The issues even overtly close to the Muslim community are regarded as highly controversial. Europe and the United States are still searching for the right balance between religious tolerance and the need to address human rights violations. The topic of forced marriages is one of the most highly publicized. After all, the influx of those coming from Muslim countries to seek asylum in Europe is evident. In 2010, around 19.5 million Muslims resided in the European Union, and the number increased to 25.8 million, or 4.9%, in a matter of 5 years, according to Pew Research Center (2017). The paper argues that with the growing number of Muslim immigrants entering Europe, the discourse surrounding domestic violence is becoming more racialized. The purpose of the work is to analyze the rhetoric in the news article from 2011, which discusses the issue of forced marriage and compare it to the existing research regarding violence against women racialization in the media.
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It is not surprising that journalists often use the methods of selectivity and salience to choose and write the materials, which then become the mainstream of news coverage. There are undoubtedly certain biases present in the discussions surrounding the Muslim community. In addition, research shows that instead of identifying causal patterns, media outlets have been focusing primarily on sensational individual criminal pieces either about the offender or the victim for the past decades (Patton, 2018). Moreover, the media is now a source of moral indignation as it is the largest contributor to public concern even if the social problem covered does not reflect reality. Thus, forced marriages seem to be presented as a racialized crime rather than integrated as a part of the bigger problem, which is family violence (Patton, 2018). While it is true that forced marriages are a phenomenon attributed primarily to the Muslim community, intimate partner violence is not exclusive to this population. Thus, while there is a lack of media coverage of intimate partner violence among the native-born European population, such violence is made out to be an ethnic issue emphasized through highly-publicized cases of Muslim force marriage victims.
In terms of the rhetoric used in the article chosen for analysis, it is evident that the author focuses on the aspects of forced marriage without bringing up the larger social context for the issue. Her piece seems to serve a political agenda rather than offering a solution. In terms of vocabulary, Alibhai-Brown (2011) uses words and phrases such as grooming=Asian gangs; becoming ‘westernized’; dreadful stories=Pakistan, Bangladesh, India; savage=Asian men.
The article’s representatives, Muslim men, and women are described as radical, violent, and uncivilized. For instance, the author generalizes the Muslim community by stating that its members treat women “as mere goods or chattels” (Alibhai-Brown, 2011, para. 10). Asian men are presumed to be predators who “prey on young white girls for their perverse sexual satisfaction” (Alibhai-Brown, 2011, para. 16). Essentially, it is apparent that the descriptions of Muslim people are rather negative, with the author pulling significantly from publicized media stories, ages-old stereotypes, and personal biases. Instead of grounding her news piece in fact, Alibhai-Brown (2011) chooses to make a distinct connection between men and women from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Middle East and brutality. Nowadays, the media is full of unfavorable Muslim portrayals by characters that are rooted in stereotypes rather than real life. The author reinforces such stereotypes by reporting that the lives of Muslims are “tormented” and “bigamous” (Alibhai-Brown, 2011, para. 10). Therefore, the article supports the claim that followers of the Islamic faith are somehow not happy and overfilled with sexual desires, which is a narrative perpetuated by the West.
In terms of the author’s attitude toward the representative population, it is filled with nuances. First, it is important to acknowledge that she is sympathetic to the refugee Muslim community and tries to understand the issues predominantly haunting it. There is no expressive outburst of hatred or fear of the representatives. For example, Alibhai-Brown (2011) highlights the trauma of the victims of sexual exploitation as a result of forced marriages who have suffered from Muslim men regarding sex as “not reciprocal or an act of consent” (para. 17). Despite that, the author is biased and often regards Muslims as caged in tradition and sexual repression. The author calls the institutions set up by Muslim tradition “the oppressive system,” which causes young girls and boys to “yearn to be free” (Alibhai-Brown, 2011, para. 12-13). Thus, it is apparent that while sympathizing with the young generation of seemingly oppressed Muslims, the author condemns the generations before it who navigate life in fear of losing their culture due to Westernization.
She structures the text in a way, which highlights 6 sentences that are all racially charged. In addition, while she brings up personal testimonies of those who managed to escape or otherwise deal with arranged marriages, there is no overall solution or goal. Alibhai-Brown (2011) herself says that she is not hopeful, which emphasizes that the problem seems to have no solution and that there is no way for the Muslim community to change and become more tolerant.
In conclusion, with the increasing number of Muslim asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants coming to Europe, the media is still far from discussing the issues related to the Muslim community correctly. While it is certainly important to highlight individual cases, success stories, and specific problems such as arranged marriages, the focus should be on highlighting the larger social context. Additionally, racialized rhetoric has to be minimized in favor of providing actual solutions and proposing appropriate changes to make news coverage a source of information, rather than chaos.
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Alibhai-Brown, Y. (2011). The unpalatable truth about forced marriage. The Daily Mail. Web.
Patton, C. (2018). Racialising domestic violence: Islamophobia and the Australian forced marriage debate. Race & Class, 030639681879218, 1-19. Web.
Pew Research Center (2017). Europe’s growing Muslim population. Pew Forum. Web.