Exploring Representations of Muslims and Islam on Public Broadcast Television and Social Media in South Africa



media, Islam, public broadcast television, digital media, social media, Instagram


Scholars from a variety of disciplines and contexts have thoroughly affirmed the systemic character of negative portrayals and limited representations of Muslims and Islam in film, television, and news media. The corpus of research on media representations of Islam and Muslims has been defined and dominated by the Global North. Scholars working in this field of inquiry acknowledge, affirm, and address the deeply discriminatory, damaging, and dangerous consequences that stereotypical, limited, inaccurate, and homogenising mediatised tropes have for the lived realities of Muslims on a global level. However, by taking on this important and urgent work, scholars have unwittingly contributed to the development of an ever-expanding oeuvre wherein the majority of scholarship on media representations of Muslims and Islam is directed towards issues of ostracism and alienation. On the contrary, the growing study of religion in digital spaces offers insight into more nuanced and diverse (self) representations and portrayals of Muslims and Islam. While digital religion studies, an outgrowth of the discipline of internet studies, is already an established and recognised sub-discipline in the field of religious studies in the Global North, the study of religion in digital spaces in Africa is a bourgeoning field of interest located within the wider tradition of religion and media scholarship. Scholars of religion in Africa have noted that while other contexts may favour an evolutionary approach to the study of religion and media generally, in African contexts media technologies and practices generally coexist. Exploratory and reflective in its orientation, this article offers a careful consideration of the historical, social, media, and political context in which Muslims in South Africa, a multi-religious, multi-racial, majority Black democratic context, are located and offers two examples that highlight how media forms and practices coexist within the location. The first set of examples, from public broadcast television, responds to the predominance of scholarship from the Global North and offers an alternative view that illustrates the ways in which the national imperatives that mandate religious diversity on public broadcast television intentionally circulate positive narratives of Muslims and Islam, yet also obscure the challenges that South African Muslims face, thereby reproducing a different kind of limited trope to that which might be encountered in the Global North. The second set of examples explores the possibilities and opportunities that social media provides for encountering and engaging more diverse, self-constructed representations of Muslims and Islam in hopes of encouraging more local scholars to take seriously the opportunities and possibilities that social media provides as sites and sources of knowledge about religion in general and Islam in particular.


Abidin, C. 2016. “Visibility Labour: Engaging with Influencers’ Fashion Brands and #OOTD Advertorial Campaigns on Instagram.” Media International Australia 161 (1): 86–100. https://doi.org/10.1177/1329878X16665177.

Ahmed, S., and J. Matthes. 2017. “Media Representation of Muslims and Islam from 2000 to 2015: A Meta-Analysis.” The International Communication Gazette 79 (3): 219–44. https://doi.org/10.1177/1748048516656305.

An NUR, The Light. 2016. Season 10, Episode 9. Directed and produced by Munier Parker, presented by Mariam Mkwanda. Accessed July 13, 2020. https://youtu.be/gqMR230Lqhg.

An NUR, The Light. 2018. Season 12, Episode 10. Directed and produced by Munier Parker, presented by Zahrah Robinson. Accessed July 13, 2020. https://youtu.be/svl_qUOPhNE.

Baderoon, G. 2014. Regarding Muslims: From Slavery to Postapartheid. Johannesburg: Wits University Press. https://doi.org/10.18772/2014067694.

Barron, L. 2020. “Dina Torkia’s Modestly: Beauty Work, Autobiographical Habitus and the Modest Fashion Influencer.” Critical Studies in Fashion and Beauty 11 (2): 175–94. https://doi.org/10.1386/csfb_00015_1.

Bashri, M. 2019. “Elections, Representations, and Journalistic Schemas: Local News Coverage of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib in the US Mid-Term Elections.” ESSACHESS: Journal for Communication Studies 12 (24): 129–46. https://www.essachess.com/index.php/jcs/article/view/467.

