Portrayals of Islam in German News Television
Given widespread anti-Muslim discriminations in the West, the need for critical research on media portrayals of Islam is beyond dispute. However, this book argues that in order to deepen our understanding of Islam in the media, we have to review some of the terminology, theoretical assumptions, and methods that are prevalent in the research field and find alternative approaches that go beyond one-dimensional concepts like ‘stereotyping’ and ‘bias’. A first problem is oversimplification. Through their terminology (‘Islamophobia’, ‘Feindbild Islam’) many studies imply that media reporting on Islam was of an entirely negative and hostile character. This notion is easily rejected in view of the fact that a lot of media reports actually revolve around the problem of Muslim discrimination or take issue with states withholding Muslim minority rights. Second, many researchers take for granted that the media base their representations of Islam on a simple and dichotomous structure (Islam/West) and therefore fail to acknowledge the many complexities, ambiguities, and contradictions that constitute the discourse. Third, a common proposition given by researchers is that the media should include more ‘positive’ reports on Islam in order to counter the bulk of ‘negative’ news. This proposition ignores that negativity is a basic news value not specific to reporting on Islam. Besides, the distinction between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ reports runs the risk of creating highly problematic categories like ‘the good Muslim’ and ‘the bad Muslim’. In “Mediendiskurs Islam”, Tim Karis puts forward an approach that is designed to bring research on media representations of Islam closer to the wider theoretical discussion that goes on in the field of research on religion, media, and culture. Taking its cues from the Cultural Studies School, this approach focuses on media narratives rather than stereotypes. In a long-term study of coverage on Islam in the German TV news magazine “Tagesthemen”, a number of Islam-narratives that constituted the discourse in the time period of 1979-2010. As the author points out, it is possible to deal with the complexities of media discourses whilst maintaining a critical position towards reporting.
Literature: Karis, Tim: Mediendiskurs Islam. Narrative in der Berichterstattung der Tagesthemen 1979-2010, Wiesbaden: Springer VS 2013, 359 Seiten, ISBN 978-3-658-01957-0, 49,99 Euro.