Lengcom 6.4 (2015). ISSN 2386-7477

Artículo evaluado por pares

Muslims, a threat for international security:

The European press’ view on the attacks against Charlie Hebdo


Musulmanes, una amenaza para la seguridad internacional:

La visión de la prensa europea sobre los ataques contra Charlie Hebdo

Jezabel Martínez Fábregas

Seville University


María del Mar González Jiménez

Seville University



Abstract: This study aims at exploring the European media's contribution to Muslims' integration in compliance with the task entrusted by the Common Agenda for Integration, Framework for the Integration of third-country nationals in the European Union, COM (2005) 398, approved by the European Commission (EC) in 2005. Its ultimate goal is to provide evidence of the fact that European media are relating Muslims to Jihadist terrorism, which is preventing them from getting integrated into the European society and brings about the increase of the Islamophobia. To carry out this research, we have studied the media coverage of the attacks against the French weekly Charlie Hebdo, by applying content analysis to the editorials, articles, columns and news published in the online edition of the newspapers El País (Spain) and Liberation (France) since the 7th up to the 10th of January 2015.


Resumen: Esta investigación pretende explorar en qué medida contribuyen los medios de comunicación a la integración de los musulmanes en cumplimiento con la tarea que les encomendó la Agenda Común para la integración, en el marco para la integración de ciudadanos de terceros países en la Unión Europea, COM (2005) 398, aprobada por la Comisión Europea en 2005. Su principal objetivo es demostrar que los medios de comunicación europeos están relacionando a los musulmanes con el terrorismo yihadista, lo cual impide su integración en la Unión Europea y provoca el aumento de la islamofobia. Para llevar a cabo esta investigación, hemos estudiado la cobertura mediática de los atentados perpetrados contra el semanario francés Charlie Hebdo, aplicando el análisis de contenido a los editoriales, artículos, columnas y noticias publicados en la edición online de los diarios El País (España) y Liberation (Francia) desde el 7 hasta el 10 de enero de 2015.


Keywords: Media studies and International Politics; Media and ethnic diversity; Media, Islamism and terrorism; International Communication policies; European media and Jihadist terrorism.

Palabras clave: Estudio de medios y política internacional; medios de comunicación y diversidad étnica; medios de comunicación, islamismo, y terrorismo; políticas de comunicación internacionales; medios de comunicación europeos y terrorismo yihadista. 



1. Introduction

Since the Jihadist terrorism got into the international Politics’ agenda, Europe has been the target of several terrorist attacks: Spain in 2004, the UK in 2005, and France in 2015. These attacks have highly contributed to Muslims’ segregation due to the European society's reluctance to assimilating them, in spite of the integration policies that the EU has developed within the last 10 years. These policies assert that integration is a bidirectional process, through which immigrants must adapt themselves to the policies reigning in the area in which they are going to integrate, and nationals from the receiver country must assimilate the ethnic diversity that migration entails. Regarding the latter, media play an important role in how the nationals from the receiver country assimilate the migrants. Their task, according to the guidelines provided by the European Commission provided them in 2005 via A Common Agenda for Integration, Framework for the Integration of third-country nationals in the European Union, most commonly known as COM (2005) 398, is to broadcast discourses based on respect and tolerance towards the immigrants.


However, these policies have not been fruitful, since attacks against Muslims –most commonly known as acts of islamophobia- have increased disproportionally since 2001, and the esteem of the citizens towards them and the Islam has remarkably fallen. In this connection, the 47% of the asked people had a favourable image of the Islam and Muslims settled in the USA before the terrorist attacks against the Twin Towers perpetrated by Al Qaeda that year occurred in the USA, according to the North American channel ABC. Thirteen years later, only 20% of the asked had a good image of Islam and Muslims. The decrease was notable, which is preoccupying. More worrying was the fact that 42% of the respondents had supported profiles against Muslims that had been created by law agencies, according to Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC): and even more the fact that these profiles have increased up to 56% within the last three years, reaching the impressive figure of 939 “hate groups” currently existing in the USA.


Things are not greener in Europe. The fact that, according to Clive Field (2012), the 4,83% of the UK’s population is Muslim, and considering that according to a study by Teeside University in 2014 acts of islamophobia occurred in the UK increased up to 20% more than in 2013, integration policies are not working either in Great Britain. Neither in France, where according to a report presented by the European Network against Racism in 2013, attacks against Muslims increased up to a 47% in 2013 compared to 2012. Neither in Spain since these reprisals have risen up to a 44% in 2014 regarding 2013. In the remaining countries, the growth data range from 38% to 52%, according to the same report. This increase in the acts of islamophobia lately occurred in Europe is the direct result, in certain extent, of a wrong praxis on the part of media, which are broadcasting a demonized image of the Muslims (Triandafyllidou, 2005), thus preventing them from their integration in the EU, and the European nationals from their assimilation.


