When asked, "Have you heard of the Michigan Militia?" no one
responded. The question was asked at the Catholic-Muslim Dialogue,
January 12, 1995.
The question was the opening to Mr. Enver Masud's remarks at the
Catholic-Muslim Dialogue sponsored by the Secretariat for Ecumenical and
Interreligious Affairs, National Conference of Catholic Bishops in
Washington, D.C. last January. Masud, President, The Wisdom Fund, was
speaking on bias in the media's coverage of Islam and Muslims.
The bias is so evident Masud said, "Don't take my word for it.
Just examine stories in which Muslims are involved, and those in which
Christians or Jews are involved. In the former you will see the person's
faith noted, in the latter you won't."
"Media coverage of Islam and Muslims would fail Journalism
101," said Masud. Journalists are trained to report the who, what, when,
where, how, and why of stories. The "who" in stories
of Christians and Jews is a specific person, often described by friends,
family, teachers, neighbors if relevant to the story. Very seldom is
their religion mentioned. In the case of Muslims, religion is invariably
mentioned, and is about the only thing mentioned. In the case of
Christians and Jews there is usually much discussion of "why"
the person did what he or she did. In the case of Muslims, all the
reader is told that the person was a militant, or extremist, or
fundamentalist; as if that were sufficient explanation.
The media appear to have excruciating difficulty writing about
Muslims without mentioning their religion. In "Through the
Minefield Of Political Islam," The Washington Post, March 31, 1995,
Stephen S. Rosenfeld describes his difficulties in writing about Islam
and Muslims. He has no such difficulty in writing about other faiths.
Why not write about Muslims and Islam, the same way in which one writes
about Christians and Christianity?
Following the capture of an alleged Oklahoma City bomber, The
Washington Post, April 22, 1995, carried a story titled "Muslim's
Burden of Blame Lifts" by Laurie Goodstein and Marylou Tousignant.
If the burden has been lifted from Muslims, on whom does it fall? On
Christians? Of course not. The point is the burden should never have
been placed on Muslims. While the story itself is fair, the need for
such a story should never have arisen.
Will the media behave more responsibly in the future? Will Muslims,
to paraphrase the lead in the movie Network, wake up and say,
"We're mad as hell, we're not going to take it anymore," and
take the media to task? Only time will tell.
[Unsurprisingly, one important question has not been asked since Imus'
downward spiral: what if those "nappy headed hos" were Arab or Muslim?
Bias against Arabs and Islam-and bashing them as a monolithic entity-is
accepted across the news media, whether it is in reporting or punditry. . .
. The only question left is how big of a gaffe is necessary for Americans to
come to the defense of Arabs and Muslims?--Remi Kanazi, "Bill Maher's
'Towel Headed Hos'," Middle East Online, April 21, 2007]