Abstract and Figures

In this work we study the representation of Muslims on the Internet in Spain. After the terrorist attacks in Europe, Islamophobia and Muslimophobia have grown considerably in our society. There is a strong rejection of Muslim groups and individuals, they are perceived not only as different, but also as dangerous and violent. We follow a cognitive linguistics approach using corpus linguistics as a methodology in order to know which concepts are related to Muslims in discourse. We have used three corpora: the Spanish part of the esTenTen corpus, which is a large web corpus intended to give a picture of the Spanish language on the Internet; a Twitter corpus encompassing tweets published by five main political parties in Spain and their candidates in 2015-2016; and a third corpus of articles on the topic “Muslims” from four important digital newspapers (
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'!Lodz Pragmatics 13-2, Special Issue On The Pragmatics Of Othering:
Stereotyping, Hate Speech And Legitimising Violence
In this article, we study the representation of Muslims on Internet in
Spain. After the terrorist attacks in Europe (including Madrid and Barcelona),
Islamophobia and Muslimophobia have grown considerably in our society, as
pointed out by the Office of the Spanish Attorney General1. However tracking
discriminatory discourses about Muslims and Islam is not easy, firstly because
categorization is itself elusive (Cheng 2015). Indeed discourses mix different
elements such as race, nationality, and religion when referring to Muslims and
therefore several keywords are necessary to explore extensively such
representation. However, such a study is necessary given that the detection of
stigmatizations has been pointed out by experts as the first step in preventing hate
speech (Allport 1962; Adorno, Frenkel-Brunwik, Levinson and Sanford 1965;
Brown 1995; Blanco, Horcajo and Sánchez 2016). Political discourses, mainstream
media and social media become sometimes “a vehicle for hateful political beliefs,
ideologies and actions” (Kopytowska 2017, 1).
These statements were published in various media, for example:
We first review the theoretical framework (section 1), defining the
concept of “hate speech” and explaining why we use Frame Theory and Corpus
Linguistics. Corpora used in this study are described in section 2 together with a
brief description of the socio-historical context and a description of the corpus
linguistic methodology we have followed. In section 3 results are analyzed for the
use of the words Islamic and Muslim (tables are to be found in Annex 1).
1. Theoretical framework
1.1. Hate speech definitions
Hate speech was defined in the Recommendation 97 (20) by the Council of
Europe’s Committee of Ministers (1997) as
all forms of expressions which spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred,
xenophobia, antisemitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance, including:
intolerance expressed by aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism, discrimination
and hostility against minorities, migrants and people of immigrant origin.
The EU “Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on
combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of
criminal law”, is the basis of actions against hate speech in the EU. However, the
Framework decision is only referring to punishable conduct as criminal offenses, if
such conduct involve race, religion2 :
“- public incitement to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a
member of such a group defined on the basis of race, colour, descent, religion or
belief, or national or ethnic origin;
- the above-mentioned offence when carried out by the public dissemination or
distribution of tracts, pictures or other material;
- publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising crimes of genocide, crimes
against humanity and war crimes as defined in the Statute of the International
Criminal Court (Articles 6, 7 and 8) and crimes defined in Article 6 of the Charter
of the International Military Tribunal, when the conduct is carried out in a manner
likely to incite violence or hatred against such a group or a member of such a
Though we do not expect that the data found in our corpora actually lead to
commit hate crimes (although some literature have suggested it could be so, see
Leezenberg (2017) for discussion on the performativity of hate speech), we would
like to evaluate the representation of Muslims so as to observe whether it
discriminates against this minority. Once we have the results we may be able to
fight better such discursive discrimination since the detection of stigmatizations
Sexual orientation or gender is not listed in the framework Decision.
has been pointed out by experts as the first step in preventing hate speech ( Allport
1962; Adorno et al. 1965; Brown 1995; Blanco et al. 2016, Pérez de la Fuente
1.2 Frame theory and corpus linguistics
This paper is anchored in a Cognitive linguistics approach, and especially in the
Frame Semantics (Fillmore 1982, Langacker 1991, Huckin 2002), where special
relevance is given to lexical selection and framing strategies. We have chosen to
research cognitive frames for two main reasons. On the one hand, besides being
linguistic models, frames are grounded in our cognitive and epistemological
knowledge (Busse 2012). Frames show us how this knowledge has been structured
by our previous (linguistic and non-linguistic) experiences (Barsalou 1992). On the
other hand, they allow us to analyze large amounts of text in a systematic way.
Frequency data are used to make generalizations about patterns of usage and we
can make the assumption that these patterns “represent speaker’s knowledge of
their language, including the conceptual structures that motivate language” (Glynn
2010, 89). Therefore, we can hypothesize that concepts such as “Islamic” are
organized in frames that “govern our thought” and “our everyday functioning”
(Lakoff & Johnson 1980, 3), and that the frequency patterns we find of lexical co-
occurrences provide us with data to identify and describe those frames
(Kopytowska 2009, 4).
