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European television representations of Islam as security threat: A comparative analysis

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project and follow-on project

Follow-on Project: Start Date: April 15 2013 -  End Date: April 16 2013

Original Project: Start Date: 1 September 2006 - End Date: 31 October 2009


This on- year follow project provides a Post-Arab Spring update to the original three-year project involving a new catalogueing and coding of British, French, and Russian Broadcasts from which quantitative data and qualitative case studies were drawn.  This updates the original project corpus with a new, contemporary set of recordings and related analyses covering May-June 2013, a period which included the shocking murder near Woolwich Barracks of the British soldier, Lee Rigby, by two radical Islamists, as well as some of the most critical moments in the Syrian conflict, and the overthrow of Egypt’s President Morsi. 

The orignal projected offer the first cross-national study of media's representation of the nexus connecting Islam and security.  It examines three countries (Britain, France and Russia) which share similarities in their postcolonial relations with Islamic states, resident Muslim populations, and concern with the 'war on terror', but also exhibit differences of media and political cultures, international alignments, and policy towards Muslim minorities.

Nature of the project

Following the terrorist attacks of the 9/11 and 7/7, academic discussions of Islam and security issues throughout Europe and the USA have become polarised between revisionist critiques of multiculturalism and exposés of western duplicity. Polemical stances in each targeted nation have tended to be adopted in response to the latest local outrage, linked in turn to an undifferentiated global Islamic threat or an equally indiscriminate western hegemony.

Nealy ten years on, there has been a shift in the public concensus on multiculturalism, a rise in inter-community tensions and, more recently, dramatic transformations in the relationship between Islam and democracy throughout the Arab world.

Both the original and follow-on project have aimed to address the limitations inherent in such approaches by developing a comparative perspective on the topic derived from the first, cross-national, interdisciplinary study of televisual representations of Islam as security threat.

The follow-on project seeks to work with a range of partners in order to enhance the knowledge and understanding of key governmental, media, and media monitoring organisations in respect of an issue of vital national and international relevance.  


Primary Research:

  • To differentiate French, British and Russian media representations of the Islamic dimension to the 'War on Terror';
  • To examine the different ways in which security issues link with immigration and integration questions in three European countries;
  • To analyse the varieties of relationships between the 'War on Terror' and the assertion of national identity in the countries under scrutiny;
  • To assess the ideological systems of values, beliefs and attitudes underlying the framing of a key issue of domestic and foreign policy on three national television channels;
  • To set out a theoretical and methodological synthesis combining recent developments in political theory of ideology with cultural studies approaches to media representations.

Follow-on Research:

  • To inform media practices in reporting sensitive issues surrounding Muslims, extremism and security;
  • To shape government interpretations of the way in which these issues affect domestic and foreign policy in a country of strategic importance
  • To initiate and sustain a cross-cultural discussion by policy-makers and media practitioners of the implications of our research findings for the future of multicultural, multi-faith societies across Europe.

Additional projects:

Latest reports:

The team is pleased to announce the publication of an important new report on television news coverage of Islam on BBC1 and the French channel, France 2. The report, which is based on research conducted between 2006 and 2013, and which includes analysis of how the Lee Rigby murder and the current Syrian crisis have been reported, can be downloaded on our Outputs and data page.

Contact us

Professor Stephen Hutchings, The University of Manchester

Phone: +44 (0) 161 275 8307

Professor Christopher Flood, University of Surrey

Phone: +44 (0) 1483 682850

Dr. Kenzie Burchell, The University of Manchester  (Follow-on Project Research Associate)