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New book provides journalists with guidance on how misuse of terminologies of Islam/Muslims contributes to Islamophobia

A male wearing a white shirt and navy blue blazer sits in a chair holding a book.

Guidance on how the media’s choice of language can affect the general public’s perceptions of Islam has been released in a new book which highlights how the misuse of key terms negatively impacts the lives of British Muslims.

Media Language on Islam and Muslims: Terminologies and Their Effects examines how the British media’s misrepresentation of Islam/Muslims contributes to Islamophobia. It has been described as an ‘essential guide’ by Daily Mirror editor, Alison Phillips.

The book has been released ahead of the Muslim Council of Britain’s (MCB) Centre for Media Monitoring’s (CFMM) launching a media style guide website, which will help journalists use important words and phrases related to Islam and Muslims accurately.

It has been edited by Dr Salman Al-Azami, a Senior Lecturer in Language, Media and Communication at Liverpool Hope University, who specialises in Islamophobia in the media.

Featuring 12 chapters from 15 different academics, 10 of the chapters provide a detailed analysis of 10 important terminologies on Islam and Muslims and the associated words frequently used in the British media.

This includes terms such as: Allahu Akbar, Islamic State, Jihad and Sharia, with each chapter concluding with a recommendation from the CFMM’s media style guide on how each word can be used responsibly.

The guide, which Dr Al-Azami contributed to, is being released by the MCB following significant stakeholder engagement with the media, which included discussions with senior managing editors at national newspapers and senior producers in broadcast news.

The official launch of Media Language on Islam and Muslims: Terminologies and Their Effects will be held at the British Muslim Heritage Centre in Manchester, at 6pm on Tuesday 20 February.

The event will include panel discussion entitled Media Language on Islam and Muslims: Irresponsible or Islamophobic?, which includes Dr Al-Azami, the BBC’s Talat Farooq-Awan and Faisal Hanif of the CFMM.

Dr Salman Al-Azami, Senior Lecturer in Language, Media and Communication at Liverpool Hope University, said: “This book is unique because it is the first to comprehensively analyse the most frequently used terms in media reporting on Islam and Muslims and because it provides journalists with evidence-based insights into their use of these terms and the implications that has on the Muslim community. The consequences of unfair media representations on British Muslims can be serious. Often mainstream media are the only sources for the general public to know about Islam and the continuous misrepresentations affect community cohesion significantly. I hope journalists will engage with this book and understand how their language can impact the lives of everyday Muslims.

Alison Phillips, Editor of the Daily Mirror, said: “As journalists we know more than most the power of language in shaping perception and shifting opinions. As such we have a huge responsibility to think about language which has been used around reporting of Islam – where we have fallen short and where we should be doing better. This book is an essential guide to how we improve accuracy and our choice of language to ensure better reporting of Islam for all our readers.”

Zara Mohammed, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “Words used in the media have a real impact on ordinary Muslims. This book is the first of its kind to academically tackle some of the most controversial words head on, explain their usage and mis-usage and help chart a path toward a better representation of Islam and Muslims. I believe it will make a real difference.”

Published on 14/02/2024