Austria’s Media Tend towards Islamophobia

26 October 2010

Islam often shows up in the headlines in Austrian newspapers, though rarely in a positive light. According to Professor Farid Hafez at the University of Vienna, the debate surrounding a statement made by the president of the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGiÖ) Anas Schakfeh is symptomatic of the problem. Schakfeh had expressed his hope that in 50 years there would be a mosque in every provincial capital in Austria, a view which led to an enormous debate on minarets and mosques in Austria.
For Elizabeth Klaus, researcher at the University of Salzburg, the islamophobic tendencies in the media are evident. Klaus has been personally working on a study of the portrayal of Islam in a number of Austrian newspapers, and says that it is “frightening” how often the veil is used as a symbol for that which is “foreign, negative, and other.”
According to Cahit Kaya, president of the Central Council of Ex-Muslims, all those who call themselves Muslims must also accept that there will be criticism of Islam. Nonetheless, Hafez, Klaus, and Birol Kiliç, editor of the Turkish-language newspaper Yeni Vatan Gazetesi, all agree that the problem is that the criticism in question does not manage to differentiate between fundamentalists and the Islam practiced by the majority of Muslims.

Where was the ‘Where’s Muhammad?’ cartoon?

What is clever about last Sunday’s “Where’s Muhammad?” comic is that the prophet does not appear in it. Miller is known for social satire. But at first glance, the single-panel cartoon he drew for last Sunday seems benign. It is a bucolic scene imitating the best-selling children’s book “Where’s Waldo?” A grassy park is jammed with activity. Animals frolic. Children buy ice cream. Adults stroll and sunbathe. A caption reads: “Where’s Muhammad?”

Editors at The Post and many other papers pulled the cartoon and replaced it with one that had appeared previously. They were concerned it might offend and provoke some Post readers, especially Muslims. “Non Sequitur” is a popular comic that runs daily in about 800 newspapers, including this one. But the “Non Sequitur” cartoon that appeared in last Sunday’s Post was not the one creator Wiley Miller drew for that day.

Dutch Moroccan Youth Overrepresented in Crime Statistics

Researchers for the Tijdschrift voor Criminologie (Journal of Criminology) claim
this week that over half of Dutch Moroccan youths have come into contact with
the police: some 54% of young Dutch Moroccan men, compared with 23% of
young men in the country overall.
The research report was picked up by several newspapers offering differing
commentaries on the results. Dutch News notes that the research does not
indicate how frequently police contact resulted in charges and convictions. The
NIS News, on the other hand, reports that more than half of the Dutch Moroccan
youths “have committed one or more crimes before they reached the age of 22”.
The researchers do not conclude why Dutch Moroccan youth are
overrepresented in crime statistics. They suggest that low socioeconomic status
and cultural factors may play a role, as well as citing Belgian research indicating
that police are more likely to question immigrant youths than white natives.

Muslims express more trust in Spanish institutions than Spaniards

The annual Metroscopia Report on the feelings of the Muslim Immigrants living in Spain was made public. The most commented conclusion was the fact that Muslims express to more trust for some Spanish institutions; such as Justice, the Parliament, the King and the Catholic Church, than Spaniards do. The results show a moderate and tolerant Muslim community that feels at home in Spain and with the ability to practice their religion freely. Also noted by the newspapers was the fact that only a 4% claimed to agree with the use of violence for religious purposes.

Negative images of immigrants and Muslims in Norwegian media

A new report from Integrerings- och mangfoldsdirektoratet (Directory of Integration and Multitude) show that Norwegian newspapers published 77,670 articles on the subject of Islam in 2009. Out of all articles written on immigrant issues 71 percent could be considered to hold a negative view. Immigrants are written about, but seldome listened to. Only in two percent of all articles published in Norway’s eight main newspapers, immigrants were interviewed and given a chance to talk for themselves. Predominantly immigration was presented as a problem, not as a resource.

Analysis of Islam and immigration in Norwegian media

This new report from Integrerings- och mangfoldsdirektoratet (Directory of Integration and Multitude) show that Norwegian newspapers published 77 670 articles on the subject of Islam in 2009. Out of all articles written on immigrant issues 71 percent could be considered to hold a negative view. Immigrants are written about, but seldome listened to. Only in two percent of all articles published in Norway’s eight main newspapers, immigrants were interviewed and given a chance to talk for themselves. Predominantly immigration was presented as a problem, not as a resource.

The report is in Norwegian.

Danish newspaper apologizes for offending Muslims with the printing of Muhammad cartoons

Politiken newspaper, one of 11 Danish newspapers that reprinted the Mohammed cartoons, has issued an apology to eight Muslim organizations for offending Muslims – allegedly to avoid a lawsuit. The settlement reached between the paper and the organizations does not, however, apologize for the printing of the cartoons, nor prevent the paper from reprinting them in the future. The eight organizations who reached the agreement with Politiken are based in Egypt, Libya, Qatar, Australia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Palestine. Together they represent 94,923 descendents of the Prophet Mohammed.