Considering the integration policies passed by the European Commission, which pursued Muslims’ integration in the EU as a way to fight against terrorism, what is the rationale for this fact? Jihadist attacks occurred in Madrid, 2004, resulted in several attacks against Muslims all over Europe, since European nationals considered people form this background as terrorists. This misinterpretation was the result of an unfair representation of Muslims on media, since they broadcasted discourses in which Muslims were always related to terrorism, according to Triandafyllidou (2005), with their consequent segregation from the European citizenship. Hence, instead of acting as a social integrator of the ethnic diversity coexisting in Europe, media are contributing to social segregation and the increase of Islamophobia. Additionally, by relying on their freedom of expression (articles 2, 6, 21, 49 of TEU and articles 7, 8, 10, 11, 22 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights), they are disregarding the task entrusted by the COM (2005) 398 that pushed for media’s contribution to Muslims’ integration in the EU. Therefore, this conduct on the part of media is contributing according to Triandafyllidou (2005), to the increase of acts of islamophobia.


This is the main reason for this study which aims at proposing new media guidelines for the coverage of terrorist attacks perpetrated by organisations that outraged all over the world on behalf of Islam. These media guidelines will serve media to do a fair representation of Muslims, thus contributing to Muslims’ integration into the EU, as entrusted by the European Commission in 2005.


Having said this, and in order to identify how and up to what extent European media are contributing to Muslims’ integration in the EU, we would like to propose a theoretical framework combining media’s contribution to Muslims’ integration in the EU (Joppke, C., 2007; Semetko, HA, Vreese, CH De, Peter, J., 2000), and Social constructivism (Wendt, 1992, 1999; Finnemore, 1996, 2001).


To start with, the fact that International Security has become the fastest growing area of International integration in the EU within the last years has reflected itself in a growing academic literature (Balzacq and Carrera, 2005; Bossong, 2008; Friedrichs, 2005; Giraudon, 2000; Kaunert, 2007, 2009, 2010; Mitsilegas, Monar and Rees, 2003; and Borzel, Tanja, Hofman, Tobias, Panke, Diana, et alt, 2007). Media’s contribution to Muslims’ integration in compliance with the policies developed by the European Institutions in this regard, however, has been largely overlooked in this literature (Moore, Mason, Lewis, 2008; Hakim and Harris, 2009). This bibliography mostly assumes that European media’s practices are contributing to the holding back of Muslims’ integration (Meer, 2007). However, it does not propose communication policies, or at least media guidelines, for improving media’s contribution to Muslims’ integration in the EU (Kosnick, 2000). In this connection, national representatives seem eager to create European communication policies that contribute to Muslims’ integration in the EU. Thus, this study aims at responding to the necessity posed by national and international policy makers in this regard.


Based on the aforementioned framework, this study aims at posing the following research questions: 

  • RQ1: Do European media broadcast a fair representation of Muslims in their coverage of terrorist attacks?
  • RQ2: Are European media contributing to Muslims integration in the EU? 

Bearing these research questions in mind, this study aims at: 

  • Exploring the behaviour of the French and the Spanish press regarding Muslims in the coverage of the terrorist attacks against the French weekly Charlie Hebdo.
  • Identify up to what extent Spanish and French press is complying with the guidelines provided by the European Commission for the promotion of the Muslims’ integration in the European Union.
  • Demonstrate the urgent necessity of proposing new journalistic guidelines that serve media for doing a fair representation of Muslims, thus acting as social integrators, task that the European Commission, via the COM (2005) 398, entrusted them in 2005. 

To achieve these research goals, this study proposes the following hypotheses: 

  • H1: The increasing acts of islamophobia currently occurring in Europe provides evidence of the fact that media practices for the promotion of Muslims’ integration in the EU are not following the guidelines provided by the European Commission.   
  • H2: Spanish and French press used terms such as ‘terrorism’, ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslims’ indiscriminately, thus disseminating a wrong discourse to the public opinion, through which citizens assimilated that all Muslims support the attacks.  
  • H3: The lack of communication policies that contribute to Muslims' integration in Europe, joined to the constant terrorist attacks, are resulting in an unfair Muslims’ representation on media.


Should this study validates these hypotheses, thus achieving our research goals, this fact will provide evidence of the urgent necessity of a proposal of media guidelines for carrying out a fair representation of Muslims in media.


Once presented this research’s aims and assumptions, we proceed now to explain the method.



2. Method 

For start we have to analyse in depth The Common Agenda for Integration, Framework for the Integration of third-country nationals in the European Union, COM (2005) 398.


