Using vignettes with focus groups
I incorporated the following vignette into focus groups with Muslim children aged 9-10, to explore their attitudes and experiences of the negative stereotyping of Muslims:
"One day Farah, aged 10, was making her way to school in the morning. She was walking towards the school gates when suddenly two girls, who she didn’t know, came up behind her. They started calling her a ‘terrorist’ and a ‘Muslim bomber’ and tried to pull her ‘hijab’ off. Why do you think the girls acted this way towards Farah? And called her those names?"
The extract below shows how this vignette encouraged children to actively engage with a sensitive topic and freely communicate their reactions and opinions.
G: "Because they thought she was maybe a terrorist"
A: "They don’t like Muslims probably"
M: "Probably because they don’t have any brains and believe the news and think she is going to do something bad"
N: "Yep, they got the names from the news!"
G: "On the TV, they say [Muslims are] terrorists"
A: "If Farah fought back the girls might feel that she actually was a terrorist"
N: "They might actually believe what’s on the TV"
F: "And think more bad things about Islam"
A: "Yeah, Farah should be careful"
"Do you think Farah might have experienced anything like this before?"
R: "Yep, after Charlie Hebdo"
B: "It wouldn’t have been before or in the past, because they weren’t too many problems with Muslims."
Responses to this vignette revealed a great deal of awareness and understanding (and possibly fear) on the part of Muslim children, over how Muslims are represented in the media.
Answers also uncovered that children are reflective about their reactions to negative stereotypes. These findings valuably highlight the need to discuss children’s experiences of media representations of terrorism from an early age.