Academic journal article Global Media Journal

Different Political Beliefs and Different Frame Building for an Inter-Religious Conflict: A Comparative Analysis of the Star and Malaysiakini

Academic journal article Global Media Journal

Different Political Beliefs and Different Frame Building for an Inter-Religious Conflict: A Comparative Analysis of the Star and Malaysiakini

Article excerpt

Introduction

On August 28, 2009, a day during the Ramadan month and just three days before the National Independence Day of Malaysia, some 50 residents from Section 23 in Shah Alam marched from the state mosque after their Friday prayers to the secretariat building with a severed cow's head. Some of the protesters were also seen spitting and stepping on the cow's head, while at the same time threatening to "shed blood" [1]. The march was aimed to protest against a proposed relocation of a 150-year Hindu temple to Section 23 in Shah Alam, Selangor. The protesters claimed that it was not appropriate to build a Hindu temple in a Muslim-majority area. The cow is considered sacred by Hindus, and the protest has evoked condemnation from various quarters while even making international news. The Selangor state is governed by the Pakatan Rakyat (People's Alliance, PR), which is a political rival of the Barisan Nasional (National Front, BN). Consequently, the PR state government accused rival BN, especially UMNO (United Malays National Organization) of instigating the crowd to protest the relocation while the latter denied any involvement in it [2].

The last few years have seen a number of religious and ethnic tensions in Malaysia, which continue to impact on the lives of Malaysians from all walks of life. At the same time, Islam is increasingly becoming a major symbol of Malay-ness in Malaysia in which faith is inseparable from the Malay ethno-cultural heritage [3]. The division between the Malays and non-Malays is widened by the religious divide between Muslims and non-Muslims, creating a distinct and acute awareness of the "other". This has resulted in the aggravation of the inter-ethnic fracture in Malaysian society [4,5]. Furthermore, religion, ethnicity and related issues have always been a difficult area for reporting in multicultural societies. Where stories on religion are routinely judged and framed by the media to, albeit inadvertently, misrepresent and disrespect the essence of what adherents of different faiths believe in, stories on religion do provide the fuel for prolonged conflicts-even violence in societies that are historically divided by tribal and cultural rivalries [6]. Therefore, this paper aims to examine the coverage of the Cow-Head protest by mainstream and alternative newspapers in Malaysia, where religions, politics and media are intertwined in many powerful and profound ways.

Objectives and Research Questions

The objective of this study is to compare the framing of the Cow-Head protest by mainstream and alternative newspapers in Malaysia. Specifically, it asks the following questions:

RQ1: What was the intensity of newspapers coverage of the Cow-Head protest?

RQ2: What were the news sources used by the newspapers?

RQ3: What were the news frames employed by the newspapers?

RQ4: What was the valence of the news articles?

Background of the study

The census of 2014 shows that Malaysia has a total population of 30.2 million comprising multi-ethnic citizens who are Malays/ indigenous groups (68.2%), Chinese (24.6%), Indians (6.4%) and Others (0.8%). Malays are predominantly Muslims while other religions embraced by the people are Buddhism (19.8%), Christianity (9.2%) and Hinduism (6.3%) [7]. The Malaysian Constitution defines Malays as persons who profess the religion of Islam, habitually speak the Malay language and conform to Malay custom. Gatsiounis [8] commented that Islam became the defining element of the Malay identity after other Malaysians adopted some aspects of the Malay culture like food, dress and language. Nah [9] further remarked that one 'can effectively become "Malay" by embracing Islam' and is a beneficiary of the affirmative action policies that such a status brings about. In addition, Kua [10] noted that racism has been part of Malaysian political, economic, social and cultural realities ever since colonial times. Today, race has been so deeply institutionalized that it is a key factor in determining benefits from government development policies, bids for business contracts, education policy, social policy, cultural policy, entry into educational institutions, discounts for purchasing houses and other official policies. …

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