Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 222222
Loughborough University

Social Sciences

Fitna Project

In March 2008, Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders released a 16 minute anti-Islam movie called Fitna. Wilders had a hard time finding a broadcaster or internet provider willing to air the film, because his mere idea caused an immense global controversy, leading to death threats, violent protest, diplomatic incidents and fierce public debate. One of the reactions consisted of organised and unorganised video protest by young people from all over the world, who uploaded their reactions to websites such as YouTube or LiveLeak. These videos form the material for this research project funded by the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Program. On this site you find links to selected videos, the reseach proposal and output, a researcher blog and additional information.

To view the final report and a full list of dissemination see publications.

Professor Liesbet van Zoonen - Professor in Media and Communications.

Dr Sabina Mihelj - Senior Lecturer in Communication, Media Studies and Culture.

Dr Farida Vis - Researcher

More than a year after the project officially closed, the team keeps being invited to talk about the outcomes of the research:

  • Liesbet will give a keynote address to the Digital Crossroads conference in Utrecht (NL) on June 28, 2012.
  • She will also talk to the Westminster Media and Communication studies staff and research students on November 2, 2011.
  • On November 22 we will be present at a Religion and Society Program event in Manchester, Young, British and Muslim, http://www.shisha.net/news-and-views/news/young-british-and-muslim-academic-research-and-real-lives/
  • Farida was at the meeting of the Religion and Society Award holders in November 2010
  • Liesbet joined a panel of the International Association in Mass Communication Research in Istanbul in July 2011
  • She also framed the results of the research in the context of ‘participating audiences’, in a working group of the EU Cost Action -Transforming Audiences in August 2011. (The presentation scheduled earlier for Lisbon was cancelled)

Sabina Mihelj presented the Fitna research at the European Communication Conference in Hamburg in October 2010, in a well attended session about social media and participation. According to the tweets following the session, both presenter and project were fantastic. Well done Sabina!

Liesbet van Zoonen will present the overall outcomes of the research in a keynote address to the joint Political Communication conference of the International Political Science Association and the UK Political Studies Association, taking place in Loughborough, November 3-5, 2010.

Liesbet van Zoonen will hold a talk about the theoretical and empirical implications of the Fitna research project at Sint Andrews University in Schotland, on October 26, 2010.

Liesbet van Zoonen has accepted an invitation from the EU COST-Transforming Audiences network to hold a keynote address about the Fitna-research, at their upcoming general meeting in Lisbon, November 11-12, 2010. The topic will be Participation and multiplication: understanding religious and political practice on YouTube.

Farida Vis will present a paper at the AHRC/ESRC 'Faith & Youth' one day conference of the 2nd of July. Title of the presentation: ‘Fitna: the video battle. An overview.’

Farida Vis will present a paper at the Social Media and the Sacred. The Mediating Religion International Research Network’s Annual Conference. 28-29 June, London.  Title of presentation: Innovating methods across disciplines: studying religion on YouTube.

Our project researcher Farida Vis has been appointed as lecturer in the Department of Communication of Leicester University from September 1, 2010. CONGRATULATIONS FARIDA!

Liesbet van Zoonen will conduct a workshop on methodologies for studying religion and the media at the upcoming AHRC funded workshop on ‘Advanced Methods for the study of religion, at Oxford University on September 10, 2010.  

Our paper YouTube Activists: Contesting Geert Wilders’ Fitna with visual means has been accepted for presentation at the Third Conference of the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) in Hamburg, Germany, October 12-15, 2010.

Our paper Islam on the popular battlefield: comedy vlogs and their responses (together with Fadi Hirzalla of the University of Amsterdam)  was accepted for presentation at the international Contesting Religious Identities of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, October 13-15, 2010. [link to abstract].

Our article Performing citizenship on YouTube: activism, satire and online debate around the anti-Islam video Fitna, was accepted for publication in Critical Discourse Studies, vol.7(4), 2010. The article is available on request (see research team)

Liesbet van Zoonen will give a talk about the Fitna project at the Department of Communication of Leicester University, on June 16, 2010.

Liesbet van Zoonen will give a presentation about the Fitna project in the Information Society Seminar of the Department of Politics at the University of Exeter, on March 10, 2009.

Liesbet van Zoonen will give a talk about the Fitna project at the Department of Media and Communication of the London School of Economics, on January 27, 2010.

Farida Vis  presented the research about gender in and against Fitna at the ‘Islam and the Media’ conference of the Centre for Media, Religion and Culture of Colorado University (Boulder, USA) on January 9, 2010. For further details see: http://cmrc.colorado.edu/index.php/islammedia

Liesbet van Zoonen gave a talk about the Fitna project at Nottingham Trent University, on November 18.