We observe the frames through the most frequent lexical selection
obtained with Corpus Linguistics tools (Sketch Engine) with which we explore our
data. In short, we followed a Corpus Assisted Discourse Studies (CADS) approach
(Baker 2006, Partington et al 2013). Indeed, we believe that such
quantitative/qualitative combination allows to correlate word frequencies and the
frame concept. Both statistics and qualitative analysis, using keywords, help us to
observe and analyze the discursive frames chosen to describe and construct Islam
in the Internet in Spanish (Baker et al. 2008). In order to apprehend these frames
and to know which concepts are related to Muslims in discourse, we searched our
corpora for those words that co-occur with islámico (‘Islamic’) and musulmán
(‘Muslim’), and all their morphological forms (which include the gender
perspective masculine/feminine and singular/plural). With these data, we have
carried out qualitative analysis contextualizing the cases and interpreting their uses.
The most frequent collocations point at the frames being constructed in
the discourse. To take an example, we will see that the adjective “Islamic” is
frequently used with violent concepts such as “terrorism”. This indicates a
conceptual contiguity between terrorism and Islam, i.e. that terrorism is part of the
framing conveyed by the word islámico (‘Islamic’).
We also base our work on the idea that language reflects and sustains
social structures (Fairclough 1989, Wodak and Meyer 2016), and understand
discourse as a key social practice to the development of social relations and
ideologies. From this point of view, we find especially relevant the idea that
ideologies involve an Us vs. Them polarization (van Dijk 1998), which leads to
tense social relationships and even violent reprisals against the ‘them’ which are
then constructed as an out-group (Allport 1956, van Dijk 2016) attitudes towards
the Others (for representation of Muslims see also Awass (1996), Moore et al.
(2008), Baker et al. (2012)).
Such (mis-)representation of outgroups can be achieved through different
strategies already described in the literature, such as social actors representation
(van Leeuwen 1996) and mystification (Schröter & Taylor 2017).
2. Corpora and Context
2.1. Data
We have used three corpora, adopting the triangulation of data principle as
explained in Wodak (2016). The first corpus is the Spanish part of the Sketch
engine esTenTen corpus (Kilgarriff & Renau 2013). It is a large web corpus that is
made up of 2,021,633,644 words from 4,374,128 documents. Sources are varied
and include digital newspapers, official documents, blogs, and web pages. It is
intended to give a picture of the Spanish language, at least in the written modality,
and it gives us the most general picture of the Spanish Internet.
The second corpus is made up of articles from four important newspapers:
El País, La Vanguardia, La Voz de Galicia, and ABC. It was compiled using
WebBootCaT (Baroni et al 2006), and árabe (‘Arab’), musulmán (‘Muslim’), and
islámico (‘Islamic’) were used as keywords. This web service produces
permutations of the keywords and sends them to Google, retrieving the first results.
It means that the chosen articles are not necessarily the newest, but those ranked in
the top by Google, which are supposed to be the most relevant results for the
searched terms (Brin & Page 1998). This corpus is made up of 244,348 words from
166 different documents. Therefore, it provides insights into the representation of
Muslims in digital media.
The third corpus comprises the tweets published by the five main political
parties in Spain and their candidates. The corpus was collected from October
(2015) to July (2016), nine months when two general elections took place. The
parties are Partido Popular (traditional right-wing), Ciudadanos (right-wing),
Partido Socialista (traditional left-wing), Podemos (left-wing), and Izquierda Unida
(left-wing). Messages are publicly accessible and toll-free in Twitter. This corpus
is made up of 2,322,270 words and it gives us data about the frames used by
relevant politicians.
Corpus Contents Domain Words
esTenTen corpus digital newspapers,
official documents,
blogs, and web pages
General (Spanish
WebBootCaT El País, La
Vanguardia, La Voz
de Galicia, and ABC
Digital media 244,348
Twitter Electoral messages by
PP, Cs , PSOE ,
Podemos, and IU
Electoral Campaign 2,322,270
Fig.1 Corpora
Before going into the results and their analysis, a necessary
contextualization of such results will be provided in the next section.
2.2. Socio-historical Context
Islam plays an important role in the history of Spain. Nearly all the current
territory of Spain was conquered in the 8th century by the Umayyad Caliphate, a
Muslim presence that remained relevant during the following seven centuries till
1527, when Islam was outlawed in the Kingdom of Aragón3.
According to the Muslim Population Demographic Survey conducted by
the Unión de Comunidades Islámicas de España (UCIDE), there are 1.9 million
Muslims in Spain, i.e. The Muslim population in Spain is estimated at 4% of the
total population and it is a growing number. Of these 42% are Spaniards (22.45%
born in Spain), and 1.23% converted to Islam from other beliefs. The rest (58%)
are Muslim foreigners living in Spain, mainly coming from Morocco (70%),
('t had already happened in the Kingdom of Castile in 1502, and Jews had been
converted or expelled in 1492.
