By claiming to champion objectivity and report "real" news, the informative discourse of the mass media conceals their important role as "builders of realities (1)" and, consequently, their key role in the processes of imagination-and social construction-of the communities to which they belong (either national (2) or transnational (3)). This article analyses knowledge of these processes, the discursive strategies that reveal ethnic differences and, in particular, the different representations of Muslims in the Western mass media.
While depending on the ideological color of the government in power it is possible to observe changes in the way the media construct certain events related with Islam and the Arab world (4), there exist a continuum in the media representations about "what is taking place in the world" that transcend the interests of any political party in power. This situation may be defined-to quote Deputy Commander Marcos-as "a monologue with various voices." This paper analyses this dominant monologue, without addressing other minority or "minoritorised" discourses that undoubtedly exist, and that constitute a less distorted and stereotyped vision than that examined in this article.
Different authors have studied the media discourse in news on Arabs and Muslims (5), including most notably Saddek Rabah (1998), Vincent Geisser (2003) and Thomas Deltombe (2005) in France. In Spain, pioneering studies have been carried out on this subject, such as El Mundo Arabe y su Imagen en los Medios ("The Arab World and its Image in the Media" (6)), and more recently the work by Eloy Martin Corrales (2002) , Laura Navarro (2007, 2008b) and Pablo Lopez et al. (2010), the articles by Gema Martin Munoz (1994, 2000) and Teun A. Dijk (2008) and, finally, doctoral theses such as the one by Mohamed El Maataoui (2005). However, the most studies on this subject have been published in English. Noteworthy examples include the work by Edward W. Said (1997), Mohammad A. Siddiqi (1997), Karim H. Karim (2000), Elisabeth Poole (2002) and John E. Richardson (2004).
Practically all these studies highlight the "otherisation" caused by establishing "us and them" oppositions, assigning positive elements to "us" and negative elements to "them," as well as treatment in the media that instead of facilitating better knowledge of "others," exacerbates feelings of rejection and incomprehension. Many of the abovementioned authors have also studied in depth the relationship between discourse and power. For example, Edward W. Said examined how and why the mass media (especially in the US, Great Britain and Israel) constantly reduce Islam and Muslims to a series of stereotypes and generalisations that merely portray this religion as monolithic, as a threat and danger to the West, as a violent and irrational religion. Gema Martin Munoz has highlighted the persistence of an "agreed cultural paradigm" that western societies have forged on the Arab and Muslim "orient" "based on a culturalist interpretation of Islamic societies explained from an essentialist and ethnocentric perspective, thus preventing the comprehension of much more plural and changing political and social realities than what normally seems to be the case" (2005: 206). In two of my studies (2007, 2008b), I have also underlined the important role played by this orientalist discourse in the legitimisation of hegemonic military policies (applied for many years in the Middle East), as well as in the legitimisation of police and military immigration policies, which have largely been responsible for the deaths of thousands of people on geostrategic borders, such as the southern uS border and the southern European border.
Nevertheless, although these studies have contributed to research on the social reproduction of racism, most of these studies also have the same shortcoming: the space dedicated to the image of the "other woman." Virtually all these studies focus on the image of Muslim men and ignore the specific representations of Muslim women. This paper examines in detail these images which have been studied less. To this end, I will first focus on the dominant representations of "Muslim woman" (7) in the western media in general in order to highlight the specific characteristics of the image of the female Muslim "other" and analyse, from a gender perspective, the symbolic mechanisms legitimising certain Islamophobic thoughts and practices. To conclude, I will look specifically at the treatment of l'affaire du voile ("the veil affair") by the French media in order to introduce an analytical perspective adopted in the latest Gender Studies and which consists in not losing sight of the "overlapping" or "interlinking" of sexism, racism and classism. (8)
These analyses are also based on two premises: the notion that audiences are able to actively appropriate media texts (D. Morley and K. H Chen, 1996); and that the media do not construct representations on their own but instead belong to the mechanisms that maintain the existing hegemony (9), i.e., institutions that participate in the economy, culture, public opinion and social mobilisation and that, according to Antonio Gramsci's thesis, allow to intellectually, morally and politically manage society without having to resort to physical violence to obtain the consensus of the majority. This complex system of building social consensus--through which dominant images are also constructed of "other men" and "other women"--is a fundamental explanatory factor for understanding the social and cognitive processes that allow us to unconsciously absorb racist, classist and/or sexist representations (and even thoughts and practices). These collective images are neither the same in all geographical contexts nor fixed or immutable because they change over time as a result of specific historical and social experiences, education, institutional policies, as well as the cultural industry and public discourses (including the media discourse).
