Specialized seminar in Brussels addressing Islamophobia in Media

25.02.2012

A group of experts and media people from variety of Islamic and western countries participated in a specialized seminar held in Brussels to discuss the ways of addressing the problem of Islam-phobia in mass media and how to develop world wide media initiatives.

This seminar was organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Federation of Islamic Organization in Europe, World Assembly of Muslim Youth and Sahm Annour Foundation. The seminar of “Media Misrepresentation of Islam and Muslims: the search for remedies” lasted for two days (15th and 16th February 2012) with the participation of a group of thirty persons from Europe and North America, including diplomats, media people, experts, researchers and officials of specialized institutions in media work. Dr Isam Shanti, manager of media administration in the Organization of Islamic cooperation confirmed the importance of this seminar and the necessity of developing consultation and coordination for the best dealing with challenges of Islam-phobia and misrepresentation. Dr Shanti in his opening speech mentioned some examples of distortion and misrepresentation of facts in some media coverage which necessitate correction and action.

 

Reconsideration of Stereotypes

FIOE President Chakib Ben Makhlouf said in his opening speech: “This seminar comes in a very important stage witnessing a lot of changes that open the door for reconsideration of stereotypes about Islamic societies.” He noted that the federation paid a due attention to the new generations to encourage them for involving and specializing in media fields. He added that: "Long time ago we have been focusing on the way to deal with these stereotypes about Islam, Muslims and Islamic culture, so we held seminars and workshops to discuss this issue in a number of Islamic countries and some of those seminars were held in the headquarters of European Union." He added that "We have been always sure this process is a long running one.

Mr Chakib Ben Makhlouf expressed his gratitude for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for their interest in organizing this seminar which deals with a very important issue. He also thanked the participants who came from North America, Europe and Islamic world to share their experience and opinions. He affirmed that we are always in a dire need to hear and consult each other to deal with such challenges in the best possible way.

 

Western perception of Islam

In his paper submitted to this seminar, Dr Ayman Ali, the vice chairman of the federation of Islamic organization in Europe and its secretary general, reviewed the background of this perception, its problems and new remedies if any. In his paper, he tackled the value aspect of the Islamic message that is a message of mercy for all people. He talked about Islam in the Muslims’ awareness, taking the perception of European Muslims as an example. He also explained the sources of knowing Islam in the West and concluded the characteristics of any awareness of Islam in the west and the problems of the western perception of Islam, Muslims and Islamic culture. He concluded with defining the new opportunities that help in better understanding of Islam in the west.

The events of the seminar included review of some media experiences in the western environment and discussing some proposals. The OIC Observatory on Islamophobia presented a report on islamophobia in the world and the available options of remedy.

 

European Muslims Response to challenge of distortion

Mr. Hossam Shaker, the media advisor said in his participation that Islamophobia represents a challenge for the entire western communities, not only for Muslims, and facing the selective racism is the responsibility of Muslims and non-Muslims as well. He directed attention to the accumulated experience of the European Muslims in dealing with distortion campaigns against Islam, Muslims and Islamic culture. He drew comparison between the nature of response to hate drawings in Denmark in 2005 and the attempt of Gert Wilders to provoke Muslims afterwards.

The British media expert Victoria Brittain, who worked as a journalist in different parts of the world, maintained the view that the contents of racist nature in media became targeting Muslims only after they have been directed against foreigners in general. She stressed on the fact that the good news do not attract media attention in comparison with the new ones and this actually makes it difficult to deal with this passive coverage of Islamic affairs in the western media.

The FIOE media division participated in this seminar with two detailed studies. Actually the division formed recently the media action network that brings together people of different specializations all over the European continent including journalism, TV and cinema, Internet and social networks, etc.  The media action network organized a big event in December 2011 in Brussels under the name of "Euro Media Days".

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