The EU stated then that media should carry out national strategies to fight against the discrimination, the intolerance and the injustice, trying to construct a more inclusive society. Once we know the main guideline that the EC provided the media to promote migrants integration and the assimilation of the ethnic diversity that migration entails in the EU, we proceed now to explore up to what extent media are complying with them.


To carry out the following step of this study, we will apply a triangulation of qualitative and quantitative methods, in particular case-study methodology, process tracing and qualitative-quantitative content analysis and discourse analysis.


Thus, to fulfil the second part of the study, we have firstly to carry out the (two) study-cases focused on how national running press disseminated in France and Spain are promoting integration according to the guidelines provided by the European Commission in 2005. The development of these case studies (El País, Spain, and Liberation, France) also implies the use of combined methods for the analysis of the data, such as quantitative and qualitative content analysis and discourse analysis.


To carry out this part of the research we have applied, firstly, the biographical study that Casasús proposes (1985), and reworked by Mauri (2010) and Martínez Fábregas (2014), to the selected newspapers. This first analysis has led us to learn the ideological trend of the selected dailies, and up to what extent different ideologies co-exist within them. This fact is really interesting since, the more ideologically plural these tabloids are, the more diverse the discourses published in both of them will be.


The second step for the analysis is the application of the content analysis, both at quantitative as well as at qualitative level to the sample. Considering that our main interest is to learn how the newspapers Liberation and El País represented Muslims in their coverage of the terrorist attacks perpetrated against the French weekly Charlie Hebdo, and in what extent they are committed with their role as contributors to Muslims’ integration in Europe, to carry out these study cases, we firstly must collect the sample.


Bearing in mind that we aim at learning how these tabloids laid an opinion state regarding Muslims within the days following the terrorist attacks, we follow the theories proposed by Villalobos (2010) and Martín Vivaldi (1987), who stress that it is in the opinion texts where we can find different discourses, since writers and columnists do not have a contractual relationship with the media (López Hidalgo, 2012), which, in turn, exempts them from following the dictations coming from the editorial board. Contrariwise, the director of the newspaper and the reporters (most of them in staff) must follow the editorial dictations since they reflect the interests shared by the groups backing up the media (Pineda, 2006).


In order to achieve our goals we have to analyse the opinion and the informative coverage of the attacks. However, bearing in mind the high number of existing journalistic genres, we follow what stated by Borrat (1989) and López Hidalgo (2012), who assert that opinion texts grant opinion plurality to the newspaper and news and editorials pose the official opinion of the groups that back up the tabloid. Thus, we have picked the following ones for this research: editorials, articles, columns and news published between the 7th and the 10th of January 2015. Once decided the units of analysis, we proceed to collect the sample by accessing to the online digital libraries and press archives. Once them collected, we have a total sample of 23 texts published in Liberation, and 33 in El País, which equals to 56 texts that conform our studying corpus.


To carry out the content analysis we have followed the model proposed by Krippendorff (1982), Landry (1998), and Winner and Dominick (2000). All of them coincide in stating that the categories are the tools for the classification of the units of analysis. Without their classification in categories, no content analysis can be applied. Thus, bearing the former in mind, we proceed now to set up the categories for this research, for which we have followed the model proposed by Winner and Dominick (2000: 141-144). Since our study aims at providing evidence of a wrong praxis on the part of media in the representation of Muslims they did in their coverage of terrorist attacks against the French weekly Charlie Hebdo, we are aware of the necessity of focusing on three main items: Terrorism, Muslims and Charlie Hebdo. Accordingly, these are the categories set up for this research:


Chart 1: Categories used for classifying the units of analysis.

How is the attack considered?

Terrorist attack



 How are the perpetrators of the attack considered?




Used terms and position concerning them




Charlie Hebdo


Freedom of expression

Je suis Charlie

Al Qaeda

Islamic State




Holy war


Source: Own elaboration


The categories set up for this research have allowed us to, on the one hand, learn up to what extent media relate Muslims to terrorism. On the other hand, this classification has enabled us to identify the different relations that media create between Muslims, their religion (Islam), and the terrorist attacks. These relations have led us to learn up to what extent media are promoting ethnic diversity and contributing to Muslims integration, or, contrariwise, they are acting as social segregators.


Once the total sample analysed, we proceed to quantify the results in order to learn the behavioural pattern of the picked newspapers in their coverage of the terrorist attacks against the French weekly Charlie Hebdo. Once this is done, we apply qualitative content analysis to the sample to find, in case there are, different discourses regarding Muslims. We must take into consideration that, according to Borrat (1989), López Hidalgo (2012) and Martín Vivaldi (1987), media are political actors. Additionally, since columnists and writers are usually external staff without any contractual relationship with the newspaper they publish in, they do not owe obedience to the editorial dictations (Pineda, 2006). This is to say that there could be different discourses regarding the same topic within the same newspaper, as introduced above. This feature, in turn, discursive and opinion plurality could coexist within the same tabloid. This is the evidence of the role as agents intervening in the public sphere that media play in the society.


