US media portrays Muslims ‘more negatively than cancer’

Dalia Mogahed, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. (Supplied)
Updated 11 June 2019
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US media portrays Muslims ‘more negatively than cancer’

  • Journalists urged to ‘move beyond the security lens’ after mainstream coverage slammed at Pulitzer Center forum

WASHINGTON: Mainstream US media coverage of American Muslims is more negative than that of North Korea, often denounced as one of the world’s three worst sponsors of terrorism, panelists at a conference on crisis reporting claimed on Sunday.
The Pulitzer Center’s “Beyond Religion” conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. featured six panel discussions, with topics including the building of peace, intersectionality of gender and religion, and religion and the environment.
During a workshop hosted by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), Dalia Mogahed, the institute’s director, argued that The New York Times, widely considered the US newspaper of record, portrayed Muslims over the past quarter century “more negatively than cancer or cocaine.”

Mogahed and the Pulitzer Center released summaries of their remarks on Twitter on Sunday that included:

  • “Muslims in the US are more likely to be bullied; 42 percent of Muslim families with a child in the (school) system report some form of bullying, and a quarter of the incidents involved an adult.”
  •  “Roughly half of Americans say they don’t know a real Muslim, which means they rely on media coverage to understand their Muslim neighbors.”
  •  “Muslim women are often depicted as victims of their cultures, or victims turned escapees. That flies in the face of data showing that American Muslim women see their faith as an asset in their lives.”
  •  The US Department of Justice “is six times more likely to issue a press release when they foil a plot by a Muslim terror group than a plot by a white supremacist terror group.”

According to the Twitter summary, Mogahed also offered a detailed response to the question, “Who are American Muslims?” 
“American Muslims look Iike every American — there is no single description, ethnicity or age. They are the most diverse faith community in the US,” she said.
“Muslims have no majority race — they are equal part black, white or Arab. Half of American Muslims were born in the US, and the vast majority are citizens. Muslims are the faith community most likely to report a low income.”
In covering Muslims, Mogahed argued, journalists should “move beyond the security lens.”
Reporters should also use culturally neutral language when writing about Muslims. Arabic words are used to describe behavior that is not unique to Muslims.
“Don’t assume that religion is a driving motivator of Muslim behavior. Reporters wouldn’t assume that religion was a driving motivator of Christian behavior,” she said.
“Unlike their age peers, young Muslims are as likely as older Muslims to say that their faith is an important part of their identity.”

Mogahed argued that:

  • Muslims and Jews are the most likely to experience fear and anxiety over safety following the 2016 US presidential election.
  • Muslims responded to discrimination after the poll with resilience, “investing in their faith communities.” Muslims with strong religious identities are more likely to have a strong American identity. A weaker religious identity among Muslims correlates with a weaker American identity.
  • Christian Protestants are the only group that believes religion should play a role in US law and, within Protestants, white evangelicals.

Mogahed leads the ISPU’s research and thought leadership programs on US Muslims, according to the institute’s website. 
She has worked as executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, where she led the analysis of surveys of Muslim communities worldwide.
She also co-authored the book “Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think” with John L. Esposito. In 2009, Mogahed was appointed by Barack Obama to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.


US Congress leaders demand probe into Al Jazeera’s status

Updated 19 min 10 sec ago
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US Congress leaders demand probe into Al Jazeera’s status

  • Legitimate questions are raised about whether the news outlet should register as a foreign agent

CHICAGO: Six Republican leaders of the House and Senate called for the expulsion of the Qatari-owned satellite television news network Al Jazeera accusing it of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Six GOP US senators including Charles Grassley of Iowa, Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida are demanding an investigation into why Al Jazeera is permitted to operate on American territory while two major Chinese government-controlled news agencies, Xinhua News Agency and China Global Television Network, are required to register under FARA.

The senators and representatives are calling for the Department of Justice to open hearings into Al Jazeera’s work in the US, accusing the government-owned Arabic and English-language news outlet of being an “agent” of the government of Qatar, which has been criticized as a safe haven and sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood and other religious extremist groups. Qatar is also accused of being an ally of Iran.

“News articles have reported activities in which Al Jazeera Media Network (Al Jazeera) is engaged that raise legitimate questions about whether it should register as a foreign agent,” the letter addressed to US Attorney General William Barr argues.

“Al Jazeera is a global organization spanning dozens of countries, including the United States, and reaches hundreds of millions of people worldwide. In 2016, its offshoot, Al Jazeera America, closed. However, Al Jazeera expanded its digital presence via Al Jazeera Plus (AJ+), its online news channel which is headquartered in the United States.”

HIGHLIGHT

The senators and representatives are calling for the Department of Justice to open hearings into Al Jazeera’s work in the US, accusing it of being an ‘agent’ of the government of Qatar.

The letter, dated June 18, 2019, argues that Al Jazeera, founded in 1996, is owned and operated by members of the Qatari royal family.

“Al Jazeera’s videos on YouTube are stamped with the disclaimer, ‘Al Jazeera is funded in whole or in part by the Qatari government.’ Thus, Al Jazeera is not only a foreign principal, but it is also owned by a foreign principal – the government of Qatar,” the Congressional and Senate leaders claim.

“Several members of the ruling family of Qatar have held senior positions at Al Jazeera: Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al-Thani, a member of the ruling family of Qatar, is the chairman of Al Jazeera; Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani is the CEO of Qatar Media Corporation and a board member of Al Jazeera;  Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al-Thani served as the director general of Al Jazeera from 2011 until June 2013.

“Given that members of the ruling family are in charge of managing the media network, it is more likely than not that the government can and will assert editorial control over media content.”

All of the signatories of the letter are outspoken critics of the Palestinian cause, and champions of Israel, and are among the largest recipients of campaign contributions from Israel’s American-based lobbying umbrella network, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). AIPAC, whose network donates hundreds of millions to the election campaigns of thousands of elected officials from senators all the way down to local legislators, is also not registered under FARA.

The letter comes as Qatari officials are launching a “charm offensive” to woo the administration of President Donald Trump. Trump is expected to meet in July with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani at the White House.

Critics, predominantly pro-Israel, have argued that Al Jazeera exploits its Arabic and English-language dual roles, embracing extremist and often anti-Semitic rhetoric in its Arabic broadcasts while softening language in its English online platforms.

In response to the criticism, Al Jazeera announced it was suspending two of its reporters for accusing Israel of being “the biggest winner from the Holocaust.”

Since its foundation, Al Jazeera has drifted further and further to the extreme. After its launch, it was banned from being broadcast or carried by many American-based cable TV systems that routinely carry news broadcasts from most other foreign countries including Israel. That changed after September 11, 2001, and Al Jazeera began to spend millions on opening offices in 12 American cities including in New York City in 2013.

Al Jazeera responded in a statement released to several US news outlets that it “is not owned by Qatar” and that “its reporting is not directed or controlled by the Qatari government nor does it reflect any government viewpoint.”