We have now selected the final corpus of videos for the project. Selecting and archiving (still in process!) this corpus from YouTube was quite an interesting challenge methodologically and we have described this process fully in the research blog. We are now working with 1413 videos that have been generated through ten carefully selected keyword searches, which were entered into a YouTube API programme that was developed especially for this project. We aim to shortly add a ‘how-to’ guide to the website, to show how our methods work and how they can be reproduced by those with similar research interests.

Liesbet van Zoonen will discussed "Fitna the video battle" following a screening of the controversial anti-Islam film, at the Nordic Network for the Mediatization of Religion and Culture. The meeting took place in Sigtunastiftelsen in Sweden on October 26-28. Other keynote speakers were Annelies Moors and Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen.

Liesbet van Zoonen will give a keynote lecture about Religion as media spectacle at the upcoming ECREA Conference on Media, Communication and the Spectacle, to be held at Erasmus University in Rotterdam on 26-27 November

Farida Vis presented a paper on the articulation of gender in and around Fitna at the CRESC symposium of the Media, Religion and Social Change group, June 27 in London.

Department of Social Sciences.

A very helpful website for the study of religion can be found at http://www.kent.ac.uk/religionmethods/index.html. It includes a variety of research issues and methods, including media research, sampling, ethics, comparative research and visual analysis.

Several research groups in the UK and abroad analyse the role of the media in discussing and experiencing religion. Here are links to these projects and to relevant journals. Please contact us if you’d like your link included.

Media Portrayals of Religion and the Secular Sacred
An AHRC/ESRC Religion and society project about the portrayal of religion in British newspapers and television.http://www.leeds.ac.uk//trs/irpl/research.htm

Migration and Visual Culture: A Theological Exploration of Identity Catholic Imagery and Popular culture among Polish Young.
An AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society study about the extent to which faith operates as a capital (both social and theological) supporting Polish Catholic young people, aged 17-30, as they migrate to the UK while at the same time faith itself (as it is lived in by young people) shifts and is made more fluid in relation to the mediated popular culture. http://www.religionandsociety.org.uk/research/phase_2/small_research_grants

The Nordic Research Network on the Mediatization of Religion and Culture.
Extensive network of Scandinavian scholars working on media, religion and culture, with links to interesting publications

Center for Media, Religion and Culture, University of Colorado, Boulder.
One of the leading research centres in the world, possible THE most important one. Many links to other relevant projects and organisations

Modern Mass Media, Religion and the Imagination of Communities
Now finished research project by Birgit Meyer and her team about the role of electronic mass media in the shift from the nation-state as the privileged space for the imagination of  community to the articulation of  alternative, religious imaginations. Many links and all publications online. http://www2.fmg.uva.nl/media-religion/

Centre for Religion and Contemporary Society

The Centre for Religion and Contemporary Society was formed in March 2008 to bring together researchers from across Birkbeck College who share interests in the social, cultural, political and legal significance of religion in the contemporary world. The Centre is an inter-disciplinary venture involving staff with expertise in sociology, political science, history, law, cultural studies, religious studies and psycho-social studies.

The Center for Religion and Civic Culture

An academic research unit and a community partner for faith-based organizations. Conducts research on the civic role of religion, helps to build the capacity of faith-based organizations to address significant social issues, and communicates findings to scholars, legislators, community leaders, media, and funders.

New York University's Center for Religion and Media

The Center for Religion and Media is one of 10 "Centers of Excellence" funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts to bring nuance to the discussion of the role of religion in the public square. The mandate of its journal, The Revealer, is to pursue this goal by offering a daily critique of religion in the press -- the best, the worst, the most overlooked, and the most over reported. Drawing on the expertise of working journalists and scholars from across the disciplines, the Center offers an accessible selection of the day's most interesting stories. It also publishes original stories, along with interviews with scholars and journalists (and religious figures), analysis of religious content within photojournalism, and moderated forum discussions.

The International Study Commission on Media, Religion & Culture

The International Study Commission on Media, Religion, and Culture is a group of scholars and practitioners who have gathered to consider the shape and direction of both productive and reflective work in these three intersecting fields. It is part of the wider ongoing process of reflection and study which is being conducted currently by various organizations and individuals throughout the world. It is intended to facilitate continuing dialog and to stimulate and support both scholarship and media production in the area. 

Heidelberg Journal of Religions
Journal of Religious Culture
Journal of Religion and Film
Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

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Department of Social Sciences
Loughborough University
LE11 3TU

Tel: +44 (0)1509 223365