Finally, we have applied discourse analysis to the texts published in the selected dailies, to identify the connections between Muslims and terrorism that these media (Liberation and El País) created in their coverage of the terrorist attacks against the French weekly Charlie Hebdo.


Once our method exposed, we proceed to present the results of this research and their discussion.



3. If Muslims attack, terrorism; if a white man attack, murder 

As an introduction to this chapter, we would like to present some of the reactions on the part of the media to attacks against Muslims, and to those perpetrated by Muslims against people of other races/ backgrounds that we should consider before exposing the results of this research.


On the 8th of February 2015, three young Muslims students were killed in North Carolina, USA. The murderer, an American 46 year-old man, killed newlyweds and the wife’s sister. At the beginning, North American media did not cover the event. When CNN started to cover it, it told that the murder had been the result of a “parking dispute”[i]. Conversely, the BBC considered it as a “Hate crime”[ii], and the hashtag #ChapelHillShooting started to spread all over the world. Between these two motives there is an ocean of difference. In this connection, the behaviours adopted by each these media was totally opposed to each other. This contradiction leads us to wonder a compulsory question: Why?


Linking with the former, whereas the attack against the French weekly Charlie Hebdo was considered as a “terrorist attack” by the North American channel, Chapel Hill Shooting in which three Muslim students were killed in North Carolina was covered as an assassination, without any dyes of “hate crime” or “act of islamophobia”, as, in fact, it is since, according to BBC, the murderer at Chapel Hill had rebuked the Muslims students countless times before the tragic event took place.


In this connection, media coincided in talking about terrorist attack while covering the attacks against the French weekly Charlie Hebdo, whilst in the coverage of the Chapel Hill shooting, the North American one avoided to use the terms ‘islamophobia’ or ‘hate crimes’, whilst the British one did. This fact provides evidence of an unfair representation of the people involved in these events. On the one hand, since the murderers in the case of Charlie Hebdo were Muslims, the event itself is an act of terrorism, whilst, since the murderer in the case of the Chapel Hill Shooting was a North American man, the event is covered as a simple murder, as can be checked in the following chart:



Chart 2: Position of the American media about the attacks against Charlie Hebdo and Chapel Hill shootings

Source: From Twitter accounts of CNN and FOX NEWS.

The chart provides evidence of the fact that in the media coverage of both events, there is a criminalisation of Muslims on the one hand, considering them as terrorists, and an exemption of the white man who killed the Muslim students in North Carolina, from having committed an act of islamophobia.


However, this is not our studying object. This is just to show that Muslims’ criminalisation is a media practice spread all over the world every time media cover tragic events in which they are involved, with the consequent Muslims’ demonization. The question again is why? Considering that the EU and the UN are currently pushing for Muslims’ integration as a way to fight against the <<Jihadist terrorism>>, -the term with which media refer to the violent acts committed on behalf of the Islam-, why media go on representing Muslims as executioners and not as casualties?


Considering the former, attacks against Charlie Hebdo, having been perpetrated by Muslims, were considered as terrorist attacks. Thus, according to Vox, if a Muslim kills someone it is a terrorist attack based on the defence of Islamism, which is blamed of the attack. Conversely, if a white man kills a Muslim, he is presented as a ‘crazed lone gunman’. No dyes of hate crime or act of islamophobia, as can be checked in the following chart:

Chart 3: How media differ between Muslims, black and white men /women in news according to Vox

Source: http://www.vox.com/2015/2/11/8019257/chapel-hill-shooting-muslims-media.

Accessed to on the 23rd of February 2015.

Bearing the former in mind, we could assert that media, at least in North America, adopt different and unfair behaviour patterns regarding Muslims and people of white background when both of them are involved in violent events. Thus, whenever a Muslim attacks a white man/woman it will be a “terrorist attack”; and, if it is conversely, the event will be covered as a “dispute” or a “murder”.


Once the results’ chapter introduced, we now proceed to check what the behavioural pattern of French and Spanish press concerning Muslims in the media coverage of the attacks against the French weekly Charlie Hebdo was.


3.1. Media criminalise Muslims 

Within the three days following the attacks against the French weekly Charlie Hebdo occurred in France, there was an extensive media coverage concerning this event, both in France as well as in Spain. Concerning the French newspaper, Liberation, columns are the most represented units of analysis, closely followed by news, and editorials and articles, in a more discrete proportion. Regarding the Spanish daily journal, El País, news is the most used genre to cover our studying object. Very far away, in terms of presence, opinion texts are. Amongst them, articles are the most represented ones, followed by columns and editorials, as can be checked in the following chart:

Chart 4: Editorials, columns, articles and news published by Liberation and El País

Source: Own elaboration

The data given here reveal that, whereas Liberation paid a moderate attention to the attacks perpetrated against Charlie Hebdo, El País covered them extensively. Additionally, the latter focused on doing an informative coverage, whilst the former focused on analysing the events by publishing columns signed by experts in international security, religion and terrorism, among others.