In August last year, the groups’ Saudi lawyer, Faisal Yamani, requested that Politiken and 10 other newspapers remove the images from their websites and issue apologies along with a promise that the images, or similar ones, will never be printed again. Politiken is the only one of the 11 newspapers who has agreed on a settlement. Yamani says that within the next weeks the eight Muslim organizations will announce what kind of legal actions they will now take against the ten newspapers who haven’t agreed on a settlement.

Jyllands-Posten newspaper initially published the drawings in 2005, but following the murder plot in 2008 against one of the cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard, 11 major Danish newspapers reprinted them as a symbol of solidarity. Politiken, which had initially been critical of the cartoons, chose to reprint Westergaard’s drawing and an editorial comment that said Jyllands-Posten deserved unconditional solidarity when it is threatened with terror. However, Politiken’s statement today said the decision to reprint the drawing of a man with a bomb in his turban was never intended as a “statement of editorial opinion or value, but merely as part of the newspaper’s news coverage”. The apology stated that it was “never Politiken’s intention to offend Muslims in Denmark or elsewhere. We apologize to anyone who was offended by our decision to reprint the cartoon drawing”.

Politiken’s editor-in-chief, Tøger Seidenfaden, says he is hoping the agreement will help improve relations between Denmark and the Muslim world and that “other acts of dialogue and reconciliation may follow”. But the move has been derided by other newspapers, cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and leading politicians. Other newspapers which reprinted the cartoon, including Berlingske Tidende, Kristeligt Dagblad and the original publisher Jyllands-Posten, refused to enter into the same agreement with the organizations. Jyllands-Posten editor, Jørn Mikkelsen, called it a “sad day for Danish media, for freedom of speech and for Politiken”. In 2006 Jyllands-Posten apologized for upsetting some Muslims with the cartoons, but Mikkelsen believes that Politiken’s apology crosses the line as it was made as part of a deal. Meanwhile, Westergaard accused the Politiken of giving up on freedom of speech and said they had given into the fear of terror. However, professor in rhetoric at University of Copenhagen, Christian Kock says that Jyllands-Posten apology from 2006 and Politiken’s apology are more or less similar. None of them apologizes for printing the cartoons. They apologize for offending Muslims by doing it. The difference is that Politikens apology is part of a settlement with Muslim organizations.

Opposition leaders Helle Thorning-Schmidt of the Social Democrats and Villy Søvndal of the Socialist People’s Party called the move outrageous and said deals should not be done involving freedom of speech. Not all politicians are deriding Politiken. Leader of Danish Social-Liberal Party Margrethe Vestager thinks Politiken acts courageously by choosing dialogue rather than confrontation. Also the Danish imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen praises Politiken for the apology. He doesn’t think the agreement is a threat against freedom of speech: “Politiken doesn’t apologize for printing the cartoons. They apologize for having offended some by doing it” Wahid Pedersen says.

The first Spanish online newspaper in Arabic

Said Ida Hassan, former director of the Moroccan News Agency in Madrid, has founded the first Spanish online newspaper in Arabic, Andalus Press. The newspaper tries to reach the Arabic-speaking population in Spain providing it with general information about Spain. It tries to follow the model of other newspapers that already exist in Chinese or Romanian.

To publish or not to publish…opposing opinions concerning caricatures

In Norway the debate on the so called Muhammad cartoons is back on the agenda as a result of the January 1 attack on Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

Per Edgar Kokkvold, secretary general of the Norwegian Press Association, is critical of the general decision among Norwegian newspapers not to publish the caricatures. Not to publish the “harmless drawings is not to show respect of Muslim belief, but to bow down in fear of Islamist terror;” Kokkvold says. “The freedom of speech and religion is of such fundamental significance to our way of life that it is of utmost importance to draw the line,” he continues.

Akhtar Chaudhry, vice president of the Norwegian Parliament, says the attack on Westergaard is repelling, and an unacceptable attack on the freedom of speech. Even so, Chaudhry believes it is wrong to publish the caricatures in Norwegian newspapers and asks everyone to keep their calm and reconsider their responsibility not to arouse feelings that might contribute to tensions between different groups in society.

Russian Newsweek warned not to incite ethnic, religious enmity

The Prosecutor’s Office in Moscow has warned magazine Russian Newsweek on the illegality and unacceptability of publishing stories instigating ethnic and religious hatred. “Issue 40 of September 29 – October 5, 2008 carried two stories entitled “He Who Comes with the Mosque” (a play on the phrase “He who comes to Russia with the sword will perish by the sword” and “Mosque Carriers,” in which Muslims and Christians are in opposition),” the prosecutor’s office said.

The articles in question contain captions satirizing the prophet Muhammad. Photos and inspiration were taken from the Danish newspaper ‘Jullands-Posten’ which caused worldwide protests and condemnation after publishing insulting material mocking the Prophet Muhammad.

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