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Islam and Mass Media Consumption in Post-Migration Contexts among Women from Northern Africa in Catalonia (Spain)

Amparo Huertas Bailén
Department of Audiovisual Communication and Advertising—Institute of Communication (InCom-UAB), Autonomous University of Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès), Spain
Societies 2018, 8(3), 91;
Submission received: 29 July 2018 / Revised: 8 September 2018 / Accepted: 13 September 2018 / Published: 18 September 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Women in Islam)


This paper explores the influence of religion in cultural hybridization processes linked to migratory experience, taking into account the study of mass media consumption. Our research focused on the analysis of Muslim women from northern Africa living in Catalonia (Spain) over a 5-year period. The final sample was composed of 25 women, from Morocco (22), Tunisia (2) and Algeria (1).The main conclusions of our qualitative research are that the influence of Islam is much more evident as culture than as dogma and, in line with this, the presence of segregationist media consumption is minimal (in 4 of the 25 interviewed). Internet and television consumption is dominant, but there is a significant generation gap. Whereas internet consumption is mostly among the young, television is more present among women over the age of 36. With regards to internet content, there is serious concern about the presence of religious leaders who, under the guise of a modern appearance, spread a vision of Islam in fundamentalist terms. Much of the sample interviewed fears its power of influence. In digital social networks, Muslim women tend to share religious information, but, for safety reasons, they do so within closed groups.

1. Introduction

The current socio-cultural context of Catalonia justifies the need to study the group comprised of Muslim women with cultural roots in North Africa. On the one hand, Islam ranks second amongst the minority beliefs in Catalonia, according to the number of centres of worship located in that region. The latest available report, published in 2014 by the regional government, places the Evangelical Church in first place (with 725 centres of worship) and then Islam (with 256). In third place are Christian witnesses of Jehovah (with 118 centres). In addition, the mosques are distributed fairly evenly throughout the region. Of the 41 counties that make up Catalonia, 37 have this type of centre of worship.
On the other hand, the Muslim community in Catalonia is composed mainly of people from the Maghreb, a geopolitical denomination that brings together the countries of North Africa (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia). According to data from the Institute of Catalan Statistics (Idescat) of December 2017, the bulk of citizens from the Maghreb in Catalonia is 21% of the total population of foreign origin. The main issuing country is Morocco (with 207,082 people, representing 19.89% of all foreigners). The data of the population from the remaining countries is as follows: 8651 people were born in Algeria; 1517, in Mauritania; 597, in Tunisia and 238, in Libya. After a period of feminization of migration from North Africa to Europe during the first decade of the 21st century, the proportion of women now stands at 45%, when in 2000 it barely exceeded 20%.
The work presented here is based on the intersectionality theory formulated by Kimberlé Crenshaw at the end of the 1980s. This author pointed out the multiple interactions that can occur as a result of the confluence of the sexism-racism-classism triad, as was analyzed so well by La Barbera [1]. Our analysis deals with the intersectionality between gender–religious belief–country-of-origin (woman-Muslim-Maghreb) in a post-migration context, which shows our interest in addressing the internal diversity of this group. Our object of study is the influence of religion on the processes of cultural hybridization that is always generated after a migratory experience and, in order to address it, we observe how Muslim Maghrebi women living in Catalonia consume the media (television, radio, press, cinema and internet). That is to say, we look at their participation in digital culture as an audience.
The project, which is qualitative in nature and whose development was possible thanks to funding by the Generalitat de Catalunya-Direcció General d’Afers Religiosos within the framework of a competitive public tender, was based on several hypotheses and questions. However, for the development of this text, we will focus on two ideas: (1) Religion conditions the media diet of Muslim women from the Maghreb, thus determining uses and tastes; (2) in their activity in digital social networks, they tend to hide their religious identity as a safety measure to avoid situations of vulnerability, such as those that may arise from receiving racist, xenophobic and/or sexist messages.
All the hypotheses and questions that guided this study arose from previous research of our own [2,3]. That is, they were generated from previously detected phenomena that required new validation. In the analysis presented here, four analysis variables were applied: The age range (three were defined: from 18 to 25 years, from 26 to 35 and from 36 to 50), the place of birth (a distinction was made between “second generation” and direct experience of the migratory experience), educational level, and the level of observance of religious practice. The latter was determined based on the degree of observance of the five activities that every Muslim woman must perform [4]: visit to the mosque, use of the hijab, performance of daily prayers, observance of Ramadan and reciting the Koran.
In general terms, the results suggest that the influence of religion is more evident in cultural terms than as dogma and only the age variable has been useful to mark differences within the sample. Internet and television consumption is dominant, but there is a significant generation gap. Whereas internet consumption is mostly among the young, television is more present among women over the age of 36. With regards to internet content, there is serious concern about the presence of religious leaders who, under the guise of a modern appearance, seem to be able to easily influence people with little education who seek information online. Terrorist online propaganda and radicalization was not considered as an important subject in our work, but the results showed it deserves to be studied [5]. In digital social networks, Muslim women tend to share religious information, but, for safety reasons, they do so within closed groups.