Considering that the attacks occurred in France, not in Spain, it is curious enough the fact that El País covered more extensively these events than Liberation did. On the other hand, bearing in mind the troubles that the Spanish state is currently undergoing in border with Africa, through which several terrorists have got into the European Union, according to International Business Timesiii, joined to the alarmism emerged as a result of having been attacked by Jihadist terrorism in 2004, could explain the high interest on the part of the Spanish newspaper for the attacks against the French weekly. Contrariwise, since President Holland was constantly asking the French population to keep calm via the national running media, we could interpret the moderate coverage of these events thon the part of Liberation as the reflection of the president’s speeches.


In terms of sources of information, Liberation ranged from using national and international representatives and policy-makers to non-institutional sources, passing by International and national Muslims institutions. However, the recurrence on the part of the French tabloid to Muslim sources of information within the three days following the attacks is very discreet (only 13), whilst national and international representatives reached figures of up to 54 and 40, respectively.


Regarding El País, national representatives and institutional sources of information are also the most consulted (35). Nevertheless, the main difference between Liberation and El País lays on the presence of non-institutional sources of information. Whereas this sort of source of information is the second most quoted in El País (18), it is the less quoted by Liberation.  Thus, the Spanish newspaper focused on highlighting the French citizens’ comments on the attacks in the media coverage of these events.


However, both of them almost ignored Muslims as sources of information in the coverage of the attacks against the French weekly, as can be checked in the following chart:

Chart 5: Quoted sources of information

Source: Own elaboration.

The data reveal that Muslim were barely used as sources of information in the coverage of the attacks against the French weekly Charlie Hebdo compared to national and international representatives, at least in the case of Liberation. This fact reveals reluctance on the part of the French daily journal to use Muslims as source of information. This conduct constitutes, itself, an obstruction for Muslims to express their support or their condemnation to the attacks. In this regard, by not allowing them to position about these attacks, the daily was preventing them from segregating from the terrorist faction that flies the flag of Islam to justify the terrorist attacks they perpetrate. Accordingly, public opinion interpreted the lack of Muslims’ condemnation to these attacks as their support to them and the terrorist organisations behind them.


The canvas drawn by El País is not brighter. Muslim voices are not representative considering the total figure of sources that the newspaper consulted. The fact that most of them were French media, newspapers above all, and citizens exposing their comments about the attacks could explain this behaviour.


This conduct on the part of the Spanish and the French newspapers resulted in the broadcasting of the idea that the brothers Kouachi, who perpetrated the attacks against Charlie Hebdo, were the emissaries of the Holy War, which is shared by all the Muslims. This idea, which is false, since most of the Muslims do not agree with the interpretation that terrorist organisations, such as Al Qaeda or Islamic State, have done of this sacred concept[i], was then transmitted to the public opinion. This sort of messages broadcasted by media, therefore, are creating the link Muslims + Islam = Terrorists, since those Muslims who are not terrorists do not appear on media. The consequences of these discourses are imminent: Muslims’ prevention from integrating into the society. 


3.2. Links Muslims - Terrorism existing in media discourses

Having showed that the Spanish and the French studied tabloids connected Muslims to terrorism, we proceed now to analyse the mechanisms through which the studied dailies created this connections.


Amongst the terms selected in this study, the most quoted term by the newspaper Liberation is, precisely, the name of the publication that suffered the attack, ‘Charlie Hebdo’. The terms ‘Islamism’ and ‘Jihadism’ follow it in a more discreet proportion. ‘Islam’ and ‘Jihad’ are also very close in the ranking. Further in distance, and approximately in the same proportion, ‘Jihadist terrorism’, ‘Al Qaeda’, ‘Islamic State’, and ‘Mahomet’ occupy the third position in the list of most quoted terms. Finally, ‘Holy War’, ‘Freedom of expression’, and ‘Islamist terrorism’ are the less quoted terms.


Concerning El País, the most used term is ‘Charlie Hebdo’, as it happened in Liberation. Far away in distance, there is a group of terms formed by ‘Mahomet’, ‘Islamism’ and ‘Jihadism’ that are used in the same proportion.  In opposition to that, ‘Islam’ and ‘Jihad’ are barely used, and ‘Holy War’ is not quoted at all. At this stage, it is necessary to focus on the fact that the word ‘terrorism’ is sometimes used but, in the case of El País, texts did not specify the type of terrorism they were referring to, but it was used as a general concept.


