Cruel murderers, dangerous fanatics or exotic strangers: The representation of Muslims and Islam in the French and Dutch press in the late nineteenth century
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At the eve of the twentieth century, curiosity for the Islamic world flourished in Western Europe. According to Edward Said, the contemporary image of the Muslims largely results from this period. However, empirical, structured comparisons between the historical representations of Islam in different countries have so far remained a research gap. The paper tries to fill this gap by focusing on the following research question: To what extent did a different image of Muslims and Islam exist in France and the Netherlands in the late nineteenth century? This question is answered by using a content analysis of 330 newspaper articles published in French newspaper Le Petit Parisien and Dutch newspaper Het Nieuws van den Dag in the period 1895-1897. It turns out that the Dutch newspaper focuses mostly on the stereotypical image of the ‘violent Muslim’, while the French newspaper pays relatively more attention to the stereotype of ‘religious fanaticism’. In both newspapers, Muslims were mainly associated with news events in the Ottoman Empire, although there were also some notable Islam-related events that took place in France. In France as well as the Netherlands, the press coverage about Islam was mostly negative. An important difference was that the French colonial policy was aimed at spreading French ideas, while the Dutch were not interested in such ‘moral conquest’. As a consequence, the Dutch chose not to hinder their colonial subjects in their practice of Islam.