DUBAI: KT Abdurabb
Published — Thursday 16 May 2013
Last update 16 May 2013 3:46 am
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.