Pakistan, Algeria, and Nigeria. The cities with the largest Muslim population are
Barcelona, Madrid, Ceuta, and Melilla (the two largest cities and the two cities in
the north of Africa).
The current Spanish Constitution was approved in 1978 and, since then,
Spain is no longer a Catholic State, but a non-confessional one. The Constitution
establishes religious freedom as a fundamental right, and the State is obliged to
protect it. It was a fundamental step forward in the configuration of Spain's
religious policy and also in the recognition of the minorities, especially those with
deep historic roots (Muslims, Jews, and Protestants).
In the specific case of Muslims, a cooperation agreement was signed in
1992 regulating relevant issues such as its presence in the educational system, the
legal protection of mosques, and the legal recognition of imams4. Particularly
important was the explicit acknowledgement of the Islamic historical tradition in
Spain and of the role of Muslims as part of Spanish identity.
This historical presence will show in the data even though non-Catholic
religions as whole are perceived as foreign to the Spanish reality and national
identity. In particular for the Muslim community, the words “integration” and
“assimilation” are frequently found in discourse related to that community and
point at an identity framed as “outgroup”.
2.3. Methodology
The analysis of the corpora allows us to have both the general and the
political/media use of terms related to Islam.
With our largest corpus, the esTenTen corpus, we have followed two
strategies in order to know which concepts are in the frame of “Islamic” and
“Muslim”. Firstly, we have retrieved all words that co-occurred with each of them
in enumerations, since concepts frequently collocated should be of the same class.
This first strategy helped us to evaluate how these concepts are constructed in our
digital texts.
Secondly, we searched the corpus for the nouns that are modified by these
two adjectives so as to retrieve the most frequent collocations. These collocations
should point at the conceptual frames when the words “Islamic”/“Muslim” are
used. The media corpus has been analyzed with a similar methodology, but resting
our search to the nouns in collocation with the adjective islámico. In both the
)Law 26/1992 (10/11/1992), Acuerdo de Cooperación del Estado con la Comisión
Islámica de España: https://www.boe.es/buscar/pdf/1992/BOE-A-1992-24855-
esTenTen and the media corpus, results have been retrieved using the Sketch
Engine platform (Kilgarrif et al 2014) and sorted by their logDice score. LogDice
is a statistic measure based on the frequency of the words and that can be used
regardless the size of the corpus (Rychlý 2008). It is useful for us because it
dampens the importance of terms with a too high frequency that would otherwise
make invisible terms with a not so prominent frequency.
Our approach with the corpus of Twitter is different because there are
very few tweets related to the topic we are researching. We find only 9 tweets with
islámico and 21 with musulmán. This small amount allows us to study case by case
and regrouping which topics are the most present in these 30 tweets.
3. Results
3.1. Frames in the general (esTenTen) corpus
As we have described, we have analyzed the esTenTen corpus in different steps
that will be explained below in three subsections. The first one (3.1.1) details the
results of searching the corpus for words that appear together with
islámico/musulmán in enumerations. In section 3.1.2 we analyze the most common
nouns modified by islámico, and in section 3.1.3 we do the same with nouns
modified by musulmán. Tables with data can be found in Annex I.
3.1.1. Enumerations with islámico or musulmán
Two main frames have been found in these data: culture/religion and
history. When we look at the esTenTen corpus for other adjectives enumerated
together with islámico (see fig. 1 in Annex), we find that it is frequently used with
both cultural and religious concepts. The most common is árabe (‘Arab’), árabe e
islámico being a typical collocation, especially in institutional names in academia
(e.g. ‘Department of Arabic and Islamic studies’). We also find different religions
such as judío (‘Jew’), cristiano (‘Christian’), mudéjar, hebreo (‘Hebrew’), hindú
(‘Hindu’), budista (‘buddhist’) and evangélico (‘evangelical’), and different
historical time periods such as bizantino (‘byzantine’), romano (‘roman’), visigodo
(‘visigoth’), and medieval. These words are connected with two interrelated topics:
the Spanish cultural heritage5, and the religions.
Indeed as mentioned earlier Islam is a key concept in the history of Spain,
and for instance the presence of the word medieval is a reference to the centuries
when it was the main religion in that territory. Its current importance both in Spain
and worldwide explains its appearance when other religions are also mentioned.
