Binary Representations: British Press Reporting of the Muslim/Asian Other Outside the Context of Terrorism (1989-2007)
This paper explores the ways in which the coverage of the Muslim Other has changed over time outside the specific context of ‘Islamic’ terrorism. Three case-studies are examined: the Satanic Verses incident of 1989, the Bradford Riots of 2001, and the Gillian Gibbons incident of 2007. The analysis indicates that the British press tends to conflate British Asians and British Muslims, although this was mainly evidenced in the 2001 Bradford Riots sample. However, comparing the coverage of the 2007 Gillian Gibbons incident to that of the 1989 Satanic Verses, suggests that the representation of Muslims may have become more positive between 1989 and 2007. Although this finding may appear to be counter-intuitive given that this period included events such as 9/11 and 7/7, which are generally regarded as having worsened negative stereotypes of Muslims, this data is in keeping with existing studies, such as Featherstone et al. (2010), who argue that during this period the British press struggled to reconcile the need to ‘represent Britain as a unified multicultural imagined community’ with ‘“othering” the bombers as Islamic radicals who were nonetheless normal British citizens’ (179). This has led to a duality in coverage of Muslims in the British press, where Muslims can be either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but nothing in between.