Language is a versatile tool in the world of politics. The power of language in affecting and influencing political thought should not be underestimated. Hence, it is capable of inspiring, encouraging, and appealing to the brains of society. Individuals tend to use language as a tool to express their feelings and emotions. However, language is being used for other purposes, such as persuasion, shaping people’s attitudes and beliefs. The persuasive power of language is mostly highlighted in social and political life, where one’s career or future greatly depends on linguistics and communication skills. The use of persuasive language can impact either positively or negatively the political and social life. Discourse in all its forms is a major contributor to hate driven crimes, discrimination, and more importantly Islamophobia in the United Kingdom. Islamophobia is any kind of intolerance and fear of Islam. This form of racism started to manifest itself in the British media in the late 1980’s as a way of expressing the rejection of the growing Muslim community in the United Kingdom. A major example of hatred-driven political speeches is that of the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister who compared women wearing burkas toletterboxes or bank robbers. This racist comment triggered Parliament’s Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi to respond, raising awareness towards Islamophobia and demanding the apologies of the Prime Minister. Islamophobic hate crimes lead the Islamic population in the United Kingdom to remain anxious, marginalized, and fearful. The aim of this study is to analyze and reveal the hidden political messages embedded in Dhesi’s speech. Therefore, a Critical Discourse Analysis will be performed in order to deconstruct this widespread discrimination.
2. Literature Review:
The manifestation of Islamophobia in Western cultures can take several forms and aspects. Mass media is a major contributor to the spread of discriminatory and Anti-Muslims ideologies. In order to expose the Islamophobic discourse embedded in the media news of the western cultures, especially in the United Kingdom and the United States, critical discourse analysis using Fairclough’s approach was applied (Ahmed, 2019). The researchers employed Fairclough’s principle of thematization to identify Islamophobic as well as violent-related issues in the news and media. According to Ahmed (2019), the application of critical discourse analysis on such websites leads to the conclusion that exaggeration is being employed on mass media whenever a Muslim-related incident happens, and directly linking such events to violence and Islamophobic ideologies. Moreover, Anti-Muslim speeches have been excessively prevalent and represented as violent political ideologies, especially in British news. Rhetoric and linguistics employed in such articles represent Muslims as different entities, or in other words, as enemies in the Western societies; this has been shown from the extensive use of words as “others”, “them”, and “their”. In the same context, another study was carried out to investigate the living conditions of Muslims in the United Kingdom as a minority group, and the way the British press represents Muslim groups. The study stratified Muslim identity groups into several categories based on their gender, race, and social class in order to explore the representation of every Muslim group in the British media. Hence, intersectional critical discourse analysis was employed to achieve this objective. Alkhammach (2020) investigated the employment of linguistics in thirteen different British political articles to tackle the issue of Islamophobia among various Muslim groups in the United Kingdom. The analysis of the selected articles revealed that discrimination rates vary among different Muslim-identity groups. To elaborate more, white, Asian, and Black Muslim women are more susceptible to discriminatory and racist speeches than men. Moreover, the prevalence of Islamophobic terms and ideologies is more abundant among black and Asian Muslim Men compared to White Muslim men. The application of critical discourse analysis in the British press revealed that the latter not only represents Muslims as violent political entities which need to be feared, but that various rates of hate speeches and publicly political discourse are prevalent among the different types of Muslim groups. Therefore, Muslim women are endangered by the Western cultures’ representation of their race, gender, and religion. Kassimeris & Jackson (2012) critically analyzed in his article the manner discourse can lead to the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims in the Western cultures. The research investigated the effect of the employment of blame and threat discourses enhances Islamphobic ideologies on a national level. Such ideologies were applied in Britian when its citizens objected the presence of a Mosque in the United Kingdom. Such objections were expressed in the local press, the Dudley news, through letters focusing on Muslims and contradictions concerning the Mosque. Critical discourse analysis was applied mainly by de-contextualization of the linguistics employed in around 160 letters as well as thematization. In their study, Kassimeris& Jackson concluded that Muslims were represented in the letters as one identical group. In other words, according to British politicians, all Muslims behave in the same manner and ideology, and they are all to blame for violent incidents and terrorist acts. The researchers drew such conclusions which were supported by direct statements from the letters’ authors, such as: “Everything a Muslim thinks, says and does is governed by the will of their God with the result that compromise is impossible”. Furtheremore, linguistics’ analysis revealed that the British society perceives the presence of Muslim groups as threatening to their national identity. They also tend to blame every single Muslim in general for every loss due to terrorism witnessed in the Western culture. Finally, the analysis of the letters revealed the determined objection and refusal of the presence of a Mosque in Britain, denying Muslim groups from their rights of belonging and citizenship.
