Constructing Indonesian Islam in the context of the War on Terror: A critical analysis of how the Australian press framed the ‘Other’

Inez Mahony (2010). Constructing Indonesian Islam in the context of the War on Terror: A critical analysis of how the Australian press framed the ‘Other’ PhD Thesis, School of Journalism and Communication, The University of Queensland.

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Author Inez Mahony
Thesis Title Constructing Indonesian Islam in the context of the War on Terror: A critical analysis of how the Australian press framed the ‘Other’
School, Centre or Institute School of Journalism and Communication
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-09
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Levi Obijiofor
Ass Prof Eric Louw
Total pages 314
Total colour pages 2
Total black and white pages 312
Subjects 20 Language, Communication and Culture
Abstract/Summary An escalation of anti-Muslim sentiment and fear of Indonesia as the ‘world’s largest Muslim nation’ in post-9/11 Australia detrimentally affects social cohesion within Australia. It also affects international relations with Indonesia, and relations between the world’s Muslims and non- Muslims. Finding solutions to this problem necessitates understanding how it came about. This study responded by exploring the way mainstream Australian media have constructed images of Indonesian Islam and Muslims and how War on Terror discourses have influenced those constructions. It did so by way of a discourse and textual analysis of a large body of newspaper articles taken from an 8-year period, beginning three years prior to September 2001. The thesis argues the collective majority of mainstream representations adopt a Western Orientalist worldview that is, rather unconsciously, infused with cultural racisms. War on Terror related issues, events and rhetoric disseminated in political and media discourse have substantially reshaped constructions of Indonesians in the Australian media. Fallout from the War on Terror has led to Indonesians being Othered in media text. It has pushed our ‘Asian’ neighbours further over to the Other side of the broadening gap between ‘us’ Westerners and ‘them’ Muslims. Such homogenisation of a culturally, ethnically and religiously diverse people has occurred on various levels, both intentionally and unintentionally. A stereotypical image of Indonesian Muslims as increasingly prone to becoming terrorists or supportive of terrorist actions has emerged. This is due in part to a disproportionate amplification of the Muslim terrorist threat in reportage and an absence of ordinary Indonesian Muslim voices, alternative perspectives and contextual information. Although not systemic, particular publications and authors displayed patterns of racist ideologies, political bias or sensationalist journalism. Conversely, consistent demonstrations of responsible and ethical journalism were also detected in certain publications and in the work of individuals. The study substantially augments scant empirical scholarship into media portrayals of Indonesia, a country of extreme importance to Australia. It further adds a dimension absent from the growing body of research into the Othering of (mainly Middle Eastern) Muslims in Western media. Theoretically, the study advances erudition on the practice of Othering, arguing that its impetus does not only rest on moral codes but also pragmatic ones. But this ground is constantly shifting. Further, Othering need not be purely exclusionary and hierarchical, but can be inclusionary, equal, and mutually beneficial. Significantly, in theorising the role of Western mainstream media in the marginalisation of Indonesian Muslims, this study combined critical theory and journalistic perspectives with a cultural perspective. It thereby mitigates one-sidedness, allowing for a more objective and careful analysis. The innovative research approach to empirical analysis was v developed from critical discourse analysis and framing analysis approaches. It is largely qualitative but applies quantitative techniques to strengthen findings. The multi-dimensional design allows for methodical macrostructural analysis of a large data sample as a whole and also more intense scrutiny of sub samples. Comparative analyses of samples, periods and publications allowed for results to be verified, moderated and contextualised, and key contributors to Exclusionary Othering to be identified. By scrutinising both damaging and constructive elements of news coverage this study highlights areas for improvement and points to a positive model for reportage involving groups that are culturally or ethnically different from the mainstream.
Keyword Australian press representations, Indonesian Islam, War on Terror, terrorism, journalism,
Additional Notes Colour pages: p. 109, and p. 156.

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Created: Thu, 07 Apr 2011, 09:15:06 EST by Ms Inez Mahony on behalf of Library - Information Access Service