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Conference calls for more cohesive work between Muslims and the media


A more sustained dialogue between journalists and Muslims, religious literacy training and more regulation of print media were among the suggestions put forward by participants at a media practitioners’ conference at Liverpool Hope University this week.  

“Media Discourse About British Muslims and its Implications” attracted more than 40 journalists academics and members of faith communities to discuss how Muslims are represented online, in print and in broadcast media. The day included plenary speeches and workshops.  

Speakers included Dr Shuruq Naguib of Lancaster University, Talat-Faruq Awan of BBC Radio Manchester and Lancashire, former NUS president Malia Bouattia, journalist and media consultant Lauren Booth and Station Manager of Made in Liverpool and Made in Wales TV, Chris Johnson.  

Dr Naguib shared some experiences of her current work on the representation of Muslims in university campuses, while Talat Awan urged the Muslim community to engage more with the media to ensure that their voices are proportionately covered in the media. Lauren Booth and Malia Bouattia shared their personal experiences of being attacked by the media after converting to Islam and after becoming the first Muslim of colour to be the NUS president respectively.

Dr Elizabeth Poole of Keele University, who has published widely on the representation of British Muslims, stated that the ideological positioning of some news outlets means they often categorise Muslims as a homogenous group who are terrorists, militants or extremists. Emphasising that all faith groups are negatively portrayed in the media, Chris Johnson (Made in Liverpool and Made in Wales TV) said that promoting truths and achievements by faith groups are the only means to counter negative media publicity.

While agreeing that there have been some positive steps, particularly by the broadcast media, to engage with the Muslim community, Talha Ahmed (Treasurer, the Muslim Council of Britain) reminded delegates that there is still a long way to go, providing the example of BBC Question Time’s failure to mention the Finsbury Park attack in its broadcast of the week of the terrorist attack.

Shenaz Bunglawala (Director, Byline Festival Foundation for Inclusive Journalism) noted the steady decline of the agency of women from reporting on veiling with the media shifting from "rights" to being "forced" to wear.

The conference was based on Dr Al-Azami’s book, ‘Religion in the Media: A Linguistic Analysis’ (Palgrave Macmillan), which investigates the language used in the British media to represent the three Abrahamic faiths - Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and also analyses how members of each religious group and those with no religion receive those representations.

Dr Al-Azami said: “Speakers and participants at the conference at Liverpool Hope University urged academics, journalists and the Muslim community to work together to ensure that the media discourse about British Muslims is sensitive and that the representations are fair, accurate and responsible. 

"This was the start of a conversation that needs to continue at the national level. We want to build a cohesive and just society. Getting journalists actively involved in this conversation is a challenge, but something that has to be achieved. A conference like this, where people took part enthusiastically, is certainly a step in the right direction. We are thinking of creating a taskforce comprising all stakeholders to take this conversation forward.”

The event was covered by local, national and international outlets including: 

The Huffington Post

BBC Indus (BBC Radio Manchester and BBC Radio Lancashire)

BBC Radio Merseyside Daybreak (2hr 10 mins in) 

Anadolu Ajansi News Agency (Turkey)

Made in Liverpool TV

Published on 04/06/2019