The following chart shows the terms to which the Spanish and the French newspapers related the terrorist attacks against the French weekly Charlie Hebdo:



Chart 6: Terms to which Muslims are related in the texts

Source: Own elaboration

The data given here provide evidence of the fact that the newspaper Liberation mostly related Muslims to ‘Islamism’ and ‘Jihadism’ without any judgement. The second relation created connected ‘Muslims’ to ‘Al Qaeda’, ‘Islamic State’, ‘Jihadist terrorism’ and ‘Mahomet’, since they are more or less equally represented. This is, the newspaper relates ‘Mahomet’ with ‘Muslims’ (via Islam), and them with ‘Jihadist terrorism’, ‘Islamic State’ and ‘Al Qaeda’ (terrorist organisations). Thus, by creating this equation, Liberation categorises Muslims as terrorists, since whenever the former is quoted it is related to the latter.


Thus, by referring phrases such as “Charb etait <<recherché mort ou vif pour crimes contre l’Islam>>, selon les mots du magazine Inspire, écrit en langue anglaise et affilié a Al- Qaeda”[i], Liberation spread the idea that Muslims’ religion, Islam, was the motive for the terrorist attacks perpetrated by the brothers Kouachy on the 7th of January 2015. Likewise, by disseminating other asseverations extracted from the comments that terrorists wrote on their own webpages, such as “Cette opération fera réfléchir L’Europe sur ses comportements qui ont produit une génération ne connaissant ni peur ni effroi!>>, dit le commentaire sous le photo des deux tireurs qui abattent l’un des policiers sur le trottoir devant les locaux de Charlie Hebdo”[ii], Liberation did not other thing but reinforcing the relation between Muslims- Islamism and terrorism.


Going even further, the editorial line of Liberation considered that the terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Kouachy brothers pursued the defence of the Islam[iii]. Likewise, it related Muslim immigration in France to the Islamist extremism, which is, according to the newspaper’s point of view, the motive for the terrorist attacks occurred in France.


The French tabloid also echoed the view of an Algerian man who stated that nothing justified the attacks against Charlie Hebdo, “Ni les caricatures de Charlie Hebdo sur le prophète Mohammed, ni l’intervention française en Irak contre la nébuleuse islamiste Daech, ni le climat islamophobe qui règne en France”[iv]. This assertion, since recognised the existence of islamophobia within the country, posed a different issue to be discussed than the proposed by the one mentioned above, which recognised that Islamist extremism had spread throughout France thanks to the immigration.


Another Algerian man’s opinion was used by El País to condemn the attack. In this case, the source of information took advantage of the opportunity to criticize the charge on the part of the law enforcement agencies against the Kouachy brothers, stating that by killing them Occidental world had shown not being better than them[v].


These are the only cases in which Muslims are used as a source of information to condemn the attacks committed against Charlie Hebdo by both of the analysed newspapers. It must be highlighted the fact that this statement comes from an Algerian man. This is, the sort of sources of information less quoted by both of the studied tabloids. On top of that, these sources’ statements are condemning the attacks against Charlie Hebdo, by criticising the extremism from the terrorist organisations. The most important fact to bear in mind regarding this issue is the lack of this sort of statements in the coverage that both newspapers did of the attacks. These assertions, should they have been more represented, would have contributed to the broadcast of a clear idea: Muslims do not support terrorism on behalf of Islam, which, in turn, would contribute outstandingly to Muslims’ integration.


It is not strange then that, only two days after the attacks took place, acts of islamophobia started to arise again in France. The French newspaper reported on the 9th of January 2015 that “[…] un responsable de la sale de prière de Corte (Haute-Corse) a découvert à l’entrée une tète et des viscères de sanglier, accompagnes d’un Courier disant: <<la prévention, ça a un temps, la prochaine fois, ce sera la tête d’un des vôtres>>”[vi]. This text provides evidence of the existence of acts of islamophobia occurring within the days following the terrorist attacks in France. Accordingly and to temper the waters, president Holland convened a conference press in which he said: “ces fanatiques n’ont ne rien a voir avec la religion musulmane, a-t-Ill aussi dit. Nous sommes un peuple libre qui ne cède à aucune pression et qui n’a pas peur”[vii]. Thus, Holland was trying to calm the mood of the French population, by disseminating the message that not all Muslims, by being Islamists –a term which refers to their communion with a religion, as well as Christianity, Buddhism, etc. do- were a threat for national and international security.


In this connection, in an article published by El País, the terms “religion” and “radicalism” are set on the same level; this association adds a negative connotation to the concept ‘religion’. By asseverating that “El semanario satírico, provocador e irreverente, ha vivido bajo la permanente amenaza de las organizaciones religiosas y grupos radicales por sus caricaturas sobre Mahoma y los yihadistas”[viii], the newspaper linked Muslims to terrorists, by identifying religious organisations with radical terrorism, thus presenting the Muslim community as a threat for the international security.