We find a similar result when we searched the most frequent words in
enumerations with musulmán (‘Muslim’) (fig. 2 in Annex I). Most words refer to
Spanish history, culture, and religion. There are, however, three meaningful
differences. First, we found references to croata (‘Croatian’) and serbio
(‘Serbian’). In the co-text we observed that it was related to the Yugoslavian war
and that Muslims at that time were not identified as islámicos. Secondly, the
reference to gitano (‘gypsy’) shows that musulmán (‘Muslim’) is the term chosen
when referring to a minority group of that religion. It is also the word chosen when
the collocation includes ateo (‘atheist’).
While these differences might not seem relevant considered
independently, they will provide important insights into the use of those terms
referring Muslims. As we will show in the next section, though islámico and
musulmán are synonyms, they cannot actually be used alternatively, the former
being used in more negative frameworks than the latter.
3.1.2. [noun + Adj. islámico ]
Figure 3 (in Annex I) shows the most common nouns modified by the
adjective islámico. It is here where clear negative frames appear in relation to this
We identify three frames. The first and most similar one to the already
described is a cultural frame referred to by words such as época (‘time’), cultura
(‘culture’), arte (‘art’), and civilización (‘civilization’). In particular, the reference
to an época islámica (‘Islamic times’) takes us again to the medieval times and to
its importance in Spanish history.
The second frame is related to terrorism and violence. Islámico is a
common adjective for terrorismo (‘terrorism’, the term with the highest score in
our data) and terrorista (‘terrorist’), combatiente (‘fighter’), extremismo
(‘extremism’) and extremista/integrista (‘extremist’/’fundamentalist’), radicalismo
(‘radicalism’) and radical (‘radical’) and fundamentalismo (‘fundamentalism’).
* It explains why words such as cultura (culture) and universidad (university) are also
common in its context.
These words connect Islam not only to violence, but also to irrational behaviors.
Extremists, fundamentalists, and radicals share the feature of acting not responding
to reasons, but to irrepressible -and wild- emotions. This is an image of the
neighbors from the south, pictured as violent savages, that is nothing new in
European history, and was already criticized by Edward Said in his classic work
Orientalism (Said 1978).
A third frame identified in Fig. 3 is focused on contemporary politics,
with the words República (‘Republic’), Magreb (‘Maghreb’), revolución
(‘revolution’), and resistencia (‘resistance’). We should probably include in this
framework the reference to the political organization Hamas, an acronym itself in
Arabic of “Islamic Resistance Movement”. In fact, when we look closer at the
examples of resistencia islámica, we find that they mostly make reference to
Fig. 3 includes three names, velo/pañuelo (‘headscarf’) and yihad
(‘jihad’), that refer to the Islamic culture, but that we consider in the intersection
between this first frame and the second frame because nowadays they are clearly
impregnated of negative polarity. They are traditional concepts in the Islamic
religion, but they have a specific reading in current Western media. The headscarf
is a traditional clothe for Muslim women. However, since it makes them so easily
identifiable and visually different in the European streets, it is now a very strong
symbol, both for the women themselves and for right-wing islamophobics. Its
value is discussed intensely in both the press (Rosati 2017, Andrés 2017) and the
academia (Martinez-Torrón 2009, Ruiz 2011). Though men are mostly arrested as
terrorists, women are much more easily identifiable because of the headscarf, so
that they can be attacked (Dietz 2004, García et al. 2011). Since terrorism is
connected with Islam through the second frame, and women are connected with
Islam through the use of the veil, these women find themselves framed with
extremism and violence.
The term yihad has suffered a similar process. From its original meaning
in Muslim thought, which is to strive to honor God, it has come to be understood
only as a violent struggle against the infidels, which is the meaning adopted by the
terrorists. Some dictionaries, as the Collins Cobuild for Learners (2001), define
jihad only as “a holy war which Islam allows Muslims to fight against those who
reject its teachings.” Most Muslims would find this definition rather restrictive, if
not plainly offensive6. However, it is very close to the most common meaning for
non-Muslims because of the frame in which it is usually used. If we search our
+ Riay Tatari, President of the Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE), has repeatedly
denounced this misuse of the term by journalists. One example of his arguments can be read
in the opinion column Islamofobia y terrorismo (20/6/2017):
corpus for concepts that share contexts with yihad, what we find is Hamas, brigade,
martyr, Al-Qaeda, and war.
3.1.3. [nouns + adj. musulmán]
As for the frames found with the adjective musulmán (‘Muslim’), we
found that this term does not have the same negative connotation as islámico. We
have identified two main frames for this adjective: the history of Spain and
contemporary society/politics.
Fig. 4 shows that the history of Spain is again the strongest frame, with
words such as invasión (‘invasion’), dominación (‘domination’), ocupación
(‘occupation’), dominio (‘domain’), época (‘time’), conquista (‘conquest’),
alquería (‘farmhouse’), castillo (‘castle’), and fortaleza (‘fortress’). The first four
terms reflect the most common narration of the seven centuries of Muslim
kingdoms in Spain, usually narrated as military occupation, what also explains the
other terms.
