The “Salah Effect”
Categories: Latest News
Monday June 24 2019
A recent study produced by Stanford University has shown that the county of Merseyside has experienced a reduction in Islamophobic hate crime since the Egyptian striker, Mo Salah, was signed by Liverpool Football Club in June 2017. It is suggested that his record achieving performances as the consecutive top goal scorer for the last two years has helped reduce anti-Muslim sentiment and challenge the associated negative stereotypes. This highlights the incredible impact that positive media representation of Muslims can have for community cohesion. We must increase positive coverage of Muslims to help counteract negative perceptions and challenge harmful attitudes.
Although he is best known for his outstanding football abilities and list of accolades (including Forbes list of 100 most influential figures) Mo Salah has always been open and committed about his Islamic faith. After each goal, fans around the world can see him celebrate by prostrating (sujood) in prayer, whilst we can also see him regularly reciting shahada and duaas before each match, using his hands or pointing his index finger upwards. This has inevitably heightened people’s familiarity with Islam and humanises Muslims, with evidence from Stanford University’s study suggesting that there was an 18.9% reduction in hate crimes across Merseyside whilst anti-Muslim tweets on social media decreased by half. Additionally, the club’s hard-line stance against the Islamophobic abuse targeting Mo Salah also establishes the tone for fans to follow. This shows how positive portrayals and greater representation have an impact on communities and help reduce hate crime.
A study published by the Islamic Human Rights Commission highlights how Muslims are portrayed negatively on various media outlets, including TV and print media, film, and literature, with coverage frequently propagating orientalist stereotypes. Respondents from their research suggested that British and American films utilise harmful narratives that demonises Muslims as ‘violent’ and ‘barbaric’ whilst a further study by the University of Lancaster found that for every positive or neutral reference to Muslims or Islam in UK print media there are 21 negative references. The momentum of public discourse (as shaped by media representation) has a direct impact on people’s understandings and legitimises public calls for and public acceptance of policies that detrimentally impact Muslim populations, of which the PREVENT strategy and racial profiling in the application of Schedule 7 stop and search procedures are prime examples. As negative stereotypes have a grounded consequence for Muslims and obstructs their sense of security and inclusion in civic life, it is imperative that broadcasting industries endeavour to promote more normalised, positive, and diverse representations of Muslims.
Increasing normalised and positive media coverage of Muslims can also help encourage Muslims to identify and feel included within the national narrative. In his speech at Channel 4’s annual diversity lecture in the Houses of Parliament, actor and rapper Riz Ahmed addressed the need for more BAME representation in the media. He warned that the widespread prevalence of Islamophobia in the filming industry can lead to serious consequences for community cohesion as Muslims may feel disconnected and potentially seek to find acceptance and belonging within fringe narratives and alternative ideologies online. This highlights the importance of needing positive role models and representation in the media.
At MEND, we urge parliamentarians to support initiatives by the broadcasting industry to promote positive portrayals of Muslims in the media.