1.1. Consumer Society and Islam: Religion as Dogma or as Culture

If we understand the media as an essential tool for spreading neoliberal values that govern the consumer society [6], there is no doubt that the first question to be addressed is the relationship between Islam and consumption. The specialist literature usually proposes the need to differentiate between dogma and culture as a starting point. Speaking in dogmatic terms leads to the highlighting of the Koran, the Sunna or the comments of the ulemas; whereas, from a cultural perspective, it is literature, traditions, sciences, the norms that govern social relations or the political paradigms that are addressed, to mention just a few examples, in order to explain the differences between both perspectives.
Jafari and Süerdem [7] point out that the culture of consumption of material goods is not determined in Muslim societies by inflexible religious rules, but that Islam acts mainly as a culture. Islam is, by its very nature, secular and plural, and this leads to multiple interpretations and, therefore, multiple lifestyles. Religious institutions have traditionally tried to map out the boundaries of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, but in their everyday life situations, masses negotiate these boundaries [6].
Following these authors’ lines of reasoning, religion forms part of the culture to such an extent that religious practices can become mundane and cease to be transcendental rituals. As a result, different types of behaviour can occur: Those that are contradictory, as is the case when the hedonism of capitalist society is understood as being opposed to the modesty of Islamic society, and transitory ones, as tends to occur during adolescence with the following of fads, or a hybridization of both aspects.
However, to understand the culture of consumption, we must also analyse how, based on the offer, the narratives of the sacred and the profane are outlined. Market norms, based on consumerism, individualism and hedonism, seem to contradict the principles of Islam which, in general terms, focus on the protection of the family [8]. Islam’s response has been to point out that people should eschew extravagances and organize their lives according to their economic status, without, under any circumstances, being ashamed [9]. In the literature that deals with the relationship between Islam and the consumer society, Haddorff [10] has identified three theoretical perspectives: That of opposition, which states that the market economy has expelled religion from the public sphere; that of absorption, which defends that the market has replaced religion and, consequently, the profane has ended up becoming sacred; and finally, that of ambiguity, which suggests that religion has not completely disappeared.
The study of the culture of consumption of material goods in Islamic societies has focused on three specific aspects: The globalization of the culture of consumption, the ideological-political resistance to global consumption and, finally, the formation of modern identities in national and international terrains [7]. The reflection on these three aspects is perfectly transferable to the media cultural sphere, where globalization, resistance to content developed from alien cultural roots and their contribution to the formation of identities have been the basis of essential theories in the development of communication as a discipline [11,12,13].
Jafari and Süerdem [7] point out that there is a special indulgence towards women in terms of hedonism. As proof of this, these authors talk about the proliferation of magazines and online resources specializing in fashion aimed at a female audience. From our point of view, it is also interesting that certain luxury brands are incorporating the hijab in their offer. In a way, all this is contributing to a reformulation of “Muslim femininity”, says Jafari and Süerdem [7]. In this regard, Gökariksel and McLarney [14] state that the hijab is being seen as a form of empowerment and self-expression, which, moreover, is not inconsistent with the independent and professional woman.

