The panel consisted of the following:
Robert Bragg - Professor of Journalism, Centre for Communications Studies, Mount Royal College
Graeme Morton - Calgary Herald (Faith Reporter)
Faiz Jamil - CBC Calgary (Reporter)
Aftab Sabir - CAIR-CAN (Board Member)
Salima Ebrahim - Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW)
The discussion was moderated by Richelle Wiseman, Excecutive Director of Centre for Faith and the Media.
The event was organized by the Centre for Faith and the Media as part of The Muslim Project.
The Centre's primary objective is "Improving the quantity and quality of Canada's religious news".
They have received a two-year grant from the Government of Canada to focus on how the media covers Canada’s Muslim communities and how we are affected by that coverage.
They are conducting Roundtable Dialogue across Canada, which will be hosted by journalism schools to bring together local media, journalism professors and students, and Muslim leaders to discuss the challenges and opportunities of covering Canadian Muslim stories.
They also plan to conduct media relations training workshops in Muslim communities to help us and the media to understand each other better, to have better access to each other, and to foster the kinds of discussions which can facilitate good reporting.
They also plan to develop a comprehensive Media Directory of Canadian Muslim organizations, mosques, schools, key contacts, and other valuable information which will assist the media in recognizing the diverse ethnic and religious perspectives within the Canadian Muslim communities.
At the beginning of the session, each panellist was given a few minutes to make an opening statement to the media and the Muslim community. I was very impressed by Salima Ebrahim's suggestions. Upon request, she provided me the text and agreed to have it posted here.
Recommendations for the media:
- Have more good news stories about Muslim women- there are a multitude of women like themselves who are faithful but also have so much more to them. Earlier this year I was selected as a Top 20 compelling Calgarian and I made specific mention of the act I was Muslim so people can see another side.
- Don’t make assumptions about Muslim women and what it means to not wear/wear the hijab. I’ve often had journalists call me for comments but then back off when they know I don’t wear the hijab, like it makes me less of a Muslim- I don’t get it! If I don’t wear it I’m not ‘good enough but if I wear it I’m oppressed! I may not wear the hijab but it’s a choice and I also defend the right for those who chose to wear it.
- Rather than assuming what Muslim women’s lives are like, try asking them.
- Understand that Muslims are just like anyone else in terms of their belief systems. Not everything a Muslim does has to do with Islam. Although Islam may play an important role in the lives of many Muslims, this does not mean that every action a Muslim takes, good or bad, is related to his/her religion.
- Understand that there is no such thing as a “Muslim culture.” Muslims come from a variety of cultures, and culture is dynamic - it’s constantly changing.
- Don’t create a dichotomy between “Muslim” and “Canadian” (or “American,” “British,” etc.), or between “Muslim” and “Western.”- and understand there is a gender difference regardless of what religion you are speaking about.
- Understand the power of language and be mindful of the language you use. Language is a powerful tool that can shape people’s perceptions, and can have far-reaching implications for the way that people are seen.
The Muslim community needs to:
- Have their imams and lay clergymen and women go through media training- if you are the spiritual leader here in Canada, this should be mandatory; and have your boards go through media training.
- Accept responsibility when it is due and not get on the offensive- throwing around terms like racist and Islamophobic are only detrimental to the cause
- Get more involved- write letters to the editor, write op ed pieces, attend events like these and cultivate relationships with the media. (ex. Book club)
- Communicate, communicate and communicate some more- take the time to explain what Islam is, what your perspective is and also affirm you are not speaking for everyone.