Another frame is related to the contemporary society, where we talk of the
religión (‘religion’), mujeres (‘women’), inmigrante (‘inmigrant’), mundo
(‘world’), mezquita (‘mosque’), mayoría (‘majority’), origen (‘origin’), población
(‘population’), país (‘country’), minoría (‘minority’), cementerio (‘cemetery’), and
clérigo (‘cleric’). In fact, looking at the examples we find two subframes, one
national and one international. In the latter we have Muslim countries and the
Muslim world.
The most frequent noun in Fig.4. hermanos (‘brothers’) describes a
similar situation to the one described above for Hamas. Its frequency comes indeed
from its use in the name Hermanos musulmanes (the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’), the
transnational Islamist organization founded by Hassan al-Banna.
3.2. “Islamic” in the digital media corpus
3.2.1 General results
We have carried out the analysis of the 863 appearances of the adjective
islámico (‘Islamic’) found in our corpus of four very popular digital media in Spain
(El País, ABC, La voz de Galicia, and La Vanguardia).
73% of cases where the islámico (‘Islamic’) adjective appears in the
corpus, the frame is related to violence or social conflict. Only in the 27% of cases
it is used in positive frames associated with culture, social empowerment, freedom,
or civil rights.
47% of occurrences are in the expression ‘Islamic State’, in a frame of
terrorist violence. Spanish media had a debate7 about the most convenient name for
this terrorist group. “ISIS”, “Daesh” and “Islamic State” were the most common
options. The term “Daesh” was officially recommended by several institutions
such as the Foundation for Urgent Spanish (FUNDEU), an institution devoted to
help journalists and translators regarding new terminology. In November 2014, the
Spanish government joined an international call for applying the same
recommendation and for using “Daesh” instead ofIslamic State”. Two months
before, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, had recommended
the same to the French political establishment and media8. This recommendation
tries to avoid the symbolic, ideological, and political significance of the expression
“Islamic State” within the Muslim tradition. Therefore, it was a strategy for
fighting against the legitimation of this terrorist organization as the only almighty
and hegemonic Islamic power.
The Spanish Secretary of State for Security explicitly explained this
strategy as follows (Martinez Vázquez 2014: 2):
The new acronyms and the presentation of the caliphate have an important
symbolic, ideological and political meaning in the Muslim tradition. From the very
moment that they identify themselves as an Islamic State, they legitimize their
organization as the only one in the territory, the hegemonic, all mighty, and
different of the rest of terrorist groups. The expression DAESH (which in Arabic is
phonetically similar to “something to crush”) is a term used by its enemies and it
offends the terrorist group. That is why I want to begin my speech by asking to all
the experts and the media for their collaboration: let’s stop calling them Islamic
State and start using the real name: DAESH.
Source: http://www.antena3.com/noticias/mundo/llames-estado-islamico-llamalo-
, In France Inter (17/9/2014). Source: https://www.franceinter.fr/emissions/le-7-9/le-7-9-
Although in this quotation the Secretary of State asks for avoiding the use
of the name “Islamic State”, our data clearly show that it has been widely used by
the Spanish media. In our corpus, this terrorist organization is called Estado
Islámico in 405 examples, when Daesh only appears in 86 examples. The
recommended word appears therefore only in 17% of articles that we have
analyzed (28 from 166).
The preferred use of Estado Islámico in 83% of the articles and 100% of
the media represented in the corpus not only helps the legitimation of this terrorist
organization, but it also reinforces a negative frame for the Muslim community.
We could say that it contributes to the cause of the terrorists twice: legitimizing
their claims (accepting them as a state) and affecting the social coexistence (linking
Islam to terrorism) (Von Sikorski el al. 2017).
In the remaining 53% of cases, “Islamic” modifies the other nouns
showed in fig. 5. Half of these references also fit in a frame of violence and/or
conflict. To take an example, fe islámica (‘Islamic faith’) is understood in the texts
as if it were an oxymoron for western modernity, in articles about Muslim lesbians
or an Islamic miss. This polarization is made explicit in (1), where European
values are opposed to the Islamic faith.
(1) [El Español] Los moderados pretenden tender puentes entre la fe islámica y la
sociedad moderna, entre tradición y tecnología y desarrollo.
[Moderates seek to build bridges between the Islamic faith and the modern
society, between tradition and technology and development.]
Another example is the use of the “Islamic headscarf” within a frame of
(labor o educational) conflict (75% of the occurrences), with references to this
clothe as an impediment to peaceful coexistence. An article with references to the
headscarf already shows this frame in its title “Cuando llevar el velo islámico te
deja sin trabajo” (‘When wearing the Islamic headscarf leaves you jobless’), and
explains that “mujeres musulmanas residentes en España reivindican que la
decisión de usar hiyab no condicione su vida laboral” (‘Muslim women living in
Spain claim that the decision to use hijab should not condition their working life’).
