This project aims to analyze the interpretation of western media’s portrayal of Malala Yousafzai, a survivor of an assassination attempt by the Pakistani Taliban in 2012 and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
“As a young Muslim woman and activist speaking out for human rights and women’s education, Yousafzai is a prominent figure in the Western world’s understanding of Islam and women’s roles within Islam,” Grindeland says. “My research is focused on how her motivations are depicted in the West and if they’re accurate to what she is trying to express through her actions, speeches, and books.”
Green adds, “The purpose is of this project is to discern whether the Western media portrays Yousafzai as someone motivated and driven by Islam in her efforts for peace, or whether her religious identity is largely ignored because it does not conform to the standard Western narrative of Islam as a source of violence.”
Grindeland and Green agree that even though the research focused on specific news outlets that covered key events in Yousafzai’s life over the past three years, the large amount of information was the most challenging aspect of this project.
“Finding a way to get all of the information in an organized and coherent manner to analyze was the most difficult component,” Grindeland says. “But getting to the end stages of the project and seeing the final product starting to form has been incredible.”
“This project made me appreciate how much effort goes into any sort of in-depth research project and how fascinating it can be when it is on a subject that you’re deeply interested in,” Grindeland says. “Getting to see the project transform from just an idea into a heavily researched and edited paper has been a really fantastic thing to witness.”
Green feels it’s been most interesting to discover the relative scarcity of media stories that address Malala Yousafzai's religious beliefs and identity. “Yousafzai is very much admired by Western journalists, but not for her religious convictions,” he says.
“This experience has prepared me for future projects such as my senior paper, and beyond,” Grindeland says.”It’s given me great insight into a field that I am extremely interested in, and it’s given me the opportunity to complete a project that wouldn’t be possible during the school year.”
“Substandard reporting on Malala Yousafzai's religious background and identity is something I’ve suspected for the past couple of years as I’ve read and listened to news stories about her and compared these stories with some of her speeches and writings,” Green says. “But I haven’t had the time to do a more thorough analysis of the many news articles in the Western media to determine how much my suspicions were justified. Keziah's research has been quite valuable in providing a more solid basis upon which to critique media coverage of Malala Youfsazai.”
Asking questions and not being afraid to sound uneducated about a topic is part of doing undergraduate research. It’s not easy, but it’s incredibly rewarding and lets you take advantage of the knowledge of your advisor. I consider research as an undergraduate a wonderful opportunity!
I would encourage more Luther students to consider exploring these opportunities so they can delve more deeply into a topic and hone skills that will be valuable both in the labor market and in graduate school.