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‘Neither one nor t’other': How Scottish journalists conceive of Islam in the dominant sectarian paradigm

Munnik, Michael ORCID: 2015. ‘Neither one nor t’other': How Scottish journalists conceive of Islam in the dominant sectarian paradigm. Presented at: Scottish Religious Cultures Network, Belfast, 28-29 May 2015.

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Scotland’s religious culture is dominated by the polarised profiles of Protestantism and Catholicism. Media representations of Scottish religion fix on sectarianism, but an increasingly visible Islamic culture fits uneasily within this frame. In Glasgow, Muslims are particularly active and prominent in public and political life, making it a fruitful site for study. In this paper, I draw on data from interviews with journalists in Glasgow to assess their conceptions of Muslims in Scotland. Muslims make up a small percentage of Scotland’s population, but they receive disproportionately high interest from the news media. Studies which demonstrate this trend and examine it tend to focus on the content of news texts – that which is published, printed and broadcast. My research from 2012-13 instead looked qualitatively at relationships between journalists and sources who identify as Muslim, using observation, semi-structured interviews, and documentary analysis to understand how these representations are crafted. A key element in organising my findings was a consideration of how journalists conceive of Muslims as a subject. My research found a more nuanced appreciation among journalists of the diversity of Muslims and the challenges they face than scholarly and popular literature suggests. Journalists also expressed uncertain and sometimes contradictory views about whether to frame Muslims religiously or whether the designation can encompass ethnic and social markers. Of specific interest to this paper was the question of authority and representative status, and in their attempts to negotiate this question, journalists compared Islam with the familiar leadership structures in Scotland: the hierarchical model of the Roman Catholic Church and the diffuse model of the Church of Scotland. Islam, being neither one nor the other but exhibiting characteristics of both, emerges as a distinctive religious culture in Scotland but one which presents a puzzle for the news media. Understanding how journalists conceive of these religious communities and their practical expectations of spokespeople gives us a context in which to analyse reporting on religion in Scotland’s mass media.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian Denominations
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2022 09:23

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