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A succinct and accessible book, with many chapters that can stand alone as
readings for undergraduate or graduate classes, Media Framing of the Muslim
World: Conflicts, Crises, and Contexts is a welcome addition to the literature
on Muslims and the media. The authors build on three key concepts: the idea
that the media should function, but often does not, as the fourth estate (an independent
and critical press); Edward Said’s Orientalism(the West as the perpetually
superior Other who must represent the Orient, which is incapable of
doing so itself), and in its modern form, Islamophobia; and the importance of
history and context in understanding key events in the Muslim world (as distinct
from religious determinism).
The book is divided into eight chapters with an introduction and a conclusion:
“Islam and the Muslim world,” “Media-Generated Muslims and Islamophobia,”
“Image and Reality of Reporting War and Conflict in the Muslim World,” “Asylum Seekers,” “Covering Terrorism Suspects.” “The Arab
Spring,” “A Clash of Civilizations?” and “Moving on from 9/11?” The chapters
are not an extended study of a singular type of media representation of Muslims,
but rather a bringing together separate elements into a whole so that we
can look at the issues from several viewpoints. I will mention three of those
that cover topics not often found in academic studies of Muslims and the media.
Chapter 3 relates the personal experiences of John Martinkus, a professional
journalist trying to cover the Iraq war over the last decade for a book
and later on SBS (Special Broadcasting Service), an Australian broadcast company.
His story highlights how the increasingly dangerous on-the-ground situation
eventually interfered with proper reporting. Not only did it become very
expensive to hire security, but western journalists were largely confined to reporting
from safe hotels and subcontracting to local Iraqis or being embedded
with the military. Martinkus notes that the only Iraqis they could interview
were those employed by the US military/media or who had a US military gun
pointing at them. Journalists living in fear tended to support Washington’s view
as to why they were there and the efficacy of the mission itself ...