Nevertheless, the day following the attacks, the same writer tried to correct the assertion he did the previous day, by disjoining Islam and terrorism: “Con cada atentado terrorista de inspiración yihadista reaparece el coro de voces que pretende responsabilizar a la religión musulmana y a sus practicantes por los asesinatos cometidos en su nombre”[ix]. That time, he criticised those who make Islam responsible for the terrorist attacks committed by radicals. He also warned readers about the consequences that this kind of outrages could bring on, and in fact it brings on, to Muslims settled in Europe. What is most curious is the fact that he was criticising what he had done the day before.


The link Muslims + Islam = Terrorism created by the analysed media in the coverage of the attacks against Charlie Hebdo was broadly transmitted to public opinion. This sort discourses, according to González Enríquez (2010) contribute to that nationals from the receiver countries identify Muslims –all of them- with terrorists, and their religion -Islam- as the motive for the terrorist attacks.


Considering all the former, we could assert at this stage that, as our first hypothesis assumed, media are not following the guidelines provided by the European Commission in what concerns to the promotion of Muslims’ integration in the EU. This defiance of the task entrusted is turning into the increasing acts of islamophobia currently occurring in Europe.


Connecting with the former, and validating our second hypothesis, by relating the terms ‘terrorism’, ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslims’ indiscriminately, El País and Liberation disseminated an unfair representation of Muslims. This media representation brought about that citizens assimilated the idea that all Muslims support the attacks, which equalled to all Muslims are in favour of the commitment of these attacks for the defence of their religion. 


In this connection, the wrong praxis on the part of El País and Liberation in this regard is the result of the lack of communication policies that contribute to Muslims' integration in Europe, joined to the constant terrorist attacks, as assumed by our third hypothesis. This fact shows the urgent necessity of a proposal of new media guidelines for the improvement of media’s contribution to Muslims’ integration in the EU.


Once the findings of this study presented, and once we have discussed them, we now proceed to present the conclusions we have arrived to in this research.

4. Conclusions 

Integration policies coming from the European Commission entrusted media to contribute to the assimilation of ethnic diversity on the part of the European nationals, and the migrants’ acclimation to the European policies in force in the EU. However, we have checked that Liberation and El País are not contributing to Muslims’ integration in Europe as a result of the discourses about Muslims that they broadcast, and through which European nationals arrive to the conclusion that all Muslims are terrorists, since those who are not terrorists do not appear on media.


Additionally, the Spanish and the French analysed newspapers were more focused on criminalising Muslims, by linking them to the terrorist attacks, than on easing their integration in such difficult moments. By connecting Muslims to terrorists, the studied tabloids broadcasted an unfair representation of Muslims, since they presented them as terrorists, and those who are Muslims who are not terrorism (most of them), do not appear on media.


Resulting from this behaviour on the part of the media, both Muslims as well as Islamism equal to terrorism in the French and the Spanish press, with the consequent European nationals’ reluctance to assimilate them as inoffensive citizens. Additionally and according to the texts analysed here and the results we have reached, whenever a Muslim attacks a white background person it will be a terrorist attack. Conversely, if it is a white man who attacks a Muslim that will be a simple outrage, nothing to do with hate crimes or acts of islamophobia. Thus, media always relate an attack perpetrated by a Muslim person as an act whose motive is the religion. Contrariwise, if a white ‘gunman’ kills a Muslim, media do not find evidences enough for considering it as a ‘hate crime’, in spite of it has also its motive in religious principles, among other things, such as racism.  


These kind of events as the one committed in Chapel Hill against three Muslim students, most commonly known as acts of islamophobia, are the result of the relationship between Islam- Muslims- terrorism that media have created and broadcasted, and that contributes to Muslims’ segregation from the European citizenship, due to its reluctance to accept a community that is demonized and criminalised by media’s discourses. In this regard, this media behaviour contributed remarkably to the increasing of acts of islamophobia occurred in both countries within the days following the attacks against Charlie Hebdo.


Consequently, El País and Liberation, far away from contributing to Muslims’ integration in Europe, as the European Commission entrusted European media in 2005 –COM (2005) 398-, are bringing on their segregation from the European society, by relating them to the terrorist groups that fly the flag of Islam to justify their terrorist actions. Thus, instead of separating Muslims from the terrorist attacks, thus giving them the opportunity to get integrated into the European society, they are criminalising them. Accordingly, European society interprets, since they do not have any other Muslims’ representation on media, that all of them are terrorists. This conception makes them to keep themselves far away from Muslims, not assimilating them as inoffensive citizens and, thus preventing them from their integration.