1.2. The Media Consumption of the Muslim Migrant Population

However, our fieldwork does not take place in an Islamic society, but in a country with a Christian tradition interpenetrated by Muslim society if we adopt Göle’s term [15]. As Bhabha [16] says, migrant communities are paradoxical communities, which “are trapped in a historical temporality of partial and double identifications that coexist in a certain ethical and political environment”.
The participation of religion in those processes of cultural hybridization that evolve unavoidably after a migratory experience has been addressed by multiple authors, such as Jafari, Özhan, Regany, Úrstündagli and Batat [17], Göle [15], Abu-Lughod [18] or Zanfrini [19]. But, perhaps logically, no univocal answer has been reached beyond the recognition of how difficult it is to study. Fleischmann and Phalet [20] come to affirm that religious identity is even more conflictive than ethnic identity.
The analysis of cultural hybridization processes that arise in these post-migratory contexts marked by conflict [21,22,23] obliges us to pay special attention to their vulnerability [24] more than ever when we focus on the group comprising immigrant Muslim women, about whom the West often mistakenly posits need to be saved and removed from their culture, judging that it dominates and subjects them [18]. And that is precisely the image recreated by the media, which can lead to rejection of its consumption, as Morley [25] points out when he points to a potential trend towards segregationist consumption among the migrant population in line with the creation of urban ghettos.
From a general perspective, studies suggest that the dominant media treatment links Islam and terrorism almost automatically [26]. And, when we observe the media representation of Muslim women, what appears is the stereotype of a society based on patriarchal power and machismo, which shows the lives of these women strongly conditioned by their religious beliefs [18,27,28,29]. Laura Navarro [30], in a study on the treatment of the hijab in the French press, uses the notion of “silent collectives” to refer to them, alluding to the impossibility of taking part in public discourse.
In the study presented here, we distinguish three types of media consumption: integrative (the migrant population consumes all types of products without considering their cultural origin), assimilationist (rejection of their own identity and desire to be identified as autochthonous) and segregationist (consumption focused on content that responds to one’s own culture) [3]. Although we agree with Kymlicka [31] that the third generation can mark a turning point towards a clear distancing from cultural roots, the global and hyper-connected world, by breaking with the limits of temporal and spatial distances [32], puts forward new and more diverse temporalities in the processes of adaptation. Moreover, we have detected that the three types of consumption can occur in the same person depending on the cultural sector observed. For example, a segregationist behaviour towards music and an integrative one may appear with regard to literature [3].
By understanding the media as socializing tools, areas in which citizens have to find everything they need to be able to act as such [2,33], their consumption, especially that of messages developed from foreign cultures, becomes an ideal environment to observe the processes of cultural hybridization related to migratory processes. In the case of migrant women, their important role as the people tasked with transmitting cultural traditions within the family [22,34,35] makes their study especially relevant. And if we are talking about Muslim women, we must bear in mind that religion and language are particularly essential elements in this transmission [36].
However, given the expansion of digital culture, not only must we speak of vulnerability to the stereotypes disseminated by media content, but also in relation to their behaviour in digital social networks. To address this aspect, we will focus on the visibility of their religious identity. We start from the premise of identity as something flexible and malleable, since the elements of identification are not necessarily fixed [37]. In addition, we understand the digital space as an ideal place to give visibility to those changes, to self-represent and relate to other people. Floridi [38], based on Foucoult’s notion of the “technologies of the self”, proposes speaking of the “Social-self”. Online identity is much more than a sum of clicks, it is actually a “social product” [39,40].

