Written by Saraa Abas

The concerning refugee predicament is on its height recently as most European countries struggled to cope with refugee’s influx from the Middle East. In the midst of war, the civilian becomes victims of mass event massacre and displaced from their home. The Syrian’s civil war has displaced more than 11 million of its population, fleeing from home to seek humanitarian support from aiding countries. The conflicting war in Syria continues to be the biggest human displacement followed by Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2015 alone, the EU has settled more than 1 million refugees, where mostly seek for asylum.

Syrian civil war began from the collision between long-serving government, al-Assad family, and rebellion group. Initiates by Arab Spring uprising, people in Middle East demand for political reforms. The frustration is more likely of the government failure to achieve the long-promised economy. The successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt energised and gave hope to Syrian pro-democracy activists and many Islamist movements that were opposed by Assad’s rule. In April 2011, Syrian army attacked the demonstrators, leading the rebellion group armed themselves to fight back. This rebellion group grows combining local tribal groups, deserted militant and Jihadist, each with their own agendas.

In the other hand, battling global terrorism, these refugees are becoming the victims of judgement and discrimination of world issues which stroke some European countries due to several incidences involving Islamist extremist. Having all refugees being Muslims, while some countries welcome them with open arms, in contrary, it raises disputes on the foreign policies of migrant acceptance. It addresses the concerns of widening the risk of terrorist penetration, taking advantage from the migration, along with the on-going social problems among the local.

Since the refugee migration took place, there are several incidences and foreign policies changes in adapting this phenomenal influx. Many were criticised and pressured to give assurance to the refugees as required by The United Nations.

Media Propagation

To understand the current status of refugee crisis today, we monitored the local and international mainstream media outlets that disseminate updates and current news relating to this issue. The reflections of world views upon this matter are much likely influenced by how these media portrays the situation (Gerbner, 1999) and agreement of a particular cause. We examined two media outlets, a Malaysia’s news media, The Star and an international news media, The Guardian. In one month media monitoring is held in the month of October 2016 via online, collecting the related articles and extracting their perspective reporting upon this matter.

Malaysian Media: The Star

The Star is established by Star Media Group Berhad, formerly as Star Publication (Malaysia) Berhad, over 16 years and revamped in 2008, embracing digital news, The Star Online, integrate themselves along with readers demand, offering better access to news stories, channel and multimedia. Apart from news by local journalist, we’ve noticed that The Star subscribed to Reuters, a Russia’s based international media, for its foreign news.

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i.          Denials of human right’s

It has been mixed feeling on the response of European countries providing adequate humanitarian aids for fellow refugees arrived. The Star reported the pressure build up on few European countries to fulfil the basic human need and fair treatment to all refugees. It criticised the failure of those countries to better manage the current crisis and carrying out their responsibilities as developed nation giving assistance to civilians in distressed.   

ii.        ISIS threat

The risk of open doors policy of refugees is the potential of extremist penetration that could jeopardise the safety of local citizen. Due to several occurrences recently in few Europe’s countries, Muslims around the world, particularly from the Middle East were stereotyped and discriminate by politician and the locals. The Star reports of few suspected Syrian refugees were wanted, adding up to the tension to aid provider’s countries. In the reports, The Star repeatedly relates Syrian refugee to agendas of strong connotation like ‘bomb’ and ‘attack’ could leave a perspective on the public readers.

iii.      Restricting borders on refugees

In the period of monitoring, The Star highlights refugee migrant restriction and denial of entrance by few countries on its policies to limit refugee’s intake and deals made between governments to contain the placement of refugees that seek for asylum. The strict restriction led criticism over respective government decision not only denying their duty but also increase the risk of danger of refugees casualties, fleeing from home seeking for humanitarian aids.

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International Media: The Guardian

For the international media, The Guardian, is part of the Guardian Media Group, owned by The Scott Trust Limited which was created in 1936. In recent 2010, the Guardian has significantly developed and expanded its digital operations. Their objective is to secure the financial and editorial independence of The Guardian in perpetuity and to safeguard the journalistic freedom and liberal values of The Guardian free from commercial or political interference.


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In their reports, The Guardian constantly showcase the current situation of the Calais refugee camp and criticise the British government on its treatment of Calais’s children refugees. The Calais refugee camp is the largest refugee placement that is scheduled to be shut down due to its unavailability to occupy large amount of refugees. The demand of France government for the Britain to fulfil their duty has gained support by the media, which pressure the Britain government to uphold its humanities values over restriction of migration policies.

i.          Refugees crisis management

In the midst of refugee crisis around Europe, several interest parties raise their concerns over the financial aids supports and management. The media highlights the rationale of arguments from NGO bodies to have a better plan during the crisis. They also express their frustration on international obligation in fulfilling their moral duty to provide safe havens for the victims. In several other articles, the media relevantly shares their opinion on the current management effort and how participating countries should improve.

