Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths
Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths

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8.2.1 Developments in the British Muslim press

The next activity examines another kind of contra-flow – the development of an independent English language Muslim media, especially newspapers and magazines, in the UK. In this transcript from an audio interview, Dr Sameera Ahmed sketches developments in the British Muslim press from 1988-2008.

Activity 32 Interview with Dr Sameera Ahmed

Read the transcript below, and note your answers to the questions. When you have finished, reveal the discussion and check your answers against those provided.

Please click ‘Reveal comment’ to read the interview.

Comment

David Herbert
Partly in reaction to negative portrayals in the mainstream British press, British Muslims have increasingly developed their own English language media voice, for example through newspapers, magazines, and radio. The English language medium is important, because it enables Muslims to communicate with each other in spite of their very varied linguistic backgrounds, and also opens up channels of communication with mainstream society. Sameera Ahmed, until recently Associate Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University and now Lecturer at the University of Oman, Jordan charts the development of the British Muslim press before 9/11:
Sameera Ahmed
So if we take 1989 as a watershed if you like, particularly after the Rushdie affair, there’s a kind of marked increase in the introduction of some Muslim publications. Some of them did exist prior to that date, but for example Q News, Muslim News, they saw it as a kind of catalyst. Where the Muslim community itself was conscious that the way they were being portrayed in mainstream media or the issues that were important to them, were being articulated in a very restricted manner and they wanted to actually present alternatives to this. So we see magazines and publications developing along those lines. Firstly, they wanted to give a Muslim perspective, not necessarily an Islamic kind of scholarly perspective, but at least a perspective from within the Muslim community. And they also wanted to challenge mainstream representations so where you had the stereotypical you know Muslims are A B and C, they wanted to say no, there’s more to it than that. And if we go back to what some of the editors articulate as their objectives they were very clear that they wanted to be Muslim publications presenting alternative perspectives from the Muslim community initially. But I suppose their wider objective was to then pan out if you like so that the general mainstream population may eventually take articles and issues that they debate. The Muslim press itself was developing somewhat prior to 2001 in terms of its readership, but also in terms of the topics that they were actually engaging with. So it wasn’t the traditional religious topics if you like, they were looking at social issues, they were looking at problems that perhaps young British Muslims were having, so in that way they were widening their original scope and paralleling some of the discussions and debates that were taking place in established mainstream press.
DH
I then asked Dr Ahmed how the British Muslim press responded to the challenges of 9/11, and later 7/7:
SA
Obviously, when September 2001 happened, they felt as if there was an intense focus, which obviously there was on the Muslim community and as if they were in many ways the spokespeople for the Muslim communities and go betweens if you like between the mainstream press and the actual communities. So obviously as soon as 2000 – you know September 11 happened, it was very much what is this event, what does it mean for the Muslim community immediately and in the future, why did it take place. You know there were many scholars that were clearly saying that this is un-Islamic and giving the reasons behind that. But then they looked further afield, what will the impact be, what were the kind of geopolitical implications of this for Muslims around the world, not just in the West. The Muslim press found itself in quite a unique position that it was picking up on individual cases of Muslims who had been detained under the anti terror legislation, but it was following their cases in more detail than perhaps mainstream press. I think they kind of followed the whole campaign through, from the arrest to… more often than not to the release without charge of many of the suspects, and they talked more broadly about how that was impacting on the Muslim community. So how Muslim community’s attitudes towards the establishment were changing, how were they seeing the police with the stop and searches, how was this affecting how they, basically, went about their day-to-day life?
 

Activity 33 Questions related to the interview

  1. How did the British Muslim press respond to The Satanic Verses controversy (also known as the Rushdie Affair), and what developments followed?
  2. What further developments have taken place since 9/11?

Comment

  1. The volume of Muslim publications increased. Both new and existing titles such as Q News and Muslim News took on new roles, including responding to presentations of Muslims in the mainstream media, raising issues for debate within the Muslim community.
  2. Since 9/11 some publications have taken on the role of unofficial spokespeople for the Muslim community, including mediating between the Muslim community and the mainstream press, publicising Muslim scholars condemnation of the attacks, and taking up the cause of Muslims held under anti-terror legislation.

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