2. Methodological Process

2.1. The Sample

The fieldwork focused on a sample of Muslim women from North Africa, specifically from the Maghreb area, with a residence period in Catalonia (Spain) of over 5 years. In the specialized literature it is suggested that the minimum time necessary for a person to adapt to a new country is 5 years [31], hence the application of this criterion for selection.
The sample analyzed was finally made up of 25 women, 22 of whom have their cultural roots in Morocco (6 of them belonging to what is called “second generation”), 2 come from Tunisia and 1 from Algeria. Of the 19 women with direct migratory experience, 8 arrived in Spain aged over 26; 5 lived the migratory experience in the middle of their childhood; 4 were between the ages of 11 and 17 on arrival and 2, between 18 and 25.
Gathering this sample was not easy, so the fieldwork was extended with respect to the initial planning. For the collection of information, in-depth interviews were conducted. The first was held on 14 March 2016 and the last on 10 February 2017, when the original plan was to finalize this phase of work in July 2016. Factors such as the coincidence with Ramadan, the difficulty of expressing oneself in the host country’s languages (Catalan or Spanish) and, above all, the difficulty in contacting them, were the main causes of this delay. The help of various Barcelona organisations that work directly with this group was called on, such as the Association of Friends of the Moroccan People (Itran), the Catalan Islamic Cultural Centre, the Pati Llimona Civic Center or the group called Arab Students of the Autonomous University of Barcelona. We attended several meetings and conferences about the Islamic world, and an invitation to participate was also posted on a page we manage on Facebook called “Digital Minorities” (“Minorías Digitales”).
The profile of the sample was very diverse in the end:
  • Age range: 12 were between 18 and 25 years old; 6, between 26 and 35 years old and 7 between 36 and 50 years old. The majority (13) lived with family, comprising mostly of parents and siblings, and 4 lived alone. The rest cohabited in very varied situations (sharing a flat with a friend, with husband and children, with other relatives, alone with their children, with the husband and their grandparents, to name just a few examples).
  • Educational level: 18 of the interviewees had a high level of education (10 were studying for university degrees at the time of the field work), 6 had an average educational level and 1 was not educated. Of the total sample, 2 indicated that they were housewives and 13 had paid jobs, but only 3 had sufficient resources to live independently.
  • Religious practice: The majority (16) showed that they adhered to their religious practices closely, while in 7 cases a medium adherence was detected; in one case, it was low and only one interviewee denied following them. The visit to the mosque is the least usual activity. Some interviewees reported that they are not obliged to do so or complained that they did not find the atmosphere that prayer requires.

2.2. The Interview Scripts

This is a qualitative study, in which in-depth interviews were applied to the sample. The script of these conversations, which lasted an average of 90 min, consisted of three blocks:
Information about the immigration process. In addition to knowing their personal history, this section aimed to generate the empathy required to carry out a comfortable and relaxed conversation.
Media consumption. Information was requested about the preferences, uses and topics of interest, as well as their opinion about the media treatment of Islam. In addition, information about their activity in digital social networks was also collected.
Personal data (basic information to apply the analysis variables proposed). Although for this text only four of these variables are managed (age, place of birth, studies and adherence to religious practices), information was also requested on the years of residence in Catalonia, the country of birth of the parents, the cities where they had completed their studies, the work situation, the city of residence and the type of household/cohabitation in the home.

3. Results

3.1. Preferred Media

The observation of the media diet of the sample consulted clearly reflects the domination of two media sources of information and entertainment: Internet (mentioned by 19 of the interviewed) and television (17). All Internet users indicated that they regularly use Youtube and Facebook. In relation to television, in addition to mentioning mostly privately owned Spanish networks (Antena 3 and Telecinco mainly), they also claimed to consume Moroccan channels on occasion—such as 2M TV (second public channel) and Al Aoula TV (first channel)—and international channels like Iqraa TV, which can be viewed via satellite and online. Among the oldest age group, the Al Jazeera television station was occasionally mentioned.
Of the variables treated, only the age profile allows us to establish clear differences within the sample. Internet users are concentrated in the first two defined ranges, between 18 and 35 years of age. The opposite of what happens in relation to television, whose consumption tends to be very low among the youngest. Therefore, it is possible to talk about the digital generation gap.
“If you know how to surf the net, yes. I mean, for older people, no, because they only know how to handle TV and little else, right? But if you have internet and don’t like TV, you can get by on your own and have plenty of variety “. (E20: 23 years old, lives with her husband and grandparents, studies at university, was born in Catalonia, high adherence to religious practices).
And as far as family roles are concerned, the role as vigilant mothers of the media consumption of underage children appears in all cases in which this circumstance occurs, especially in relation to television:
“We have made a pact, me and my daughters. The TV during the week we try not to turn it on. We try, well, it’s not a rigid rule, (...) you got a good mark at school, come on, you can have a half hour. You’ve got that as a reward, right?” (E8: 36 years of age, lives with husband and daughters, housewife, born in Algeria, strict adherence to religious practices)
“[My children] watch a bit of Clan [children’s TV channel], I don’t like this so much, children’s programmes, I don’t like so much because they are taught nonsense and to speak badly, and I don’t like it, because as I say, TV is for learning, not to make children more foolish.” (E13: 43 years old, lives with her son and is separated from her partner, works as a cook in a nursing home, born in Morocco, and strictly adheres to religious practices)