3. Theoretical Framework:
In this study, Critical Discourse Analysis will be employed to analyze the way political and influential entities use linguistics and rhetoric to legitimize their views and authority. Critical Discourse Analysis is useful in capturing notions about the social, ethical and political world through various forms of interpretations. It is as well a powerful tool in the construction of reality and the analysis of harmony and disharmony embedded in society and politics. Discourse analysis is also applied while studying the reality behind propaganda, its truth, power, and hidden agendas. Propaganda is mainly used in political discourse as a tool mainly to persuade and appeal to the targeted audience.
There are several main strategic functions in speech: coercion, legitimization, de-legitimization, persuasion, propaganda and disfranchisement. Coercion is the use of commands, threats, force or even promises in order to enforce a certain action in an unethical manner. Legitimization refers to the establishment of ideology, act or processes set conforming to society’s norms and values. De-legitimization, on the other hand, aims at excluding or harming excluded groups in society so that the latter construct themselves as the better category. Persuasion, as discussed before, is used in order to make other individuals believe or accept what the speaker is saying. Disfranchisement is the act of being deprived from one’s rights, such as being banned to vote. Finally, propaganda is mainly the biased or non-objective information used to mislead the audience and is frequently used in political speech. Hence, in order to expose the hidden agenda behind the political speech, the use of the critical analysis strategic functions will be applied and link to linguistic levels.
In order to unravel the hidden messages behind Dhesi’s speech to the Prime Minister, I will tackle the subject matter in an analytical approach. Both critical discourse analysis and political discourse analysis will be used to achieve this objective, relying on models developed by van Dijk (2001). This analysis is qualitative, since it does not involve numbers and quantitative data, but on discourse and linguistics.
The aim of this study is to analyze the messages carried by Dhesi to the English Prime Minister by interpreting its political and social contexts. This will be performed by using some of the strategic functions of Critical Discourse Analysis mentioned in the part above such as rhetoric, propaganda, coercion and disfranchisement.
In his speech, Sikh Labour lawmaker Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesievoked an emotional response and attracted the audience by using persuasive discourse. Dhesi accused the British Prime Minister of being a racist Islamophobe and succeeded in gaining the support of the attending audience. The speech was initiated by Dhesi’s idea that anyone has the right to dress freely without being called names. This introduction encouraged the involvement of all the attendees in the subject matter, not only attracting Muslims. Dhesi employed the use of sensitive discourse and expressions in his speech in order to exaggerate and highlight the sensitivity of the issue such as “divisive”, “hurt and pain”, “vulnerable Muslim women”, “Islamophobe” and “racist”. These words accentuated the persuasion process and the compassionate responses from the audience, since he referred to his people as vulnerable minorities in the United Kingdom. These descriptions were met with extensive applause, showing the attraction and agreement met with the speech. The main objective behind this emotional speech is to push the Prime Minister not only to apologize, but also to finally deal with the high rates of hate crimes. Dhesi finalized his speech by accusing the Prime Minister that he falsely promised to deal with the issue on National Television, but instead turned into a racist Islamophobe. The speaker’s choice of rhetoric highly motivated the audience, which extensively applauded him and shamed the Prime Minister for his racist attitude.
