Media blamed for promoting Islamophobia

Updated 16 May 2013
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Media blamed for promoting Islamophobia

The media plays a strong role in promoting Islamophobia in the world, according to Nathan Lean, editor-in-chief, Aslan Media and a researcher at Georgetown University. Lean made this remark while participating in a panel discussion at Arab Media Forum on “Islamophobia: Is the media doing enough to reverse perceptions?”
The session discussed how to bridge the knowledge gap between the Middle East and the West. It also discussed the role of social media and its impact on the Arab Spring and solutions in Syria and other parts of the region. A person of Middle Eastern origin traveling to the West is perceived to be a ‘terrorist,’ unless proven otherwise, media experts pointed out. However, a lot of this is due mostly to ignorance in the West and partly due to Muslim involvement in certain incidents.
“There are two aspects of this – Islamophobia and Islamo-ignorance,” said Lean.
“When the bombing occurred last month at the Boston marathon, even the mainstream media including CNN, CNBC and ABC started to stereotype the origin of those involved in the incident, initially suggesting some ‘non-American’ people with ‘dark skin’ were behind this. Some suggested they were of Middle Eastern origin,” he added.
“News media are corporate ventures, and to retain their viewership, they want to sensationalize live, breaking events. You will not hear a TV anchor tell you that we will come back when we have more concrete details. They continue to narrate and try to sensationalize to retain the viewership,” he added.
About 60 percent of the Americans had favorable views about Islam in around the time Sept. 11 happened.
“However, by 2011, 60 percent of the Americans had unfavorable views about Muslims and Islam. In 10 years, the media had changed this. So, media plays a strong role in reshaping public perception on Islam,” Lean said.
He said, channels such as Fox News are Islamophobic as they run an agenda. “But I must say, the media plays a strong role in promoting Islamophobia,” he said.
Abdulaziz Al Twaijiri, director general, Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), said Islamophobia is an age-old phenomenon. “It has resurfaced in the 1980s with a new face and name, but it has been there in history,” he said. Muslims are also to be blamed for the spread of Islamophobia, he said and added, “Part of this is our own making. We are to be blamed for this, to a certain extent.” “This is against the fundamentals of the modern civilization and human rights that oppose discrimination against any particular race or religion. So Islamophonbia, or the fear of Islam, which promotes hatred against Muslims, violates human rights,” he said. There are 26 million Muslims in Europe, making Islam a part of the European community, Said El Lawindi, writer and expert in international political affairs, Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said.
“Every day (on an average), 36 Europeans convert to Islam, So, I do not think it will be easy to ignore or avoid Islam’s growing influence in the West, although there is a fear that the ‘Green Enemy’ — or Islam could replace the ‘Red Enemy’ — or the now defunct Soviet Union, among many westerners.”
He said, there is a tendency to link Muslims with terrorism. “The Middle East is seen as an incubator of terrorism. I had to prove to French police that I am not a terrorist, even after living in Paris for 20 years.”
Rasheed Al Khayoun, researcher and lecturer on Islamic Philosophy, Religion and History, said the history of Islam and the West is not of hatred only. “In fact, there are many good examples of overtures and peace,” he said.
“Recently, Saudi Arabia has started the interfaith dialogue to promote a better understanding between Islam and the West,” he said. “This is a good example and I think the media should promote this, in order for the West to develop a better understanding of Islam and the Muslims.”
The 12th Arab Media Forum concluded yesterday with more than 1,200 participants attending where the UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has honored the winners of the 12th Arab Journalism Award (AJA) during the closing ceremony at the Grand Hyatt in Dubai.


In Iraq, political wrangling spawns debate over US troops

An American military trainer observes Iraqi soldier during an exercise on approaching and clearing buildings at the Taji base complex, which hosts Iraqi and US troops and is located north of the capital Baghdad, on January 7, 2015. (AFP)
Updated 1 min 45 sec ago
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In Iraq, political wrangling spawns debate over US troops

  • American troop numbers in Iraq peaked at some 170,000 during the battle against Al-Qaeda and other insurgents that followed the US-led invasion of 2003

BAGHDAD: From the halls of parliament to the lightning-fast rumor mills of social media, pro-Iran factions are demanding US troops withdraw from Iraq in a challenge to the country’s fragile government.
The political wrangling is another indication of Iraq’s precarious position as it tries to balance ties between two key allies — the United States and the Islamic republic of Iran.
Calls for a US pullout have intensified since President Donald Trump’s shock decision last month to pull troops from neighboring Syria, while keeping American forces in Iraq.
In recent weeks, pro-Iran parties have organized protests to demand an accelerated US troop withdrawal while affiliated media outlets published footage of alleged US reinforcements in Iraq’s restive west and north.
The debate is heating up in parliament as well.
Last week a lawmaker demanded Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi provide a written explanation for the ongoing US military presence in Iraq and a timeframe for their stay.
MPs are also drafting a law that would set a deadline for a US withdrawal, according to Mahmud Al-Rubaie of the Sadiqun bloc, one of the political groups working on the text.
“We categorically reject the presence of foreign troops in Iraq,” Rubaie told AFP.
But rather than a genuine, popularly-driven desire for a US withdrawal, the draft is part of the wider race for influence between Washington and Tehran, analysts said.
“This talk is part of the power struggle between the US and Iran,” said Iraqi security expert Hashem Al-Hashemi.
Tensions between the two countries have intensified since the US pulled out of the landmark 2015 nuclear accord negotiated with Iran in May last year, and observers fear they could destabilize Iraq.

American troop numbers in Iraq peaked at some 170,000 during the battle against Al-Qaeda and other insurgents that followed the US-led invasion of 2003.
Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama ordered a withdrawal that was completed in 2011, but troops were redeployed in 2014 under a US-led coalition battling the Daesh group.
In December 2017, Iraq announced it had defeated Daesh.
Since then the number of foreign coalition troops has dropped from nearly 11,000 in January 2018 to 8,000 by December last year, according to the prime minister.
Coalition spokesman Sean Ryan says there are 5,200 US soldiers now stationed alongside Iraqi forces in various bases across the country.
Their presence angers the Hashed Al-Shaabi, a paramilitary force that is dominated by pro-Iran factions which played a key role alongside government forces in the fight against Daesh.
“The US has banned the Hashed from coming near the military bases where its troops are stationed,” said Hashemi.
“So the Hashed is now adopting a reciprocal policy,” he said, by pushing for a US withdrawal.

Trump’s surprise Christmas visit to troops stationed in western Iraq has added fuel to the fire.
Pro-Iran parties seized on the fact that he did not meet with Iraqi officials to slam the visit as insulting and a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.
Renad Mansour, a researcher at the London-based Chatham House, told AFP the revived debate over US troops was likely a swipe at Abdel Mahdi by hard-line pro-Iran factions.
“If Adel Abdel Mahdi fails in removing the US troops, his opponents will of course use it to make him seem weak, just as they used the fact that Trump didn’t meet with him when he came,” he said.
Iraqis, meanwhile, are more concerned with staggering unemployment, power cuts, and a political crisis that has left key ministries unmanned for months.
Very few showed up Friday at protests in Baghdad demanding an American pull-out, while hundreds turned out for demonstrations in the south of the country to protest a lack of public services.
“If Abdel Mahdi is unable to deliver services or jobs or water, or pick a defense or interior minister, then he has way bigger problems,” said Mansour.
“If he succeeds in delivering in services, no one will care about US forces.”