Current Issues Representations in the Media
Summary of the Issue
Doha, Qatar. 2006. An Al Jazeera producer working in the news room. Photo Credit: Kamran Jebreili/AP Images.
The representation of Muslim women in the media continues to be a source of contestation for many Muslim women around the world. In spite of Muslim women’s diverse legacies as political, cultural and social leaders, their image in the media is often reduced to stereotypical portrayals of Muslim women. For instance, after 9/11 in New York and 7/7 in London, Muslim women became a renewed symbol of Islamic militancy and feminine oppression in much of Western media, and popular media outlets continue to portray representations of “Muslim women as incomparably bound by the unbreakable chains of religious and patriarchal oppression.”1,2
The persistence of negative language used to describe Muslim women, the homogenization of all Muslim women, and the heightened focus on the headscarf are all examples that reflect how Muslim women have been used as a discursive means to render those who do not share Western values as “others.” Moreover, these media representations have fostered the perception that Muslim women are not active citizens in their communities, and instead reduce them to victims, passive women, or only veiled women. Such representations tend to reflect a narrow view of Muslim women, in which the actual problems or challenges faced by Muslim women are ignored. In this way, critical issues which affect Muslim women are often mistakenly perceived to be caused by religion, rather than specific socio-economic, nationalist, or political forces.
In other societies, media outlets may often invoke variations of similar stereotypes by generally reporting only stories which depict women as passive victims or as women attempting to or prevented in furthering their social, civic development. For instance, in Ukraine, news reports inaccurately reported that a successful beauty pageant contestant was stoned to death by a “radical Islamist.”3 Muslim women have also been re-victimized through the stigmatization of rape in the media, as evidenced in a report on how Pakistani media has irresponsibly covered rape cases.4 In addition, the over-emphasis and simplification regarding the head scarf, hijab, portrays a lingering symbol of female submission by many contributors of the global media.
Muslim women have also created their own sites in monitoring and representing their image in the media. For instance, online sites like Muslimah Media Watch and Muslim Women’s News review and critique representations of Muslim women in the global media. Muslimette.com covers a diversity of everyday lifestyle issues from favorite iPhone apps, to questions about marriage. In addition, Aquila-Asia is the first magazine devoted to an audience of Muslim women in Asia.
Despite the contested imagery of Muslim women in the media, they have nonetheless carved out their own discursive space in mediating and representing their own cultural, social and ethnic diversity, and the growing number of media outlets created by and for Muslim women reflect the inherent heterogeneity of Muslim women around the world.
 Laura Navarro. “Islamophobia and Sexism: Muslim Women in the Western Mass Media”, Human Architectre: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge, v.3, no.2, Fall 2010, 95-114.
 Saba Mahmood, “The Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject,” Princeton University Press: New York, 2005.
 Farangis Najibullah, “The Sensational Story That Wasn't: Reports Of 'Stoning' Death Of Ukrainian Girl Turn Out To Be False,” Radio Free Europe, June 2, 2011.
 “Covering Crime: How Pakistani Media Reports on Rape Cases,” Uks Research Centre.
Related Current Issues
Organizations Active on this Issue
Saied R. Ameli, Syed Mohammed Marandi, Sameera Ahmed, Seyfeddin Kara, and Arzu Meral, “British Muslims Expectations of the Government: The British Media and Representation: The Ideology of Demonisation,” Islamic Human Rights Commission: Great Britain, 2007.
Esra Özcan, "The Visual Representation of the Female in Turkish Press" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, TBA, San Francisco.
Smeeta Mishra, “’Saving’ Muslim women and fighting Muslim men: Analysis of Representations in The New York Times,” Global Media Journal, Volume 6, Issue 11: Fall 2007.
Mohammad A. Siddiqi, “Islam, Muslims and Media: Myths and Realities,” NAAMPS Publication: Chicago, 1997.
Edward Said, “Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World,” Vintage: London, 1997.
Elizabeth Poole, “Reporting Islam: Media Representations of British Muslims,” I.B. Tauris: London, 2002.
Karim H. Karim, “Islamic Peril, Media and Global Violence,” Black Rose Books: Montreal 2000.
Dale F. Eickelman, Jon W. Anderson, “New Media in the Muslim World: The Emerging Public Sphere,” Indiana University Press, New York: 2003.
World Conference on Human Rights: Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (1993)
Women's Learning Partnership for Rights, Development and Peace, International Law