear for Australia, suggested that Muslim and Arab terrorists may have infiltrated Australia herald, (Cluck, 2000). Another example from the herald sun titled here comes Hussein terrorists stated that Australia could be a target of the large force of terrorists grouped by Saddam Hussein. This article could influence anyone reading it to assume that terrorists come from the Muslim community because of the fact that people confuse Arabs, Iraqis and Muslims.
Media information such as the above tends to be remarkably harmful to the Islamic community in Australia. This happens because people attach terrorism to innocent Muslims who have no idea about terrorism. This affects the Islamic Australian community psychologically and emotionally. It also affects how the public looks at the Islamic population in Australia.
The media have often failed to differentiate between the Australians born in Iraq and Iraqi people. This has lead to a situation where people confuse the Islamic community in Australia with Iraqis. This has resulted to people perceiving Australian Muslims as violent, hostile and unstable people.
The Australian magazine once titled, our security poised to combat pro-Iraqi terrorists assumed that Iraqi terrorist exist in Australia. The article did not give any evidence that showed whether Iraqi terrorist existed in Australia or not. However, the article indicated that any Arab or any other person from the Middle East could be a terrorism suspect.
All the examples given indicate that the media in Australia suggested that terrorist groups arise from Muslim community. They represented the Muslim community in Australia in a disparaging manner.
Other media reports tend to question the loyalty of Muslims to Australia. This happened because; most Muslim groups in Australia opposed the intent of the Australian government to send its troops to the Persian war. In response to the Muslim protest, the media in Australia developed an attitude that compelled any person who did not agree with the decision of the government to go back to their original country. The go home attitude by the media in Australia supported the argument that Muslims did not put their loyalty to the Australian government. This attitude cannot be complementary to the Islam community in Australia. This attitude influenced how the Australian citizens, forming other religious groups, viewed the Islam community in austral (Rane, 2010).
In support of the notion, the media implied that the Islamic community in Australia made all efforts to collect money and send it to Iraq. The age magazine tilted Sydney Muslims may pass around that for Hussein confirmed this notion. (Peters, 2003).This Article implied that discussion took place among one hundred Muslims, which concluded that Muslims establish a fighting fund to raise money for Iraq. This article did not provide any proof that indicated where and when the meeting took place. Another article from the same newspaper indicated that Muslims offered money to Iraq. I did not provide any evidence.
The Australian media failed to distinguish between the actions done by individual Muslims and the entire Muslim community in Australia. The media reported the actions committed by individual Muslims as if one committed by the whole Islam community. This affected the perception of the Muslim community by Australian public. The public got a negative impression of the Muslim community in Australia.
Despite the fact, that the media in Australia depicted the Muslim community in Australia negatively, they did not provide evidence for their assumptions and accusations. Therefore, no basis for judging whether the assumptions carried truth came out.
Therefore, it becomes that the media bent on providing information that painted a negative image on the Muslim community in Australia. The Australian media selected events that seemed worthy for reporting according to newsworthiness. The media did not care to find out whether the news they published to the public carried truth or not. The image the Muslim community receives because of media reports seems to carry biases because of stereotype combination, distortions and generalisations. These stereotypes range from depicting the Islam community as terrorists, extremists and different to other Australians.
The Australian media reports assume that all Muslims all over the world tend to be heterogeneous. The techniques that the media in Australia use to represent the Islam community tend to be disturbing because it happens represent the view that the media exposes to Australians.
Media naivety and ignorance displays though the reports they publish about the Islam community. The media portray naivety and ignorance by publishing news and reports that they have not clarified to know whether. It does not make sense how the media that should be responsible for finding the truth turns to be implicative and biased. The media tend to show antagonistic influence and mistrust that has surrounded Islam because of the fighting, tension, and conflict that exists between Muslims and the west (Ata, 2009).
The media reports have led to misconceptions of all Muslims in Australia. This has made other Australian citizens that come from the other religious groupings to stereotype Muslims as immoral and dangerous people. This has made them discriminate Muslims based on race and religion. The media has made people believe that all Arabs form the Islam religion. Furthermore, the media do not depict the other religious groups the way it depicts the Islam religion and its faithful. For example, whenever a Christian does a mistake, the media take the actions of that individual as an individual's action. However, if a Muslim does the same, the media take that action as one influenced by the Islamic religion the media describes the action in terms of the race and religion that the person belongs (Ata, 2009).
The media have created a situation whereby people in Australia do not trust Muslims and cannot associate with them freely. This has developed tension between among Australian citizens based on race and religion.
The media have influenced how people perceive the Muslim community in Australia. They have painted the Muslim community negatively associating it with terrorism and lack of loyalty to the Australian country. However, the media have not provided evidence on the representation it puts to those who belong to the Islam religion and community. Most of the information that the media use to represent Islam appear to be biased and mere hearsay. This has created a negative image to Muslim Australians. This has made other people discriminate them based on race and religion. The media distorted the view of people towards Islam and Arabs.