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ii.        Criticism on European humanities values

The Guardian strongly highlights their criticism over the loss of humanities values in many westerns countries. They also constantly promoting and persuading their readers to have good humanities values in understanding the refugee hardship during these times, trying to eliminates negative perception among societies. Many concerned of the westerner’s avoidance in giving helping hands to ease the crisis and the up rise of discrimination and racism to the refugees.


From the observation over the month, we can see that the Malaysian media reliance of foreign media Reuters, shapes types of news and perspective of news reporting. The news focused is on the foreign government policies and ISIS updates instead of highlighting the internal problems faced by the refugees. From our view, the constant news of refugee’s rejection is the main angle of news story. The Star has very little opinion of the current situation and only reports factual policies. Apart from that, The Star most likely to report on the Syrian civil war updates in Aleppo compared to addressing the issues of refugees migration. This may due to the Malaysia’s does not highly impacted by the crisis, but The Star showed their support in condemning the on-going war.

The Guardian constantly promotes humanity values and shares an open criticism to respective countries that denied their duty on humanitarian aids. Not only spreading news, they also highlight writer’s opinion supporting the refugee’s humanitarian aid relating to local’s values and belief to reduce the tension and negative perception of the public of the current issues. In most of their article, they often discussed foreign response and reactions in welcoming the refugees. Their articles also supported by many opinion leaders in convincing their readers to understand and persuade them to give a helping hand to those in need. There has been large coverage on this issue because The Guardian, a media based in UK, is highly impacted from this crisis. Therefore, a constant coverage and advocacy is a must.


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Stereotyping of the Arabs by the Western Media

Written by Rasheffa Rashid

Post-tragedy September 11 in 2001, the world especially the western counties became more aware of the existence of Muslims, unfortunately for the wrong cause. The way the western media portrayed and exposed the incident that took over 3000 lives, blamed a group of Muslims and labelled them as terrorists for intruding and killing innocent people. The misconception of media had made the world especially the western, with some have not ever heard of the religion Islam started hating without understanding further and they also believed the information media fed them with.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported a 1,700 percent increase of hate crimes against Muslim Americans between the years of 2000 to 2001.

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Since September 11, the perception on Islam and its followers in America changed and every Muslim was started to be labelled as terrorist. The western media had its own agenda in portraying the incident which some experts claim is a conspiracy against Islam itself or maybe the Arab world. The 9/11 “terrorist attack” also impacted other Muslim countries and also affected the Asians.

Even after 15 years since the tragedy, Muslims are still trying hard to clear the tarnished name of Islam. Many efforts had been taken to educate the western world on the simplicity and humbleness of the religion. While these efforts were in progress, some western population started to understand the religion better, with some decided to follow the faith of Islam. Figures by proved that the Muslim population has been increasing with high rates of conversions and through births. Islam has become the fastest-growing religion and now has the largest followers on the planet with 2.08 billion Muslims. The site estimates that by 2030, one out of three persons in the world will be Muslim.

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However, this did not stop the western media from continuously stereotyping Muslims (Asian Muslims or Arab Americans) if a terror attack or a bombing incident occurs. The initial suspects are always Muslims. Osama bin Laden was always the main suspect for the attacks, and after his depart, The Islamic State (ISIS) is the new plot to blame the involvement of Muslims in terrorism activities. For example, the Daily Mail on 26 June 2016 with the headline: Terror suspect dubbed ‘the man in the hat’ after Paris and Brussels attacks becomes British police’s first ISIS Supergrass reported, Mohamed Abrini, 31, a Belgian, had been linked to the recent Paris and Brussels attacks, he was dubbed ‘man in the hat’ due to his attire at Brussels Airport in March. It was reported that Abrini has been helping the British police to stop terrorist plots and jihadists, however, he became the main ISIS suspect for UK, now he faces court hearings in Belgium. He was spotted on CCTV travelling to Paris two days before the Paris attack which killed 130 people in November 2015. He is also investigated for his link to the suicide bombing at Brussels Airport March 2016, which took 22 lives.

These planned attacks that were proclaimed by ISIS changed the perception on Islam where it portrayed the brutality of religion in killing and attacking countries they target. In other ways, the western media is trying to portray that the attacks did not stop with Taliban or Osama bin Laden, it is trying to show to the world that the religion Islam itself is cruel and takes many lives for its own objective, in the name of jihad. The scenario in some way ruined the awareness works conducted to explain about Islam post 9/11.  What the western population failed to understand is that most Arabs in America are not necessarily Muslims, and most Muslims are not Arabs, while there are Arab Americans that originate from Lebanon and Syria, while some Muslim Americans are African Americans from South Asia. For them, as portrayed by western media, Muslims are terrorists.

