media enters our homes and delivers to us a side of reality. However, when that frame fails to tell the whole story and rather misguides the audience, harm can be made. This is the conclusion reached by a recent study which addresses the reactions of New Zealanders, also known as Kiwis, to the consumption of news media that portrays Muslims, Arabs, and Asians one way or another. The greatest revelation of the study is the resulting birth of Islamophobia, a prejudice towards Muslims which has certainly been perpetuated within the United States for some time now.

Studying media and Islamophobia

The study titled "News exposure predicts anti-Muslim prejudice: is published in the international journal PLOS ONE. This research is part of an ongoing 20 year New Zealand Attitudes and Values study. Over 16,000 Kiwis participated in the study, as they were asked to rate their reactions of anger or warmth towards Muslims, as well as the discussed groups, after consuming relevant news stories.

The results showed a greater inclination by the participants to feel "greater anger and less warmth" towards Muslims. John Shaver, University of Otago religion lecturer and the lead author, was surprised by the results as he had openly reflected on the Kiwis being known to be tolerant people.

In addition, he points to people's predisposition to consume media that conforms with their preexisting beliefs. Thus, New Zealand was viewed to be an excellent choice to study. The political tendencies of the participants, whether conservative or liberal, also impacted the answers similarly.

Overlooking the harm done to Muslims

The study concludes that people who regularly consume news are more likely to become Islamophobic. Shaver mentions modern media's sensationalist nature and its ability to link violence and other wrongful acts with specific groups of people. As a result, many Muslims are afflicted with undeserved hatred and prejudice that can affect them in their everyday lives, adds co-author Professor Joseph Bulbulia of Victoria University of Wellington.

The study warns the audience that these kind of collateral consequences of Islamophobia are being ignored. Media is said to be greatly at fault here, and there is no greater producer of media content than the US.

The Washington Post recently analyzed a study that addressed US media coverage of terrorism acts between the years 2011 and 2015. In that period of time, 89 attacks (12.4% of all terrorist attacks) were attributed to Muslims. However, compared to the other attacks, these received approximately 449% more media coverage. In addition, hate crimes against mosques in the US have doubled so far in 2017 compared to last year.

Shaver's study is intended to spur change among media organizations and to warn audiences about the dangerous misrepresentations they are routinely subjected to when consuming their media.

Shaver proposes avoiding traditional media and rather immersing in blogs, for example, in order to assimilate different narratives that have first hand stories that can better depict Muslim communities. Overall, the study does not look to undermine New Zealand's image of a tolerant nation, but nor does it intend to contribute to the growing global trend of Islamophobia.