Saturday, November 19, 2016

Islamophobia and America

Jessica Sees

Wajahat Ali, a Muslim-American reporter visited Ohio University on Thursday, November 17 to deliver the keynote speech during International Education Week. He discussed topics ranging from Islamophobia, the Muslim narrative in the media, stereotyping and xenophobia to the election during his time here.

This poses an important question on the state of the media when it comes to Islamic coverage, and I’d like to discuss the media's ongoing role in exposing Islamophobia in out country.

SPJ Codes we need to consider
  • Provide context. Take care not to misrepresent or oversimplify.
  • Diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism.
  • Be vigilant and courageous about holding those in power responsible
  • Boldly tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience.
  • Expose unethical conduct in journalism.
Call out Islamophobia when we see it
This is somewhere I am seeing improvement in our job as watchdogs. A prime example I can identify was the condemnation of President-elect Donald Trump's comments regarding Khizr and Ghazala Khan's appearance at the DNC earlier in the election cycle. 

The now infamous speech given by Mr. Khan drew criticism from Trump, with his response centered around whether or not Mrs. Khan was allowed to speak at the convention (video below). This was met with backlash from the media condemning Trump's comments. This was met with a rebuttal from Mrs. Khan, where she set the record straight on why she did not speak at the convention.

The comments made by Trump in this situation are prime examples of Islamophobia in our nation and show the preconceived notions much of America has toward the religion. As members of the ethical, responsible media, we need to continue to call out Islamophobia when we see it (especially when it comes from those in great positions of power).

Let Muslims Speak for themselves

Beautiful things happen when we pass the mic to those who rarely get to grasp it. A great example of journalism giving voice to the voiceless is this  Buzzfeed article, which reported on a young Indian-American Muslim woman from Colorado who corrected the false belief that Muslims don't condemn acts of violence.

Heraa Hashmi was asked by a classmate why Muslims don’t condemn things, so she made a 712 page Google spreadsheet showing examples of Muslims condemning violence. Other people took it upon themselves to turn this spreadsheet into a website where you can search and sort by all sorts of categories.

Another example of letting Muslims speak for themselves is Ghazala Khan's open letter to Trump composed on The Washington Post's website. She was given the opportunity by the media platform to explain exactly why she didn’t speak at the DNC, and set the record straight on her religion.

When you give the people we don’t get to hear from a platform to speak their truth, misconceptions, stereotypes and prejudice start to lose their grip on society's members. When you let those people speak and provide their own context to stories, we send the message that everybody deserves to be heard. That’s very important in this political environment. We need to continue to uphold these ethical codes to combat Islamophobia and flip the national narrative to the truth.

“If you are not writing your own story, it is being told by others,” – Wajahat Ali

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