Baulch, E., and A. Pramiyanti. 2018. “Hijabers on Instagram: Using Visual Social Media to Construct the Ideal Muslim Woman.” Social Media + Society 4 (4): 2056305118800308. http://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3353158.

BCCSA (Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa). 2013. “Case No: 45/2013—Mohammedi vs SABC3—News.” Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa, December 2, 2013. Accessed September 3, 2022. https://www.bccsa.co.za/2015/05/20/case-no-452013-mohammedi-vs-sabc3-news/.

Becker, F., and J. Cabrita. 2018. Introduction to Religion, Media, and Marginality in Modern Africa, edited by F. Becker, J. Cabrita and M. Rodet, 1–37. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv224twmz.4.

Beta, A. R. 2019. “Commerce, Piety and Politics: Indonesian Young Muslim Women’s Groups as Religious Influencers.” New Media and Society 21 (10): 2140–159. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444819838774.

Bleich, E., and M. van Der Veen. 2022. “Yes, Muslims Are Portrayed Negatively in American Media—2 Political Scientists Reviewed over 250, 000 Articles to Find Conclusive Evidence.” The Conversation, May 27, 2022. Accessed September 3, 2022. https://theconversation.com/yes-muslims-are-portrayed-negatively-in-american-media-2-political-scientists-reviewed-over-250-000-articles-to-find-conclusive-evidence-183327.

Campbell, H. A., and G. Evolvi. 2020. “Contextualizing Current Digital Religion Research on Emerging Technologies.” Human Behaviour and Emerging Technologies 2 (1): 5–17. https://doi.org/10.1002/hbe2.149.

Cheong, P. H. 2021. “Authority.” In Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in Digital Media, edited by H. A. Campbell and R. Tsuria, 87–102. New York, NY: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429295683-7.

Childers, J. 2018. “The Art of the Clapback: Social Media Feuds Are Good for Business.” Edgy_, March 29, 2018. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://edgy.app/art-clapback-why-social-media-feuds-good-for-business.

Cornwell, T. B., and H. Katz. 2021. Influencer: The Science behind Swaying Others. New York, NY: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003037767.

Discovery. 2023. “About Us.” Discovery, October 13. Accessed October 17, 2022. https://www.discovery.co.za/corporate/investor-relations-about-us.

Duderija, A. 2015. “Introduction: The Concept of Sunna and Its Status in Islamic Law.” In The Sunna and Its Status in Islamic Law, edited by A. Duderija, 1–12. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137369925_1.

Echchaibi, N. 2013. “Muslimah Media Watch: Media Activism and Muslim Choreographies of Social Change.” Journalism 14 (7): 852–67. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884913478360.

Eck, D. L. 2007. “Prospects for Pluralism: Voice and Vision in the Study of Religion.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 75 (4): 743–76. https://doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/lfm061.

Evolvi, G. 2017. “Hybrid Muslim Identities in Digital Space: The Italian Blog Yalla.” Social Compass 64 (2): 220–32. https://doi.org/10.1177/0037768617697911.

Geyser, W. 2022. “How to Duet on TikTok (+ 10 TikTok Duet Ideas).” Influencer Marketing Hub, March 31, 2022. Accessed 15 October 2022. https://influencermarketinghub.com/how-to-duet-on-tiktok/#:~:text=Duet%20is%20a%20feature%20on,sequence%20one%20after%20the%20other.

Haron, M. 2020. “South Africa’s Weekly Media: Front-Page Reporting 9/11, Preventing Islamophobia.” Journal for the Study of Religion 33 (2): 1–26. https://doi.org/10.17159/2413-3027/2020/v33n2a2.

Hass, B. S., and H. Lutek. 2019. “Fashion and Faith: Islamic Dress and Identity in the Netherlands.” Religions 10 (6): 356. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10060356.

Hendricks, N. 2020. “Writing Insecurity: Representations of Muslims in South Africa’s Print Media between 2001 and 2014.” In “Security Infrastructures,” edited by A. Langenohl and G. van Riet, special issue, Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies 47 (1): 99–113. https://doi.org/10.1080/02589346.2020.1714281.

