On March 23rd and 24th, Muslim Voices, an organization that “aims to increase intercultural dialogue and understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims,” held a conference at Indiana University titled “Re-scripting Islam: Muslims and the Media.” The conference explored the multiple narratives of Islam and Muslims in the media.Various panelists spoke about different avenues that Muslims and non-Muslims are using to engage in discussions about Islam.
Andrea Elliot, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at the New York Times, talked about her journey covering Islam, especially a series that she did on an imam in New York after 9/11. The most interesting point that Elliot made in her talk was that Muslim American clerics are restricted by their context to speak on certain topics like jihad, for example, out of fear of repercussions (accusations of terrorism or inciting violence and arrest) and thus militant Muslims abroad are filling the silence with their own rhetoric.
Another panel addressed Muslim women in the media. The focus of this panel was how Muslim women are utilizing social media, as well as more traditional outlets, to dispel stereotypes. Fatimeh Fakhraie, founder and editor of the website Muslimah Media Watch, talked about her experience as an Iranian American Muslim woman and provided an overview of the history of Muslim women in the media. Krista Riley, associate editor for Muslimah Media Watch, discussed how important it is to find a balance between dispelling stereotypes and fixating on particular topics like the hijab. Finally, Mona Altahawy, an award-winning columnist, argued that meaningful conversation on Muslim women and dispelling stereotypes about them necessitates talking about Muslim men as well in order to bring about change.
The conference provided a forum to explore and engage questions about the narratives of Islam and Muslims, the participation of Muslims in the media, and the possibilities of new social media to produce change.
Do you think Muslims have a prominent role in the media? Should they? Do you think the media furthers stereotypes about Muslims? What responsibility do Muslims have to dispel stereotypes about Islam? Please share your thoughts below.