As we had seen in the general corpus, the framing is positive when
“Islamic” is used together withArabic” in the expression árabe e islámico. We
have found 20 examples and all of them refer to neutral/positive frames such as
business opportunities, critical thinking, innovation, and markets. (2) and (3) are
two examples of this positive framing.
(2) Visiones innovadoras sobre el mundo árabe e islámico.
[Innovative visions on the Arab and Islamic world]
(3) Empresas granadinas conocen las oportunidades de negocio en los mercados
del mundo árabe e islámico
[Companies from Granada know the business opportunities in the markets of the
Arab and Islamic world]
3.3. Frames in the Twitter corpus
One striking conclusion of our research carried out on Twitter (Alcántara-
Plá and Ruiz-Sánchez 2017, Alcántara-Plá and Ruiz-Sánchez forthcoming) was
that the Twitter discourse of electoral campaigns does not deal with social topics.
Topics such as those related to minorities and religions are excluded from the
debate. Indeed even though the year 2015 was a year marked by the Syrian refugee
crisis, this topic was absent in the tweets published by politicians and political
parties. Therefore, it was not surprising for us to find out that the words islámico
(‘Islamic’) and musulmán (‘Muslim’) were not frequent in this corpus either.
However, the few examples that we found were issued as reactions to terrorist
attacks and islamophobic episodes.
3.3.1. Islámico framed in tweets
We have found only 9 tweets (in a corpus of 116,072 tweets) with the
word islámico. 4 of them, which were published by the right-wing parties C’s and
PP, use it as adjective of terrorismo islámico (‘Islamic terrorism’) as in (4):
(4) [C’s] Albert Rivera pide “cooperar y una estrategia conjunta” contra el
terrorismo islámico.
[Albert Rivera asks for “cooperation and a joint strategy” against Islamic
Another tweet, citing a declaration of the minister of foreign affairs (PP),
connects ‘Islamic’ with ‘terror’, although with the intention of unlinking them.
(5) [PP] García Margallo “Sería muy peligroso intentar identificar la religión
islámica con el terror”
[García Margallo “It would be very dangerous to try to identify the Islamic
religion with terrorism.]
Three tweets are focused on the Estado Islámico (one by C’s and two by
Podemos). As pointed out previously, the expression Estado Islámico is preferred
to Daesh in our data and is always used within a frame of ‘terrorism’ in the
contemporary European societies:
(6) [Podemos] Acabamos de presentar vídeo con nuestra hoja de ruta para derrotar
al Estado Islámico.
[We have just presented a video with our roadmap to defeat the Islamic State.]
Finally, we find only one tweet outside of this violent and negative frame.
It was published by PSOE and it is an appointment of its candidate:
(7) [PSOE] @sanchezcastejon “Reunido con representantes de la comunidad
islámica en España”
[@sanchezcastejon "Meeting with representatives of the Islamic community in
3.3.2 Musulmán framed in tweets
As was the case with the general corpus, the use of musulmán is quite
different to islámico. We find 21 occurrences and all of them use the term
musulmán to identify a community. In fact 18 cases are found in the collocation
comunidad musulmana (‘Muslim community’), two are of personas musulmanas
(‘Muslim persons’), and one of mundo musulmán (‘Muslim world’). Most of these
tweets recognize therefore integration of Muslims as a minority in Spain:
(8) Con mis mejores deseos a la comunidad musulmana #RamadánMubarak
[With best wishes to the Muslim community # RamadanMubarak.]
(9) Reforzaremos el diálogo con la comunidad musulmana
[We will strengthen the dialogue with the Muslim community.]
If tweets (9 by PSOE and one by IU) make a connection between the
Muslim community and terrorism, it is to counter the link made with crime and
violence and Muslims and denounce the unfairness of such link:
(10) [IU] No van a criminalizar a la comunidad musulmana. Luchamos juntos
contra el terrorismo.
[They will not criminalize the Muslim community. We fight together against
(11) [PSOE] Esta barbarie nada tiene que ver con la comunidad musulmana, que
se siente indignada por esta masacre.
[This barbarity has nothing to do with the Muslim community, which is outraged
by this massacre.]
(12) [PSOE] La comunidad musulmana está en la defensa de los valores
democráticos y contra el terrorismo.
[The Muslim community is for the defense of democratic values and against
Some tweets by PSOE recognize also Muslims as victims, both of
terrorism (13) and of the Spanish Islamophobia (14 and 15).
(13) [PSOE] No solo es un ataque a civilización y forma de vida, porque DAESH
también ataca al mundo musulmán.
[It is not only an attack on civilization and way of life, because DAESH also
attacks the Muslim world.]
(14) [PSOE] Un contundente rechazo a ataque a personas musulmanas. El
terrorismo se combate con convivencia.
