Media 'responsible' for negative image of Islamic faith

The
western media has been accused of contributing to a widely held
perception of Islam as being associated with terrorism and extremist
beliefs.

A new report published by a Californian market research
company on behalf of the Kuwaiti government found the US and European
media were in part responsible for 32 per cent of people in the US and
western Europe holding unfavourable opinions of Islam.

Akbar
Ahmed, chairman of Islamic Studies at the American University in
Washington, said: “It is tragic. Western media powers are global giants
that reach millions of people around the world, they can move
civilisation in one direction or another, but they have abdicated a
huge responsibility and simply added fuel to the fire.”

The
editor of London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Abdul Bari
Atwan, said Muslims were the victims of generalisations in the media:
“Islam should not be looked at as a monolith religion. Journalists
should dive into individual stories to offer separate views of the
faith.”

Defending coverage of the Islamic faith and culture,
Samira Kawar, senior producer of Reuters’ Middle East Reports, said she
had grown up in the Middle East and that the programmes she makes
depict the diverse facets of life in the Arab world.

Nick Wrenn,
CNN managing editor of Europe, Middle East and Africa, said that CNN
also produced an in-depth, fair and balanced picture of the Middle East
and Islam.

The presence of Ayaan Hirschi Ali, author of
controversial Dutch film, Submission, whose director Theo Van Gogh was
murdered in Amsterdam last year, took the discussion away from media
coverage of Islam and onto wider issues of the treatment of women and
the level of self reflection within the religion.

Hirschi was
accused by Muslim women in the audience of associating Islam with
domestic violence and committing “cultural Bin Ladenism”

with her film.

Head
of newsgathering at the BBC, Fran Unsworth, said that the audience
should be supporting Hirschi’s right to freedom of expression,
particularly taking into account that it was a broadcast news
conference.

Tariq Ramadan, a French academic, was applauded when
he called for the media to be more self critical: “We need to avoid
showing purely simplistic images of Islam, we need to show the
complexity of the religion. Some Muslims are doing things that are
wrong, but it is not Islam that is wrong.”

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