“This is not a Muslim ban” - The representation of Muslims in the initial news coverage of four American regional newspapers around Trump’s travel ban in 2017
MetadataShow full item record
When on September 11, 2001, the United States was victim of a terrorist attack by Islamic terrorist network al-Qaeda, representations of Arabs and Muslims in U.S. media shifted. Many Arabs and Muslims in the United States became victims of “hate crimes, work place discrimination, bias incidents, and airline discrimination” (Alsultany, 2012, p. 4), and media started representing both Arabs and Muslims alike as the Other, by mainly talking about Arabs and Muslims, rather than giving them a voice in the discourse (Joseph, D’Harlingue & Wong, 2008). At the same time, Muslims were mainly portrayed in a negative way in U.S. media (Ahmed & Matthes, 2016; Nurullah, 2010). On January 27, 2017, former President Donald Trump released an executive order banning all individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 to 120 days. In this case, Muslims were the victims of a U.S. President’s decision, instead of the perpetrators of a terrorist attack on the United States. To find out whether this different role of Muslims also means they are differently represented in U.S. media, this study discovered how Muslims were represented in the initial news coverage of four American regional newspapers around President Trump’s travel ban in 2017. The regional perspective provides relevant insights because individuals and groups should not only be fairly represented in national papers, but also in regional ones. The Critical Discourse Analysis framework by Fairclough (1989) was used to analyze the representation of Muslims in a total of 100 newspaper articles from the Salt Lake Tribune (Utah), Dayton Daily News (Ohio), the Chicago Daily Herald (Illinois), and The Spokesman-Review (Washington). As Fairclough’s (1989) view on discourse searches for the relationship between texts and their social context, this study analyzed Muslim representation in discourse through a textual, discursive and social dimension. Findings showed that the four regional newspapers mainly referred to the individuals subject to the travel ban as refugees, Muslims, or by naming their country of origin. However, Chicago Daily Herald used more personal terms than the other newspapers. Regarding the attributes that were ascribed to the Muslims, the newspapers mostly wrote about them being banned from the United States, and being demonized. This supports earlier research by Ahmed & Matthes (2016) and Nurullah (2010) in that Muslims in U.S. media are mainly portrayed in a negative way. Dayton Daily News wrote least about the individuals being demonized, and The Spokesman-Review mostly wrote about them being accepted and sympathized, compared to the other newspapers. Furthermore, the Muslims themselves were given the least voice in the newspaper articles, while the most voice was given to institutional experts, who were mainly politicians. This lack of voice in the discourse supports previous research by Joseph, D’Harlingue & Wong (2008), Nurullah (2010), and Shaheen (2008), who found that Muslims were often represented as the Other in U.S. media. Though these findings portray a clear image of Muslim representation, it must be noted that the results have emerged from the initial ten days of news coverage and that different results will presumably be found in later news coverage.