Huntington, S. P. 1996. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Hurley, Z. 2022. “Middle Eastern Women Influencers’ Interdependent/ Independent Subjectification on Tiktok: Feminist Postdigital Transnational Inquiry.” In “Independence: #AoIR2021,” edited by A. Kerr and A. Iliadis, special issue, Information, Communication and Society 25 (6): 734–51. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2022.2044500.

Ismail, F., and F. Seedat. 2017. “Gender Asymmetry and Mutual Sexual Relations in Online Legal Interpretation—Beyond the Dissonance through Fatwas of askimam.org.” Journal of Gender and Religion in Africa 23 (2): 95–124.

Jakku, N. 2018. “Islamophobia, Representation and the Muslim Political Subject: A Swedish Case Study.” Societies 8 (4): 1–17. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc8040124.

Kabir, S. N., and M. O. Hamid. 2015. “Muslims in Western Media: New Zealand Newspapers’ Construction of 2006 Terror Plot at Heathrow Airport and Beyond.” Journal of Muslims and Minority Affairs 35 (4): 469–85. https://doi.org/10.1080/13602004.2015.1112120.

Kaplin, D. 2017. “Microaggressions and Macroaggressions in Religiously Diverse Communities.” NYS Psychologist 29 (3): 16–24. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322011784_Microaggressions_and_Macroaggressions_in_Religiously_Diverse_Communities.

Karriem-Hock, R. 2022. “Born on Monday, 8 August at 17:39.” Instagram, 11 August 2022. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://www.instagram.com/p/ChHah9uLwWz/?igshid=NTc4MTIwNjQ2YQ==.

Khan, A.-B., K. Pieper, S. Smith, A. Case, and S. Wheeler. 2022. “Erased or Extremists: The Stereotypical Views of Muslims in Popular Episodic Series.” USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. Accessed September 3, 2022. https://assets.uscannenberg.org/docs/aii-study-muslim-erased-or-extremists-20220901.pdf.

Khosroshahi, Z. 2019. “The Riz Test: How Muslims Are Misrepresented in Film and TV.” The Conversation, January 22, 2019. Accessed September 3, 2022. https://theconversation.com/the-riz-test-how-muslims-are-misrepresented-in-film-and-tv-110213.

Kim, E. U., and K. A. Taylor. 2017. “The Model Minority Stereotype as Prescribed Guideline of Empire: Situating the Model Minority Research in the Postcolonial Context.” Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement 12 (2): 1–24. https://doi.org/10.7771/2153-8999.1156.

Law, T. J. 2022. “The Definitive Guide to Instagram Live Video for Businesses.” Oberlo, March 22, 2023. Accessed May 11, 2023. https://www.oberlo.com/blog/definitive-guide-instagram-live-video-businesses.

Lewsley, J. 2021. “Your Baby and the Fourth Trimester.” BabyCentre, March 2021. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a25019365/your-baby-and-the-fourth-trimester.

Lewis, R. 2019. “Modest Body Politics: The Commercial and Ideological Intersect of Fat, Black, and Muslim in the Modest Fashion Market and Media.” Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture 23 (2): 243–73. https://doi.org/10.1080/1362704X.2019.1567063.

Lövheim, M., and E. Lundmark. 2019. “Gender, Religion and Authority in Digital Media.” ESSACHESS: Journal for Communication Studies 12 (2): 23–38. https://www.essachess.com/index.php/jcs/article/view/462.

Lumbard, J., and A. A. Nayed, eds. 2010. The 500 Most Influential Muslims 2010. Jordan: The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre. https://rissc.jo/docs/0A-FullVersion-LowRes.pdf.

Mahmudova, L., and G. Evolvi. 2021. “Likes, Comments, and Follow Requests: The Instagram User Experiences of Young Muslim Women in the Netherlands.” Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture 10 (1): 50–70. https://doi.org/10.1163/21659214-bja10038.

