Terrorism has nothing to
do with gender, but women are often become the most vulnerable affected by the prejudiced
Since the attack incident of WTC Twins Tower in
New York, 2001, which is also known as the 9/11 tragedy, the coverage of
terrorism has always become hot-button topics in media. The issue highlighted
by the media has no longer focused on the issue of criminality of terrorists
and their plotters, but has been extended to anything related to Islam, the
“label” which is then always attached to the acts of terrorism.
Islam in turn has become very close to the
image of “violence”. Although it is undeniable there is a terrorist
movement that claims to be a defender of Islam. But, for whose interests are
they being defended? Those questions have unfortunately never been answered in
the media’s coverage of terrorism.
Because of the ‘closeness of Islam to the image
of violence’, the acts against terrorism then shift into action targeting
certain religious cultural symbols.
Media unintentionally have made generalization
on a very common temptation, in which according to UNESCO’s handbook, by
regularly relating terrorism to Islamic religion and its attributions. Instead
of combating the terrorism, in turn it created public anxiety of non-Muslim
groups, for example Western society. The excessive panic to the threat of
terrorism, for example, makes a group of people vent their anger on the other
groups who are accused to be affiliated to terrorists. In this case, women are
actually the most vulnerable ones to the impact of labeling terrorists in media
We still remember, how the policemen in France had
forced a Muslim woman to take her burkini off on the beach. Burkini is a swimsuit
that covers her entire body, which actually looks like a diving suit. In some other
countries, the Government have even prohibited the use of veils or religious
symbols to Muslim women.
In fact, the veil or hijab is not only a clothing of Muslim women, but it’s also wore by
other religious groups, such as Catholics nuns or Jewish women. There are
various arguments behind Muslim women wearing a veil:
– For some women, covering the head and entire
body as an obedience to their religious orders.
– Some Arabic women in the Middle East use
veils because of their local customs and culture
– Another small groups’ reason is to follow the
fashion trends. Muslim fashion has emerged as a new market.
– The last one is a group of women who wear
veils because of the coercion of their authoritarian governments/states.
Clothing style is often viewed by Western media
as measure of modernization (See: the article below). Meanwhile, a “veil” is
generally considered to a woman whose culturally traditional, conservative and uneducated.
Unfortunately, media keep supporting this
label. Women’s style of clothing is not viewed as an individual choice or part
of the freedom of expression. If we see from the reasons above, the arguments
of Muslim clothing can be perceived variously, from a commodification of religion, culture, economy to politics. The coercion
of anti-veil in France in fact is same to a force of wearing veil by Middle
East’s dictatorial Government, with their respective justifications. For
anti-terrorist groups, particularly in Western countries, the veil has been
wrongly interpreted as a representation of Islamic terrorists, thus it’s
dangerous for the national security.
Objectivity and Bias
The media coverage of terrorism tends to
illustrate the two sides: ‘the self’ and ‘the enemy’, which are based
on a series of elementary dichotomies such as good/evil, just/unjust,
innocent/guilty, rational/irrational, civilised/barbaric,
organised/chaotic, superior to technology/part of technology,
human/animal-machine, united/fragmented, heroic/cowardice and
determined/insecure. (Galtung,1969). This transformation of an adversary into
an enemy is supported by a set of discourses, articulating the identities of
all parties involved, and generating an ideological model of war (Cammaert
& Carpentier, 2009). In that sense, the ideal of objectivity sets a number
of ethical guidelines, like ‘getting both sides of the story’ and ‘not favoring
one side over the other’. These two guidelines are considered as ‘balance’ and
‘impartiality’ (or ‘neutrality’). (Raeijmaekers & Maeseele, 2015)
As a result, a framing built by media has provided
bias, which in fact has divided Muslim VS Non-Muslims (Western), terrorist
(Islam) VS victims (Western), evil (Islam) VS goodness (Western). This relation
has not only heighten the differences, but also cause new violence against
people who are not related to terrorists. Media is failed to build a mutual
cooperation to fight against a common enemy: terrorism – not matter what ‘their
cloth, religion or ideology’ they use.
actually relies on a pseudo-objectivity on their reporting about terrorism.
Media coverage only use their own view and ignore the pluralism. The fight
against terrorism must not be bias on symbols, such as veil, dress-codes, or
other religious symbols.