The findings of this research have shown the urgent necessity of, on the one hand, expanding this study in terms of time and sample, extrapolating it to the remaining countries that compounds the EU, in order to identify up to what extent European media are contributing to Muslims’ integration: and, on the other hand, of the shaping of new communication policies that contribute to Muslims’ integration. In this regard, we propose here some highly needed recommendations for media’s representation of Muslims: 

  • Islam is not the motive for the attacks. The reason why terrorist attacks are perpetrated is a wrong interpretation of the Islam, which is created and used by Imams to mobilise Muslims who do not feel integrated against the unfaithful people. Media have the responsibility of disseminating a fair representation of the Islam, not just covering the interpretation that terrorist organisations do about this religion, and which leads them to outrage innocent people all over the world.
  • Not all Muslims are terrorists. Public opinion does not need to know what terrorists’ religious beliefs are. If media want to remark it, they must separate Muslims’ religion (Islam) from the terrorist attacks, since the latter has nothing to do with violence.
  • Muslims do other things apart from committing terrorist attacks. Cover them! Media should cover other news related to Muslims, such as their charity activities, for instance. They have created several NGO’s all over the world for helping people coming from third countries to get integrated into the society. Media must cover this kind of news, thus showing another view on Muslims different from the one that the public opinion is used to see on media: “Muslims are terrorists”.
  • Media have the ethical responsibility of broadcasting a fair representation of Muslims in compliance with the task that the European Commission entrusted them in 2005.


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Legal Texts 

  • EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
  • The Common Agenda for Integration, Framework for the Integration of third-country nationals in the European Union, COM (2005) 398. 
  • The 48th Session of the Commission for Social Development, from the Department of Economics and Social Affairs of the United Nations (UN).


Press Archive

i. CNN, 12th of February 2015, Saeed Ahmed and Catherine E. Soichet: “3 students shot to death in apartment near UNC Chapel Hill”. Was it a dispute over a parking space or something more sinister that prompted the shooting death of three students in an apartment near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus?” Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/11/us/chapel-hill-shooting/

ii. BBC, 19th of February 2015: “Chapel Hill shooting: What's the definition of a hate crime?” Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-31513523.

iii. International Business Times, 20th of January 2015, Thomas Barrabi: Spain's War On Terrorism, Illegal Immigration In Spotlight Amid Paris Shooting Suspects Probe. Retrieved from http://www.ibtimes.com/spains-war-terrorism-illegal-immigration-spotlight-amid-paris-shooting-suspects-probe-1788772 on the 17th of April 2015.

iv. BBC, 29th of September 2014, BBC World: “Los musulmanes indignados con los extremistas de Estado Islámico”. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/noticias/2014/09/140926_musulmanes_indignados_estado_islamico_nc

v. Liberation, 8th of January 2015, Liberation avec AFP: Le récit de la journée de Jeudi: “<<Charlie>>: Les suspects étaient interdits de séjour aux Etats Unis”. Available at : http://www.liberation.fr/societe/2015/01/08/attentat-contre-charlie-hebdo-la-traque-se-poursuit_1175969

vi. Liberation, 8th of January 2015, Hala Koudami: L’Etait Islamique célèbre les <<Héros>> qui ont tué Charlie”. Available at : http://www.liberation.fr/societe/2015/01/08/l-etat-islamique-celebre-les-heros-qui-ont-tue-charlie_1176402

vii. Liberation, 8th of January 2015, Liberation: “Un prophete qui ne supporte pas la satire n’est pas un prophete”. Available at: http://www.liberation.fr/monde/2015/01/08/c-est-encore-l-islam-qui-fait-les-frais-du-geste-de-ces-fous_1176314

viii. Liberation, 8th of January 2015, Eliane Patriarca and Coralie Schaub: “Plumes et crayons font front”. Available at: http://www.liberation.fr/monde/2015/01/08/plumes-et-crayons-font-front_1176548

ix. El País, 10th of January 2015, Alex Vicente: “El terrorista discreto”. Available at: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2015/01/10/actualidad/1420924548_119623.html

x. Liberation, 9th of January 2015, Pierre Benetti: “Les musulmans vises dans tout l’Hexagone”. Available at: http://www.liberation.fr/societe/2015/01/09/les-musulmans-vises-dans-tout-l-hexagone_1177326

xi. Liberation, 9th of January 2015, Liberation avec AFP: “François Holland: <<La France a fait face>”. Available at: http://www.liberation.fr/societe/2015/01/09/dammartin-vincennes-les-forces-de-l-ordre-unanimement-saluees_1177196

xii. El País, 7th of January 2015, Gabriela Cañas: “Charlie Hebdo una revista satírica doblemente amenazada”. Available at: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2015/01/07/actualidad/1420648567_436192.html

xiii. El País, 8th of January 2015, José Ignacio Torreblanca: “Es política, no religion”. Available at: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2015/01/08/actualidad/1420734769_434755.html

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