“No More Apologies”: Violence as a Trigger for Public Controversy over Islam in the Digital Public Sphere

In: Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture
Johanna Sumiala University of Helsinki,

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Anu A. Harju University of Helsinki,

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This article investigates how violence associated with religion, here namely Islam, functions as a trigger for public controversy in the Turku stabbings that took place in Finland in 2017. We begin by outlining the Lyotard-Habermas debate on controversy and compound this with current research on the digital public sphere. We combine cartography of controversy with digital media ethnography as methods of collecting data and discourse analysis for analysing the material. We investigate how the controversy triggered by violence is constructed around Islam in the public sphere of Twitter. We identify three discursive strategies connecting violence and Islam in the debates around the Turku stabbings: scapegoating, essentialisation, and racialisation. These respectively illustrate debates regarding blame for terrorism, the nature of Islam, and racialisation of terrorist violence and the Muslim Other. To conclude, we reflect on the ways in which the digital public sphere impacts Habermasian consensus- and Lyotardian dissensus-oriented argumentation.

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