3.2. Dominant Type of Consumption

This dominance of internet and television makes it very easy to verify the type of dominant consumption (assimilationist, integrative and segregationist), given that both media allow access to diverse coverage (local, national, transnational, global). The assimilationist trend, which is the exclusive or preferential consumption of European products, appeared in eight cases. Integrative consumption was detected in five interviewees, although it should be noted that in the domestic sphere the consumption of Arab channels tends to occur as a family and the consumption of European channels is usually alone. Finally, segregationist consumption occurred in four interviewees, but only in one case was there an absolute contempt for European content. Regarding the remaining people consulted (eight), such a clear classification cannot be established, because their media consumption is very sporadic. In the analysis of the variables, it was detected that the tendency towards segregationism is greater among women in the 36 to 50 age range. The remaining variables did not indicate any significant trend.
Although it only appeared sporadically, and in relation to Iqraa TV, it is worth noting that in one case the presence of women in its programming was valued as an incentive for consumption:
“I liked it, above all... yeah, this channel [Iqraa TV]. I don’t know, because I saw more women appearing on it, like, say, commentators, or something like that. Either as interviewees, or as guests, and you listened to them, or, the people who are there who give you the information were younger, although there were also older people. “(E9: 23 years old, lives with parents and siblings, is a university student, was born in Morocco and strictly adheres to religious practices).

3.3. Religion as a Reason for Rejection of Certain Content

Where the influence of religion is most evident is in the rejection of certain content. Practically all interviewees commented that viewing sex scenes in movies, series or advertisements is a problem, especially when children are present.
“Yes, a lot happens, for example on Spanish channels, when we are all together. At night we usually see more Arabic channels than Spanish ones because, even if it’s advertising, but in the ads they show you scenes, they show everything, or they’re showing you the news and really, they show you a beach and they show you naked women, and you say, but I’m watching the news. (...) Then, when we switch to Arab channels, as they already have a religious background, they don’t broadcast those images so you can watch them calmly”. (E25: 22 years old, lives with parents and siblings, studies at university, born in Morocco and moderately adheres to religious practices)
“Let’s see, the idea that I have is that the people’s hearts are connected to our eyes and our eyes, if they see something bad, get corrupted and at the same time the heart is corrupted, feeling is corrupted, emotions are corrupted. So, of course, there is content that I prefer not to see, (...) I notice that somehow they are not going to contribute anything, you know? [Referring to the sex scenes].” (E9: 23 years old, lives with parents and siblings, studies at university, was born in Morocco and strictly adheres to religious practices).
In addition to the sex scenes, another aspect also highlighted as a reason for rejection is the consumerist discourse of advertising.
“The TV no, it’s just that so much advertising is [pause] they try, even in films, they try to sell you things and I... just don’t buy it”. (E8: 36 years old, lives with husband and daughters, housewife, was born in Algeria, strictly adheres to religious practices).