The western media has represented Arabs and Muslims since decades ago. The west conceptualised Islam ever since the first contacts with Arabs Muslims. The term Islam as it is used today seems to mean something simple, the fact is, it is actually part of a fiction, an ideological label and a part of minimal designation of a religion called Islam. Today Islam sadly is a traumatic news in the West.

The negative picture of what Islam and Arabs are was described early in the Middle Ages, especially during the Crusade Wars and along the Arabs expansion in Europe since decades ago. The West promoted almost the same stereotypes for Arabs and Muslims and the pattern is now carried through the many channels of media to brainwash and block the minds of the people in the western world, suiting its agenda.

Many researchers examined the stereotyped image of Arabs in the Western media since many years ago. This is observed in a study by Shaheen (1983) which portrayed:

“…how the American media stereotypes of Arabs accompany a child from his early years to graduating from college, through editorial cartoons, television shows, comic strips, comic books, students textbook, in magazines and newspapers.” (Shaheen, 1983).
Shaheen said, the Arabs were dehumanized and presented as the ‘bad guys’”.
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The west media never respected the Arabs, may it be Arab Americans or Asians; the hatred against Islam has been pre-conceptualized negatively in cartoon images on newspapers and magazines. Scholars had also studied this stereotyped image in editorial cartoons and comic strips. A study by Stockton in (1994) resulted that images of the Arabs had been presented in hundreds of cartoons from editorial pages and comic strips. All the cartoons Stockton studied presented a dehumanizing image of Arabs. The latest incident of humiliating Muslims and Arabs was a comic strip by a French satirical weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo, publishing a number of cartoons mimicking Prophet Muhammad SAW. This angered Muslim around the world, the magazine later became targets of two terrorist attacks, in 2011 and 2015, respectively.

The American society also stereotypes Arab American women as veiled, docile, home bound victims. A researcher addressed how contemporary American fiction presented Arabs and Muslims as “backward, greedy, lustful, evil, or inhumane”.

“…this group makes “convenient scapegoats in almost all contemporary fiction that deals with Middle East themes”. (Terry, 1983)

The stereotyping of Muslim women began during the Taliban’s insidious reign in Afghanistan, it illustrated lifestyles of the Muslim women under the Taliban rule after 9/11. Muslim women faced discrimination even from the way they dress. Issues on veil and headscarf have been on- going for many-many decades. Among the popular cases is the story of the three students in France where their rights to wear headscarves in school was discriminated. Their acts to stand up for their religion turned many heads, teachers protested and the France government got involved and new guidelines and rules were made siding the school management. The fight of the three girls began in 1989 and it went on until 2003.  Between 1994 and 2003, around 100 female students were suspended or expelled from middle and high schools for wearing the scarf in class. In nearly half of these cases, their exclusions were annulled by the French courts.

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The identity of the Arabs has also been distorted by the media, the complexions of male and female Arabs described differently, where the men are always shown with dark complexion and the females are often fair.  The distortion of Arabs identity is observed in the Disney cartoon ‘Aladin’, where the personality of legendary figure Princess Jasmine was changed ranging from her name to her character. Ascribing to her all the features that are allegedly believed to characterize Muslim and Arab women. The change of identity, the color of complexion and the clothing of Jasmine in the cartoon showed to the world especially children about the characteristic of Arabs, is an indoctrination process to blindfold the people of the world and the young about the Arabs. This proves that the process to spread negativity about Muslims has been designed many-many decades ago through many mediums of the media. The media has the power to influence the mind of its listeners, viewers and readers through many channels where messages are delivered.

The reason for the western media to stereotype Arab Americans and the Muslims around the world, is because of the inferiority of the ‘other’ stereotyped image presents, it is not only promoting the superiority of the stereotyper, but also provides immunity for transgressing against the stereotyped group. Stockton recognized :

“…. that such stereotyping can be justify key policy decisions taken by political power for it to justify injustices committed by individuals or nations against the stereotyped ‘other.” (Stockton, 1994)

The impact of the negative stereotyping of Arabs on Arab Americans, has caused the Arab community to suffer in many ways, as the negative stereotyped image of Arabs has been planted in the minds of Americans and the rest of the world over the decades. It was also found, in a study on American press coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflicts in 1956, 1967 and 1973 that showed negative stereotype of the Arabs was used as a weapon by the American media in favour of Israel.  Having its own propaganda to oppress the Muslim world and the religion Islam itself, the America-Israel leaders had plotted the stereotyping of the Arabs Muslims decades ago by misleading the world on the truth about the Muslims and their lifestyle in practising the religion.


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