It is well known that the media have enormous influence power on the opinion of the people around the world. History shows that modern wars often based their success on the adequate propaganda in the media. Properly edited press release can change the course of history, the angle of the camera can present the aggressor as the victim. We live in a world based on trust in the media. But what happens when the trust is betrayed?
In April 2012 went around the world alarming information from Egypt: Egypt’s newly formed government, consisting mainly of politicians of the extreme Islamic views, intends to legalize necrophilia. Although the same information quickly has been disowned, forums thundered. One of the first sites that published the shocking news, was a British tabloid Daily Mail. Published April 26 press release has been commented more than 800 times and posted on Facebook more than 25 thousand times. On May 11th notice has been updated, the information that the reports of the legalization of necrophilia were untrue was added. However, the latest comment was published on 27 April, before the publication of a correction. Interestingly, the possibility of publishing comments has been disabled by the portal.
But before the information from the Daily Mail has been disowned, shocking news had time to settle for good on the web. One of the most popular Polish websites, onet.pl, published on April 27 information about the proposed changes in Egyptian law. Also, Internet users discussion started here, who were very forceful in expressing their views. The majority of Internet users did not seem shocked by this news. After reading a few of them can be applied even the impression that it’s obvious that muslims are the embodiment of all deviations and perversions. User called ‘Marynarz’ wrote: “It has been known for a long time, that for them to be with the dead grandmother or beautiful girlfriend is the same thing. It’s wilderness, that’s all.” Another user, ‘taka jedna’, asked “Does a normal guy, learning about the death of his wife, think about having sex with her body? These people are sick! what the religion did with their brains!” Such comments as these could still be much to quote. In addition to a similar theme, one more thing unite them-all were very highly rated by other Internet users, so apparently these people are not isolated with their ideas.
On the example of this one, absurd news, it can be seen how deeply in Europeans minds is rooted the conviction of corruption of the followers of Islam. Europeans are able to believe in practically every, even the worst of slander, if only somebody add, that that this happens in the name of the Islamic religion. This problem concerns the concept of spreading in Europe Islamophobia. This term appeared in the late 80s of twentieth century to be the first time definite for science in 1997 by the Runnymede Trust – a British non-governmental organization dedicated to protecting the rights of minorities. From the etymological point of view of Islamophobia is an irrational (unfounded) fear or aversion to Islam. Islamophobia should call an unjustified hostility toward Islam, which is the basis for the fear and aversion to all or most Muslims. This unreasonable hostility is often associated with the perception of Muslims as religious fanatics with a tendency to use violence against non-Muslims (infidels) and rejecting the values of tolerance, equality and democracy. Countless examples of discrimination against Muslims, their social exclusion and anti-Muslim attitudes seem to be not only a confirmation of the existence of Islamophobia, both in Western societies, as well as in our country, but also remind us that this problem should not be ignored.
Of course, representatives of the Islamic world are aware of the problem and did not intend to remain passive in this case. One example of the actions taken to prevent Islamophobia is to “”launch an aggressive media campaign with the purpose of raising awareness of anti-Muslim hate movements in the world.”, announced during the ninth session of the Islamic Conference of Information Ministers (ICIM), held April 19-20, 2012 by the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The conference called for a correction of „misconceptions” about Islam spreaded by the Western media. Participants of the conference praised the OIC General Secretariat for the efforts of convening a conference in February 2012 in Brussels on ” Defamation of Islam and Muslims in Western Media” in which participated representatives of the authorities and the Arab and Western, and welcomed the proposal of Saudi Arabia set up a ” Fund on Interaction with External Media”, to which the kingdom has allocated $ 25 million. ICIM has decided to formulate a comprehensive program for the international community ” in the languages it understands and in the methods conforming to its logic… in order to correct the image of Islam and clarify its noble mission and lofty values”, with the help and participation of ” member states and ambassadors’ groups in key world capitals”.
Although initiatives such as this are admirable, the question still remains whether they are sufficient. It should be remembered that the image of Muslims in the Arab world or, more broadly the whole of Islam, which is widespread in our society, is a continuation of images that were created centuries ago. The inhabitants of our part of Europe, their knowledge of Islam, drew largely from the same sources as the people living in the West- from Christian polemical writings, which contain little reliable knowledge, and many half-truths, myths and fantastical notions. On the other hand, the history of our lands for centuries was marked by direct contact with the Islamic world (the Tartar invasions, wars with Turkey), which were not peaceful relationship. For this reason, Muslims were seen as enemies, which is not conducive to the creation of their true image, despite direct meetings.
Already in elementary school to young Poles instills the image of muslims seen as primitives, combative, inclined to violence and cruel, also fanatically attached to their religion and promiscuous in matters of sex. For example, Henryk Sienkiewicz in his „In Desert and Wilderness” wrote about Muslims in Africa, portreting them as a cruel and sadistic barbarians. In another novel, “Fire in the Steppe” (also known as Colonel Wolodyjowski), he wrote: „Father Kaminski beat the drum, as if in fear (…) and so, finally ended his speech with prayer: Churches, O Lord, turn to the mosques and the Koran will be singing there where we sang Gospel”. Of course you can postulate that it is only fiction, but the inculcation of children picture Muslims as barbarians certainly affects how they are perceived by adults. The second quote is often cited in the extreme anti-Islam articles, in which Islam is presented as one of the greatest threats of our time.
Perhaps it is this long tradition anti-islam guilty of the fact that no one is surprised to say that Muslims accept necrophilia and even that the Quran contains provisions on the subject. Conducting a black PR campaign is very simple against to Islam- simply spread the rumor about how the Quran prescribes something and wait until the world believe the shocking news. Without any doubt. Surely someone somewhere denies these rumors sooner or later, but as we all know, a lie can be halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on.
Journalism is very important, because in our time the media are a huge force, shaping the consciousness of the majority of society, and even in some way create reality. Media also have a great power of persuasion – for a significant proportion of people sufficient evidence of the truth of any phenomenon or occurrence is that the phenomenon is described by the press or showed through electronic media. In the case of Islam – a culture distant from us geographically – the media play a special role: they are usually the only source of information. Only a few – scholars of Islam and people who have comprehensive knowledge – are able to verify the information conveyed by the media and only this small group draws its news from other sources. The rest of society treats the media as a unique and reliable source of information. Free media in Poland in comparison with the Western media still seems to be immature for that freedom. Journalists without thinking spreading unconfirmed information and people, convinced of the infallibility of the media, believe in everything that can be readied in the newspaper or seen on TV. Journalists should be the guardians of truth, meanwhile, they are mostly the same as the others prejudiced against Islam poles. With the only difference that they can spread their prejudices, because they have power of the media in their hands. Changing attitudes towards Muslim in itself is extremely difficult, but in combination with the impartiality of the media seem to be almost impossible to achieve.