In Spanish society, for example, historical conflicts with Muslims, especially Moroccans, have been decisive in the social reproduction of racist stereotypes and prejudices regarding Islam and the Arab world (E. Martin Corrales, 2002). Likewise, fears (J. Delumeau, 2002), the disproportionate need for security and lack of communication (M. A. Vazquez, 2004) can exacerbate such distorted visions of the "other," as do culturalist visions of history and the politics of Arab and Muslim societies, mainly transmitted through the education system (G. Martin Munoz et al., 1998) and also, as will be discussed later, through the dominant mass media discourse. Thus, today different converging factors imbue the dominant Spanish collective image of Islam and the Arab world with essentially negative characteristics, many of which are not new, e.g., the laziness, cruelty, lechery, male chauvinism and fanaticism of Muslim men.
MUSLIM WOMEN: VICTIMS OF THEIR OWN CULTURE AND A THREAT TO OURS
Are the characteristics historically used to describe Muslim women the same as those applied to Muslim men? Eloy Martin Corrales (2002), despite not focusing specifically on this aspect, mentions some characteristics that have been historically attributed to Moroccan women in particular and to Muslim women in general. These include ignorance and submission, but also--albeit with different levels of intensity according to the historical period--sensuality.
This sensual image of Muslim women is, to a certain extent, a continuation of the thesis put forward by Mary Nash (1984). Since the first mass media institutions appeared in the late 19th century, women of other cultures have been represented, according to Nash, as exotic and sexually active women (in postcards, labels on alcoholic beverages, etc.), in contrast to the bourgeois model of the domestic angel. Later, this conception was transferred to the 20th century, since, as described by Catherine A. Lutz and Jane L. Collins (10) in their analysis of numerous articles published in the middle of last century in the magazine National Geographic, women of other cultures were almost absent from politics and were only portrayed as mothers and nice consumable objects, a perception accentuated by nude images of women (since, at that time, this was the only way to see naked women because pornographic magazines were still uncommon). Later, in the nineteen-eighties and nineties, Lutz and Collins observed that these women were still shown as the refuge of the cultural tradition of the country through images in which they wore traditional clothing while men copied the Western model. Thus, progress was identified as something masculine and tradition as something feminine.
As regards the stereotypes of ignorance and submission associated with Muslim women and prevalent in the Spanish social imaginary, if we take into account the dominant representations transmitted in the hegemonic media discourse, today these stereotypes seem to have been reinforced. The main characteristics of these representations are presented based on the results of the analysis of the sample studied in my doctoral thesis (Navarro, 2007), on the representation of this collective on the television news programmes on the national public channel TVE1, broadcast at 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. during the week from August 9 to August 16, 200411, as well as on the results of an in-depth study on the subject, the conclusions of which were presented in an article by Gema Martin Munoz (2005). This second study is one of the first carried out in this country to research the image of Muslim women in the Spanish media (12). Although this study was written in 1997--before important events such as the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and March 11, 2004--its main conclusions are particularly relevant, not only due to the rigour and strength of many of these conclusions, but because this is one of the few research studies currently available on this subject.
Predominance of Culturalist Perceptions
Firstly, according to Gema Martin Munoz, news on Muslim women "is dominated by the culturalist presentation and interpretation of Islam" (2005: 208). In fact, the discrimination of these women (an issue that attracts special media attention) tends to be explained almost exclusively according to theories on Islamic culture. For example, when referring to "the rights of Muslim women," the news discourse tends to focus on symbolic and religious issues such as the veil or Islam, thus eluding more important matters relating to the equality of these women, such as rights to education or public freedoms.
This dominant culturalist perception of Islam also leads to "ethnocentric perceptions that make it very difficult to understand dynamics that do not reproduce our construction of modernity and our feminist secular model" (2005: 209). These are biased visions also hindered by the fact that many experiences of women in non-Muslim countries during long periods are considered to be exclusive to Arab countries. In fact, until the 1960s in Spain, if a father or husband murdered his daughter or wife for reasons of adultery or for having sexual relations before marriage, this was considered an attenuating circumstance in the penal code. Moreover, the Seccion Femenina (Women's Section) of the Spanish Falange was …