Mahmut, D. 2019. “Controlling Religious Knowledge and Education for Countering Religious Extremism: Case Study of the Uyghur Muslims in China.” In “Religious Identity and Education: A Response to Contemporary Global Pressures,” edited by W. Y. Chan, E. Lisovskaya and R. Osburn, special issue, FIRE: Forum for International Research in Education 5 (1): 22–43. https://doi.org/10.32865/fire201951142.

March, E. 2017. “Psychology on Internet Trolls: They Understand What Hurts People But Simply Don’t Care” ABC News, July 13, 2017. Accessed October 18, 2022. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-13/trolls-understand-what-hurts-people-but-they-simply-dont-care/8701424.

MJC (Muslim Judicial Council). 2022. “Learn about the MJC.” Accessed October 11, 2022. https://mjc.org.za/.

Morteo, I. 2018. “To Clarify the Typification of Influencers: A Review of the Literature.” Paper presented at CLADEA 2017, Riverside California, CA. Accessed May 12, 2023. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340903551_TO_CLARIFY_THE_TYPIFICATION_OF_INFLUENCERS_A_REVIEW_OF_THE_LITERATURE.

Munnaverali, A. 2020. “7 Useful Islamic Apps for Muslims.” halaltrip, September 10. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://www.halaltrip.com/other/blog/useful-islamic-apps-for-muslims/

Muslim Central. 2022. “Mufti Menk.” Muslim Central. Accessed October 14, 2022. https://muslimcentral.com/audio/mufti-menk/.

Nisa, E. F. 2018. “Creative and Lucrative Da’wa: The Visual Culture of Instagram amongst Female Muslim Youth in Indonesia.” Asiascape: Digital Asia 5 (1–2): 68–99. https://doi.org/10.1163/22142312-12340085.

Pemberton, K., and J. Takhar 2021. “A Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis of Muslim Fashion Bloggers in France: Charting ‘Restorative Technoscapes’.” Journal of Marketing Management 37 (5–6): 387–416. https://doi.org/10.1080/0267257X.2020.1868551.

Piela, A. 2013. “Claiming Religious Authority: Muslim Women and New Media.” In Media, Religion and Gender: Key Issues and New Challenges, edited by M. Lövheim, 125–90. New York, NY: Routledge.

Piela, A. 2022. “Identity: ‘The Niqab Is a Beautiful Extension of My Face’: Niqab Adoption as Meta-Conversion in YouTube Lifestreaming Videos.” In Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in Digital Media, edited by H. A. Campbell and R. Tsuria, 167–75. New York, NY: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429295683-15.

Quranly. 2021. “Track Your Reading Time! Time, Verses, Pages and Rewards!” Quranly, 2021. Accessed October 15, 2022. https://quranly.app/landing1644450391663.

Rahman, K. A. 2020. “News Media and the Muslim Identity After the Christchurch Mosque Massacres.” In “The Contexts of the Christchurch Terror Attacks: Social Science Perspectives,” edited by C. Crothers and T. O’Brien, special issue, Kotuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online 15 (2): 360–84. https://doi.org/10.1080/1177083X.2020.1747503.

Reetz, D. 2011. “The Tablīghī Madrassas in Lenasia and Azaadville: Local Players in Global ‘Islamic Field’.” In Muslim Schools and Education in Europe and South Africa, edited by A. Tayob, I. Niehaus and W. Weisse, 85–104. Münster: Waxmann Verlag.

The Riz Test. 2018. “Measuring the Portrayal of Muslims in Film and TV: The Riz Test.” Accessed September 3, 2022. https://www.riztest.com/.

RSA (Republic of South Africa). 2022. “Regulations and Guidelines—Coronavirus COVID-19.” March 26, 2020. Accessed September 3, 2022. https://www.gov.za/covid-19/resources/regulations-and-guidelines-coronavirus-covid-19.

SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation). 2020. SABC Editorial Policies 2020. Accessed May 11, 2023. http://web.sabc.co.za/digital/stage/editorialpolicies/SABC_Editorial_Policies_2020.pdf.

Said, E. 1978. Orientalism. New York, NY: Random House.

Scharnick-Udemans, L.-S. S. 2018. “Biographies and the Mediatization of Religion.” Religion and Education 45 (1): 110–24. https://doi.org/10.1080/15507394.2017.1407623.

Scharnick-Udemans, L.-S. S. 2020. “Religion: The Final Frontier of the Rainbow Nation.” Religion and Theology 27 (3–4): 250–74. https://doi.org/10.1163/15743012-02703005.

Scharnick-Udemans, L. S. 2021. “Religious Privilege and Intolerance: Unveiling the Rainbow Nation.” In Ecumenical Encounters with Desmond Mpilo Tutu: Visions for Justice, Dignity and Peace, edited by S. Nadar, T. Maluleke, D. Werner, V. Kgabe and R. Hinz, 283–90. Bellville: University of the Western Cape Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv264f95m.73.

Schleifer, A. 2021. The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims 2022. Jordan: The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre. https://themuslim500.com/books/The%20Muslim%20500%202022%20edition%20-%20Free%20eBook.pdf.

Shih, K. Y., T.-F. Chang, and S.-Y. Chen. 2019. “Impacts of the Model Minority Myth on Asian American Individuals and Families: Social Justice and Critical Race Feminist Perspectives.” Journal of Family Theory and Review 11: 412–28.

Stokel-Walker, C. 2021. TikTok Boom: China’s Dynamite App and the Superpower Race for Social Media. Kingston: Canbury Press.

Vahed, G. 2021. “Covid-19, Congregational Worship, and Contestation over ‘Correct’ Islam in South Africa.” Journal for the Study of Religion 34 (1): 1–30. https://doi.org/10.17159/2413-3027/2021/v34n1a4.

Veidlinger, D. 2021. “Religion: A Little Birdie Told Me Something about Religion: Religion on Twitter.” In Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in Digital Media, edited by H. A. Campbell and R. Tsuria, 132–40. New York, NY: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429295683-11.

Weng, E., and F. Mansouri. 2021. “‘Swamped by Muslims’ and Facing an ‘African Gang’ Problem: Racialized and Religious Media Representations in Australia.” In “A Tribute to the Co-Founding Editors of Continuum, Brian Shoesmith and Tom O’Regan,” edited by P. Allmark, special issue, Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 35 (3): 468–86. https://doi.org/10.1080/10304312.2021.1888881.

Wigger, I. 2019. “Anti-Muslim Racism and the Racialisation of Sexual Violence: ‘Intersectional Stereotyping’ in Mass Media Representations of Male Muslim Migrants in Germany.” Culture and Religion: An Interdisciplinary Journal 20 (3): 248–71. https://doi.org/10.1080/14755610.2019.1658609.

Williams, J. P., and M. N. Kamaludeen. 2017. “Muslim Girl Culture and Social Control in Southeast Asia: Exploring the Hijabista and Hijabster Phenomena.” Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal 13 (2): 199–216. https://doi.org/10.1177/1741659016687346.

Wing Sue, D. 2010. Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

Zaid, B., J. Fedtke, D. D. Shin, A. El Kadoussi, and M. Ibahrine. 2022. “Digital Islam and Muslim Millennials: How Social Media Influencers Reimagine Religious Authority and Islamic Practices.” Religions 13 (4): 355. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13040335.



How to Cite

Scharnick-Udemans, Lee-Shae Salma, and Sakeenah Dramat. 2022. “Exploring Representations of Muslims and Islam on Public Broadcast Television and Social Media in South Africa”. Journal for Islamic Studies 40:27 pages. https://unisapressjournals.co.za/index.php/JIS/article/view/12450.



Received 2022-10-18
Accepted 2023-04-12
Published 2023-07-04