[A strong refusal to attack Muslim people. Terrorism should be fought with
(15) [PSOE] Condenamos la acción de Hogar Social Madrid cerca de la mezquita
de la M-30 que supone un ataque a las personas musulmanas.
[We condemn the action by Hogar Social Madrid near the mosque of the M-30,
which is an attack to the Muslim people.]
We can briefly summarize the findings of this section in two main ideas.
First, there is a negative framing that links Muslims to terrorism, which is frequent
in the three corpora. It is clearly linked to Daesh and to terrorist attacks in Europe.
Secondly, this negative framing is referred to with the adjective islámico. Though
musulmán could be understood as a synonym, musulmán is used in neutral or
positive frames related to culture and contemporary politics/society in all the
corpora. In fact, we observed a positive semantic shift when islámico appears
together with musulmán or árabe, the framing becoming neutral. This could imply
that a cultural and historical frame encourage positive framing. However, there are
some words (such as velo – headscarf) that, although having a cultural meaning,
sometimes appear in a negative framing. Further research should investigate the
reason for this difference.
4. Final remarks
Our study focused on the representation of Muslims in the Spanish
Internet by searching collocations with islámico (‘Islamic’) and musulmán
(‘Muslim’) in different corpora such as the Spanish part of the esTenTen corpus,
the tweets published by the five main political parties in Spain and their candidates
from October (2015) to July (2016), and the articles on the topic “Muslims” from
four widely read digital newspapers in Spain.
Our initial hypothesis was that the frequent use of some terms together
with these words could give us information about the frames that are being built in
discourse. We based our work on the idea that language is a social practice key to
the development of social relations and ideologies. From this point of view, we
were especially interested in examining the idea of ideologies involved in
constructing an Us vs. Them polarization.
We can summarize the main frames that we have found as follows:
Culture/ Religion
Neutral frame (e.g. Dep. of Arabic and Islamic Studies)
Negative frame (e.g. headscarf, Jihad)
Terrorism (e.g. Islamic terrorist)
Contemporary Politics/Society
National frame (e.g. immigration)
International frame (e.g. Islamic World)
Therefore, we can confirm a negative representation of the Muslim
minority in Spain in the three studied corpora. The most worrying fact is the
predominance of a negative frame with the association of islámico with violent
radicalization and terrorism. We have seen that this frame was most often the
consequence of using Estado Islámico instead of Daesh as recommended.
Therefore it could have been avoided in many cases with the internationally
recommendation of using Daesh instead of Estado Islámico. However, it is a wider
problem since terrorismo (‘terrorism’), fundamentalismo (‘fundamentalism’), and
terrorista (‘terrorist’) appear in Fig. 3 as three of the five most frequent nouns
modified by islámico in the general corpus.
A relevant difference that we have found is that islámico (‘Islamic’) is the
word used for referring to terrorism and violence, while data show that the words
musulmán (‘Muslim’) and árabe (‘Arab’) have a different -and more positive-
connotation. We have frequently found them referring to the Muslim community
and to its culture and history. In fact, Islamic” only appears in neutral/positive
frames when it is in a collocation either with árabe or musulmán.
Despite this positive or neutral representation of the latter, seeing from a
historical and cultural perspective, it is interesting to point out that the Muslim
community is always referred to as “them”, i.e. as not belonging to the national
community and common identity. Its values, rights or demands are not a real
subject in the political discourse on Twitter. The main policy makers in Spain refer
to Muslims incidentally, and never using the voice of people identified as Muslims
themselves. In brief, the Muslim community is only mentioned as a reaction to
external facts. We have seen it related to terrorist attacks, to outbreaks of
Islamophobia, and to the Ramadan. Being the former the most frequent case,
Muslims are strongly framed with concepts of violence and threat to the Us
represented in the discourse.
Though the social reality of Muslims in Spain is very complex (Spaniards,
immigrants, tourists, refugees, etc.), the discourse we studied in our data is partial
and shallow. As a matter of fact, even when Muslims are mentioned as belonging
to a common past in Spain, they are pictured only as military invaders (“ Them” as
historical enemies in our territory). When it is a frame of “Them” as victims of
injustice related to Islamophobia/Muslimophobia, they still are at the other end of
the Us vs. Them polarization.
As result of our research, we can confirm the stigmatization of this
minority in the digital discourse. This also explains the fact that we have found
cultural words (such as velo or jihad) semantically shifting to a negative framing. If
the detection of stigmatizations is, as pointed out by experts, the first step in
escalating into hate speech and hate crime (Bernal del Castillo 2014, Brown 1995;
Blanco et al. 2016; Pérez de la Fuente 2010), digital discourse about Muslims in
Spain should be considered as worrying.
We thank the editors and the anonymous reviewers for their careful
reading of our manuscript and their many insightful comments and suggestions.