3.4. The Islamic Media Preachers

Only eight of the women interviewed recorded using the media to search for religious content and, for this, they said it was basically using television (seven) and the internet (five). The following of video channels and materials created by people who call themselves experts in Islam is the most mentioned. Seven of the interviewees claimed they followed this type of content. In general terms, in these cases, it is recognized that TV preachers have a major capacity to influence.
“But now, yes, I watch every day... you know more about religion. And (you feel) closer to God than before. Because before I didn’t use to wear either a veil or a headscarf... (She explains that her father died when she was 14 years old). I decided to be very close to God, yeah. Because before I only wore a headscarf, but now I wear more things, okay? For example, when my mother says ‘daughter, that’s not good’, because how should I know (...) God is going to punish you ‘here’. And it also affects the body, because when you take this off, it affects the liver, the eye... and I saw that on the internet. And now I am very confident, and I can take it off whenever I fancy. No. Make-up, no. Make-up can be put on at home as you wish, but not outside. Nor cologne either. You can’t do it. When you go out, men smell the lovely scent and can bother you... Shower, yes every day. Or three times a day. Being clean is the most important thing in religion. And showering, because I pray 5 or 6 times a day, every time I go to pray, I have to go wash myself.” (E10: 40 years old, lives with husband and children, works in a restaurant, was born in Morocco and strictly adheres to religious practices)
The testimony of E19 (28 years old, lives with her parents and siblings, is a translator, was born in Morocco and strictly adheres to religious practices) is especially striking. She explained that she has always followed these TV preachers—although she doesn’t identify them as such—and distinguishes between two stages. Regarding the first stage, she said:
“Yes, on YouTube, then I used to watch programmes that my parents weren’t interested in, my brother wasn’t either, so I watched them alone, so they were programmes that were to do with religion, that explained religion to you, because nobody had explained anything, my parents explained things superficially, but they aren’t experts, and I liked to contrast the information. And then I didn’t stick to the version that my parents had explained to me, but I watch other information about religion, I see other points of view (...), they aren’t preachers, but people who explain, experts in religion that explain, then I watch, or for example, fashionable things, beauty (...) I started agonising [about the possibility of wearing the veil] and that’s why I used to watch YouTube (...) to see, uh... to know more about religion and to know if I really had to put it on or not (...) I decided to wear it. “
The second stage, which is the current one, is characterized by the search for another type of information, more in keeping with her age:
“Now I see a person, who also bases herself on psychology, that is, she uses studies and very good studies, like from Harvard or wherever, to explain things. Then, it focuses on the inner part of people, on how to make a change for the better. It is more self-help than, say, religion, what happens is that it uses religion to speak, (...) I feel identified because lately I wasn’t feeling very well and it has helped me to let off steam and see how we ourselves do things that then lead us astray. (...) she plays lots of videos, but up-to-date, modern ones. She doesn’t only put the religious point of view, but goes seeking the opinion of experts. She also seeks out people who have gone through the same thing, who explain their stories and... when I have my period, she tells me that I can’t touch the Koran with my hands.”
However, it must also be said that among women who do not follow this content, a strong rejection and critical attitude was detected.
“Because what they are saying is false. For me, they don’t exist, because these people talk about politics. They take religion as a window, do you understand me? But what they are talking is politics.” (E15: 36 years old, lives alone, works in the service sector -cleaning-, is from Morocco and closely adheres to religious practices).
“I think it’s very useful, yes, yes. It’s just that it is also easier to manipulate. That’s what scares me, then of course, if we always had a certificate, a guarantee that what they’re saying is true [pause] but it’s that, out of every 10 YouTube videos, there’s one that’s good. Then of course, the other 9 are distorting, and then they say ‘there is terrorism’. Of course, maybe they would have to hire specialists in religion and eliminate everything that is toxic. When you don’t have information about something and they give you information, if you do not have the capacity to detach yourself from it and draw your own conclusion, you believe the first thing they tell you. Then, that is a danger.” (E16: 32 years, lives alone, works in a pharmacy, was born in Morocco, strict adherence to religious practices).

3.5. Use of Social Media

Only four of the women interviewed—all of them between the ages of 36 and 50—refused to use social networks. Therefore, 21 of the 25 interviewed did state that they were users.
In general terms, they did not indicate problems when networking with relatives and friends residing in their country of birth or in other areas—many have relatives scattered in different European states. In the first place, the language does not arise as a limitation, since it is common to share knowledge of Spanish and they can also use other languages such as Arabic. Secondly, self-censorship does not seem to be habitual when it comes to sharing material that can be understood as a reflection of a certain deviation from correct religious practice. In this regard, only one comment was collected that, in reality, seems more anecdotal than anything.
“Yes, it happened to me once, I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t party, I don’t stay up late, but I can go out with a friend, if she wants to have a drink, I’m not going to deprive her, so it’s true that I once took a picture of myself... and you couldn’t see her, only the beer that was next to her was visible, and it was clear that I wasn’t drinking, no, but it was a bit like ‘what do you have there? Next to the table? ‘But, no, it’s not that they got angry, they told me, (...) most of my family was born here, my cousins, then, they know that if I show that photo, they know why it is and, there, the little family that I have are people who are teachers, doctors, architects, they are like, a little more modern. They understand a little. They have also come here on a trip.” (E7: 20 years old, lives with parents and siblings, works doing henna tattoos, was born in Morocco, closely adheres to religious practices)
In addition, 15 of the respondents indicated that they explicitly address religious issues in their social networks, writing opinions and sharing images. However, this kind of behaviour usually appears in closed spaces. In such cases, most participate in private groups generated on Facebook. The most mentioned were these two: “Handsome and pretty Muslims” (“Musulmanes guapos y guapas”) and “Multicultural Muslim youth” (“Juventud Multicultural Musulmana”).
With regards to the precautions taken when offering personal or private information, there is a particular reluctance to show one’s own image. Sharing one’s own portraits is more common among the second generation.
In relation to the presence of racist discourses, it is interesting that women differentiate between an insult directed at the community and a personal insult. This fact can be interpreted as a communicative ability, the result of having lived through direct or similar experiences. However, only four of the interviewees explained that they had been victims of these insults on the internet. Of course, in all cases the offense was related to religion. For example, E17 (19 years old, lives with parents and siblings, student at university, second generation of Moroccan parents) explained that on one occasion, when sharing a congratulatory video because of Ramadan, a classmate asked her in social media why she killed animals—referring to the slaughter of the ram; and E21 (21 years old, lives with parents and siblings, university student, second generation of Moroccan parents) explained that on one occasion a person asked her insistently on social media to justify why she was Muslim. To which she stated that her answer was: “I don’t have to subject myself to the questions you are asking me, who I don’t even know”. This contemptible behaviour was recorded as the most common in these cases.

