Here are some general guidelines from our Civil Rights Department to help in addressing Islamophobia when you witness it in the media. We have all seen that the portrayal of Islam and Muslims in the media is often inaccurate or biased. Whether in newspaper, radio, or television, journalists frequently misstate facts about Islamic religious practices or history. Sometimes this is part of a deliberate attempt to demonize and ostracize Muslims; sometimes, it’s simply out of ignorance or misunderstanding. No matter the cause, it’s a journalist’s job to portray things accurately and truthfully as far as possible – and you can help make sure that they know when things go wrong.
Arm yourself with facts. Teach others the reality of your community and don’t let inaccurate representation stand. Your experiences can be very powerful in teaching others to look beyond fear and misinformation to find real stories and information about the real people who are affected by these issues.
When possible, take a photo of the headline, speaker, or other image that you believe is biased. Digital media can be changed, so it’s important to have proof that the inaccuracy was broadcast in the first place.
Contact the reporter directly, preferably in writing or via email. Most news articles have a byline that shows the name of the writer. For television broadcasts, identify the speaker and look up their contact information. You can also tag them on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media platforms to let them know that something is wrong.
If you don’t get any response about the erroneous statement or information, move up the ladder to the editors of the newsrooms or newspapers. This information may be more difficult to find, but a more in-depth search will turn up contact information for the people in charge.
CAIR-OK can help you identify the people responsible for making sure our news coverage is accurate. We also work behind the scenes with leaders in the press to make sure they are committed to fair and accurate journalism. If you feel that relationships could be built or strengthened, let us know and we can help! We can even train you to respond to questions from journalists or reporters so that you can be the expert in your community.
Our media plays an important role in our community. They can help us be informed, politically engaged, responsible citizens. And we can help them in turn by making sure that they don’t spread untrue or dangerous stereotypes about our community that only serve to deepen the distrust that we see. You can play a role too in helping our media leaders contribute to a peaceful, inclusive, and productive Oklahoma community using these guidelines! For more information about media training, contact us today!