We also thank the members of our research group Wor(l)ds Lab at the Universidad
Autónoma de Madrid for their comments and support. The study reported in this
article is part of the project Estrategias de encuadre y articulación del discurso
politico en 140 caracteres, funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economic Affairs
Annex I
Fig. 1. Enumerations with islámico (Muslim)
Fig. 2. Collocationswith musulmán (Muslim)
Fig. 3 Nouns modified by islámico (Islamic)
Fig. 4 Nouns modified by musulmán (Muslim)
Fig. 5 Nouns modified by “Islámico” in the media
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Manuel Alcántara-Plá is Associate Professor in the Department of
Linguistics and Modern Languages at the Universidad Autónoma de
Madrid. He is member of the Wor(l)ds Lab research group. His
research interests include corpus linguistics, discourse, and digital
communication. More specifically, his current work examines the
linguistic characteristics of the New Media using Corpus Assisted
Discourse Studies. He is the PI of the project ‘Framing and
Articulation Strategies in the Political Discourse on Twitter’ (2015-
2017), and co-editor in chief of the international journal CHIMERA:
Romance Corpora and Linguistic Studies.
Manuel Alcántara-Plá
Departamento de LingüísticaGeneral y Lenguas Modernas
Facultad de Filosofía y Letras
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
Madrid 28049
e-mail: manuel.alcantara@uam.es
Ana Ruiz Sánchez is Associate Professor in the Department of
Linguistics and Modern Languages at the Universidad Autónoma de
Madrid and has a European PhD in German Studies. She is member
of the Wor(l)ds Lab research group. She is a researcher in the Project
‘Framing and Articulation Strategies in the Political Discourse on
Twitter’ (2015-2017). She is interested in the analysis of intercultural
discourse in Europe, and works as a consultant on Human Rights and
Minorities. She is co-author of Interkulturelle Literatur in
Deutschland (Metzler 2000) and Bewegte Sprache: Vom
‘Gastarbeiterdeutsch’ zum interkulturellen Schreiben (Thelem
2014). She coordinates the Spanish civic initiative Pacto de
Ana Ruiz Sánchez
Departamento de LingüísticaGeneral y Lenguas Modernas
Facultad de Filosofía y Letras
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
Madrid 28049
e-mail: a.ruiz@uam.es
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The now-classic Metaphors We Live By changed our understanding of metaphor and its role in language and the mind. Metaphor, the authors explain, is a fundamental mechanism of mind, one that allows us to use what we know about our physical and social experience to provide understanding of countless other subjects. Because such metaphors structure our most basic understandings of our experience, they are "metaphors we live by"--metaphors that can shape our perceptions and actions without our ever noticing them. In this updated edition of Lakoff and Johnson's influential book, the authors supply an afterword surveying how their theory of metaphor has developed within the cognitive sciences to become central to the contemporary understanding of how we think and how we express our thoughts in language.
This article discusses the discursive strategies of the Freedom Party (PVV), a contemporary Dutch populist and Islamophobic party. After tracing its ideological roots to mainstream liberalism rather than earlier forms of extreme right political movements, I will discuss its discourse about Muslims. It will appear that this discourse goes far beyond the legitimate expression of opinion. Using some of Judith Butler’s ideas about the performativity of hate speech, I will attempt to describe how PVV leader Geert Wilders’s language is not only a discourse about violence, but is also itself a discourse of violence. Simultaneously, however, Wilders systematically denied responsibility for any violence his words might contain, imply, or provoke; instead, he and his sympathizers blamed both Muslims and his political opponents for whatever violence might occur in the wake of his utterances. This appears most clearly in the discussion following Norwegian Anders Breivik’s murderous 2011 assault on the Utøya island, an act which he himself claimed was in part inspired by Wilders’s political rhetoric.
There is currently no clarity on what Islamophobia covers: Does it relate to hostility towards Islam, hostility towards Muslims or racism against Muslims? While some argue that the term Muslimophobia should replace Islamophobia due to the hostility being directed at Muslims as people, rather than Islam the religion, it is not clear whether this is the case in practice. This article examines expressions of Islamophobia and Muslimophobia and their relationship to racism in Swiss parliamentary debates on banning the construction of minarets in Switzerland. It demonstrates that Islamophobia and Muslimophobia are different from each other but mostly occur in tandem. Furthermore, Muslimophobia can be but is not always a form of racism due to the ‘manipulation of culture’ in which proponents of the ban can de-essentialise, as well as essentialise, cultural traits to argue that Muslims can become integrated if they fulfil certain conditions. Such conditions can, however, be easily manipulated to continually exclude undesirable ‘others’. The article contends that the minaret ban initiative relied heavily on the ‘slippery slope’ fallacy to make both Islamophobic and Muslimophobic arguments, that is, accusing Muslims and Islam of transgressions against Swiss society that have not even occurred.