Stupid is as stupid does: media voyeurism of Muslims is not representation

Not one, but two ‘stupid Muslim’ stories today (Wednesday 17 June) on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, all in the space of about 40 minutes. Given that Muslims in the UK are mainly working class and probably like their other working class contemporaries are not listening to the dulcet (or otherwise) tones of James Naughtie and Mishal Hussain, these stories do not provide Muslims (or the ‘other’ minoritised ‘others’ who were also mentioned) a space for discussion. Nor is it a form of representation – of conveying what Muslimness is, or an approximation of it, to an unfamiliar audience.

Instead, as usual, Muslims are simply discussed. Emphasis on simple. This is like Muslim Big Brother but without the Big Brother House. Our everyday lives are represented as repeated crises and backwardness. Our ‘tasks’, a source of hilarity and occasional empathy. The overall message – how entertaining in a newsworthy sense.

Task / Story One: Muslims need to donate more organs. Why? Because there are a disproportionate amount of Asians awaiting organ donations. Cut to genuinely distraught Muslimah on a dialysis machine. Why are Muslims not donating? Because there is a perception that Islam doesn’t allow it. Thank goodness for the BBC Radio 4 Today team who clarify for the listeners, that this not true (with no reference) and that Islam does allow it. Now listen to some Muslim doctors who are highly critical of the ulema.

Stupid Muslims. They don’t donate organs, even when their religion allows them. It’s that simple. The complexity of issues of organ donation that exist and have existed in many faith communities reduced to this. The pain of those awaiting a transplant blamed squarely on Muslim stupidity. Who needs IS to get a bad image?

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