4. Final Discussion

The study of the influence of religious belief on the media consumption of Muslim women of migrant origin residing in Catalonia leads us to raise two important ideas in the final debate, despite our interest in capturing the diversity within this social group. In the first place, we would like to refer to the appearance of religion more as a culture than as a dogma, according to Jafari and Süerdem [7], who point out that consumption of material goods is not determined by inflexible rules. This is evident from the cross-sectional analysis of the set of results. The rejection of advertising messages that encourage the consumption of material goods or sex scenes in audiovisual media are clear proof. On the other hand, what we might interpret as the influence of religion as dogma—the faithful following of religious channels, the consumption of appropriate content according to the rules during Ramadan or the search for information on religious practices, to cite three examples—hardly appears. Only 8 of the 25 interviewed showed a certain tendency that could fit into this vision of religion as a dogma, but it was within the specific framework of the consumption of messages disseminated by people presenting themselves as religious leaders on the Internet, content that was also strongly criticized by female non-followers. Therefore, the vision of a woman dominated by religion, submissive and without the ability to reflect, remains questioned in this work. As Abu-Lughod [18] says, with some irony in response to Western comments, Muslim women do not need to be saved from their own culture.
And the second issue that we want to address here is the generation gap. In the post-migration context it is usual to see differences between the second generation and their parents, between younger people and their elders [19,31], and this has also been reflected here. The younger women interviewed tend to differentiate between family consumption, when referring to Moroccan/Arab television channels, and personal consumption, when they talk about other channels. In the same way, it is also common for the youngest to express themselves as feeling distant from content such as the Al Jazeera channel, which they associate directly with the elderly. That is to say, in addition to the social gap that digital culture involves, which for example makes the Internet much more present among the youth demographic, we also find differences in terms of cultural interests and media tastes among young people and adults. However, we cannot speak of a marked tendency towards the absolute distancing of cultural roots among the youngest ones, nor can we speak of a closing off in the culture itself among the older ones, as the inevitable approximation to the media of the host location in a post-migration context does not automatically mean the abandonment or rejection of the media of the culture of origin. We should remember that only 4 of the 25 interviewees reflected a segregationist form of behaviour, and this was reflected in a particularly marked way in just one case.
In the face of new projects, this work has highlighted the need to investigate vulnerability on the Internet in a broad sense. It is necessary to study not only the rise of hate speech and racism on social media but also the use that Islamic leaders make of the internet [4].
Finally, we want to highlight the potential of the qualitative research when the aim is to know a social group at risk of social exclusion. Even in the case of the study of social media, where it is easy to apply quantitative methods, qualitative research is essential to gain contact with their experiences and perceptions. Academic research should contribute to increasing its visibility and, above all, to spread discourses outside of stereotypes and discrimination.


Generalitat de Catalunya-Direcció General d’Afers Religiosos

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflicts of interest.


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Huertas Bailén, A. Islam and Mass Media Consumption in Post-Migration Contexts among Women from Northern Africa in Catalonia (Spain). Societies 2018, 8, 91.

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Huertas Bailén, Amparo. 2018. "Islam and Mass Media Consumption in Post-Migration Contexts among Women from Northern Africa in Catalonia (Spain)" Societies 8, no. 3: 91.

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