Dhesi’s speech included several forms of Propaganda which assisted him in influencing the audience. One of these strategies is “name-calling”; Dhesi described the Prime Minister as a “Racist” “Islamophobe”. These adjectives are employed to provoke prejudice and hatred towards the Prime Minister’s attitudes towards Islam. He also used the concept of democracy as propaganda in his speech. As previously mentioned, Dhesi introduced the issue by giving the right for every citizen to dress as they wish. This proves a sense of freedom and honor and gains the audience’s accordance to his ideas. Dhesi also used propaganda by using fear as a factor to motivate action towards the issue. To elaborate more, Dhesi stated that the incidence of hate-crimes increased immensely after the speech of the Prime Minister, which insinuates fear in the audience.
the employment of this strategic function of Critical Discourse Analysis was not actually used in an unethical manner. After presenting the issue and the inconvenience of the racist attitude of the Prime Minister towards Islam, Dhesi passionately commands the Johnson to actually take action towards the sensitive and dangerous issue rather than “hiding behind” some other non-necessary matters. By using this strategy, Dhesi encourages the employment of law to defend the rights of Muslims by ordering an inquiry into Islamophobia in the United Kingdom. Another strategy of coercion used is “personification”. This aspect is applied when dhesi referred to abused women as “his parents”, which strongly describes his personal involvement in the abuse. Hence, the power of critical discourse in law-making and legal approaches is applied in society.
Dhesi aimed to prove to the audience as well as to the Prime Minister that Muslims are being discriminated against and their right to freedom is being threatened. By stating that Muslims are “already enduring with being called-names” and that their vulnerable families are being marginalized and painfully hurt, he proves that Muslims are met with racist attitudes in the country. Also, Muslims, according to Dhesi’s speech, have the right to be protected by law from Islamophobic crimes which are spiking with time.
The objective of this paper was to reveal the strategic functions used by Dhesi throughout his speech which tackled a sensitive and emotional issue. The analysis revealed that Dhesi firmly demands respect, tolerance towards his people, and protection from law. By using Critical and Political Discourse analysis strategies, Dhesi’s speech was met with support and deep understanding of Muslims’ endurance in the United Kingdom.
Sikh Labour lawmaker Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi accused the Prime Minister Boris Johnson of being a bigoted islamophobe, because of a newspaper article in which Boris Johnson compared women in burqas to bank robbers and mail boxes. This incident revolves around a time in the United Kingdom, where Islamophobia poses a huge problem for the large community of Muslims and has often resulted in violent hate crimes. Dhesi’s powerful speech was met with applause from his fellow Labour lawmakers, and we can see just how important rhetoric and discourse is at the highest levels of law making. Islam is the largest non-Christian religion in the United Kingdom and represents one of the largest and most active communities in Britain. So Islamophobia poses a real threat to Britain’s social harmony, therefore it should be taken seriously by all those who have the power and influence to solve this issue.
- Ahmed, Muhammed. (2019). A Critical Discourse Analysis of Islamophobic Discourse on Selected American and British News Websites. ResearchGate. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336881333_A_Critical_Discourse_Analysis_of_Islamophobic_Discourse_on_Selected_American_and_British_News_Websites/
- AlKhammach, R. (2020). Islamophobia in the UK Print Media: An Intersectional Critical Discourse Analysis. ECRTD-UK. Retrieved 28 April 2020, from https://www.eajournals.org/wp-content/uploads/Islamophobia-in-the-UK-print-media.pdf/
- George Kassimeris & Leonie Jackson. (2012). British Muslims and the discourses of dysfunction: community cohesion and counterterrorism in the West Midlands, Critical Studies on Terrorism, 5:2, 179-196, DOI: 10.1080/17539153.2012.684970
- Van Dijk, T. A. (2001). Critical discourse analysis. In D. Tannen, D. Schiffrin, & H. Hamilton (Eds.), Handbook of discourse analysis (pp. 352-371).