Narrated by Nesrine Malik
Producer: Katherine Godfrey⠀
Sound Design: Sami El-Enany
Executive Producer: Steven Rajam
An Overcoat Media production for BBC Radio 4
In 1981, the Palestinian intellectual Edward Said published a book that examined how ideas of Islam are disseminated in the western news media by commentators and experts. It was called Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World.
Forty years on, columnist and author Nesrine Malik examines how Said's ideas - and the responses to them - stack up. Through his blistering public lectures and interviews, we hear not only Said’s irrepressible erudition and his humour but the prescience of Said’s ideas today - ones that speak to questions of identity and coexistence.
Covering Islam emerged from Said’s observations of the western media’s coverage of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Reflecting later, Said said the media's 'arsenal of images' created an impression of "the utmost negative sort of evil emanation...as if the main business of Muslims was to threaten and try to kill Americans.” When he came to update Covering Islam 17 years later, after the Gulf War, Said believed the situation to be even worse.
Nesrine Malik explores how Said’s scholarship and public intellectualism sought to dismantle the idea of a “clash of civilisations” between ‘The West’ and ‘Islam’ through the 80s and 90s to his death in 2003 - and how these tropes have played out and twisted since. Nesrine also considers what Said’s ideas might offer us now, and how he might have dealt with social media and its dissemination of his ideas.
With contributions from Timothy Brennan, the author of the biography Places of Mind, a Life of Edward Said; D D Guttenplan, the editor of The Nation Magazine; Rizwana Hamid, the Director of the Muslim Council of Britain's Centre for Media Monitoring; and Asad Haider, on of the founding editors of Viewpoint magazine and the author of Mistaken Identity.