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CfMM Submission to the APPG on British Muslims Report on COVID-19

The Centre for Media Monitoring has submitted findings to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims’ Report on COVID-19: the impact on British Muslim Communities

From the outbreak of the pandemic throughout the lockdown period and the easing of lockdown restrictions in the UK, there has been a problematic trend towards attributing blame for the spreading of the virus to minorities, particularly those of East Asian appearance and Muslims. This not only further perpetuates the negative portrayal of Muslims in the media more generally, but feeds into the far-right trend of blaming Muslims explicitly for the spread of the pandemic, which fuels hate crime, prejudice and discrimination.

This submission, therefore, seeks to showcase the different ways in which the media has negatively portrayed Muslims during the pandemic and how this is different from its reporting of other communities. In this submission, evidence of the negative portrayal is broken down by the following themes:

  1. Usage of imagery of visibly Muslim individuals, when irrelevant to the story, creating a subconscious link between Muslims and the virus.
  2. Focus on religious identity and sensationalism when reporting on stories related to Muslims during the pandemic, and sensationalist reporting on sensitive issues related to Muslims.
  3. Apportioning blame to Muslims specifically for the spread of the virus in stark contrast to the reporting of non-Muslims with specific regard to the spread of COVID-19 or breaching regulations.

There have been more issues than can be addressed within the confines of this submission, but the above is a brief overview of some of the more serious issues we have encountered, an explanation of why they are problematic, and a comparison with coverage of similar events involving people of other (or no) faith.

This is by no means an exhaustive submission; however, we feel there is sufficient evidence to show that there are some incidents of irresponsible editorial decisions being made which may adversely impact the UK Muslim communities.

Together, these themes that we have seen emerging since March 2020 create the impression that Muslim communities play a unique role in the spread of the virus, that Muslims willfully breach lockdown restrictions and seek to scapegoat Muslim communities.

Though it is outside of the scope of this inquiry, it is important to understand why the way in which the media has so negatively portrayed Muslims throughout the pandemic is problematic and what the impact of this is.

The full submission can be downloaded below.