“There are no voiceless people. Only people that haven’t been heard yet.” — Centre For Media Justice
“Radical, fanatical, fundamentalist, extremist and militant” are the most common terms which come up in relation to Muslims in the media. According to research by the Centre of Ethnicity and Racism studies on Muslims in the media, “70% of all news items gathered were hostile.”
Stuart Hall’s seminal book, Policing the Crisis identified the insidiousness in which the media represented black communities in the 1970s. Hall showed the way ‘muggings’ were disproportionately reported, how blame was attributed to black men (whilst drawing on racist tropes) and how the political and media establishment drew pointed fingers at the supposed ‘cultural defects’ of the the African-Caribbean community. The mass hysteria, outrage and ensuing racialised laws sowed the seeds for rampant social disharmony. The racial tension of the era characterised by a series of riots from the Southall riots of 1979 to the Brixton riots of 1981. What makes Hall’s book so relevant is how timeless it is. Replace, ‘black’ community with ‘Muslim’ or ‘immigrant’ or “Asian” and we can recognise the ‘moral panic’ Hall describes in a range of different ways in todays world.
Listening to the radio last week, a man called in. He said, things have changed and other groups integrate better. He said, with his chest, loud and proud that he would never get into a car with a ‘Muslim cabbie.’ You can rest assured that he went unchallenged.
‘Structural injustice’ are two words. Like most words they do little to convey the state of things in any concrete way. The truth of those two words can often be mundane. As mundane as as telling your 11 year old child not to be too vocal in school lest they question him. The truth of those two words, as we’ve seen in the news, can also be as overtly violent as enforced chartered flights to a land you’ve never been to or claimed.
And so the juggernaut of discord ploughs on. The machines whir and the journalists and politicians went to the same schools. The viral clips are produced by producers locked in the cycle and the foreign correspondents are disconnected. Piers Morgan is on TV & Rod Liddle calls for Tower Hamlets to be bombed. This is Britain.
There are organisations, groups and collectives engaged in the active resistance of speaking back, on their own terms. ‘New media’ can feel like empty jargon but it can also be a medium for ownership, for empowerment and archiving. Communities have been doing this work for a number of years, producing their own radical grassroots media and self-publishing works. From the glorious legacy of the New Beacon Books in Finsbury Park to the Grenfell Action Blog to In Our Hands, which aims to get more working class voices in the media. The internet has also played a huge part in democratising the media landscape with the likes of Media Diversified and Gal-Dem. These are some of the few sites of resistance in a context where the social conditions are dire and where the mainstream media onslaught is relentless.
Khidr Collective, a multi-disciplinary arts collective platforming young Muslim artists, was inspired by many of these organisations, publishers and media outlets. We publish the bi-annual Khidr Collective Zine which features the essays, short stories, comics, poetry & photography from young Muslims from across the UK. We’ve published 19 year old artists painting murals of Muslim women cycling to playwrights writing on ‘The Frontiers of Whiteness.’ Our work is inspired by an intuitive sense that there is a need for more uncensored spaces for artistry by Muslims to flourish. Beyond this, we recognise how necessary it is to see ourselves beyond the political labels and as diverse, non-homogenous communities who have been surviving and thriving for many years in Britain. And ultimately, to find a voice for those who have yet to be heard.