Islamophobia persistent in the media, journalist says

The media must make more of an effort when it comes to covering and representing Muslims, according to journalist Mehdi Hasan.

Hasan is the host of the Al-Jazeera English current affairs show Up Front based in Washington, D.C. and was formerly the political director of the Huffington Post UK.

He is currently in Vancouver as a keynote speaker for an event on Islamophobia and the media.

Muslims are often depicted in the media as being terrorists or violent, Hasan believes, and the description is often uniformly extended over the entire community. 

"I did a study a few years ago … to look at the most common nouns and adjectives used in relation to Muslims. The adjectives most commonly used were radical, fanatical, fundamentalist, extremist, militant," he said.

"These kinds of depictions can have serious consequences."

Hasan points to the fact that according to the FBI, hate crimes against Muslims in U.S. surged 67 per cent last year.

"When you demonize Muslims as a community, as an entire group of people based on the crimes or actions of a tiny minority within that community, you have very worrying, real world effects," he said.

Examine biases

The solution, Hasan says, is for journalists to honestly examine and recognize their own biases.

"There's a general ignorance about how Muslims live and what Muslims believe," he said. "Journalists need to own up to the irresponsible practice ... when it comes to the headlines and imagery related to Islam and Muslims."

This doesn't mean censorship, Hasan is quick to say. Rather it means talking to Muslims themselves and highlighting voices from within the community in coverage.

"What we want is responsible journalism. We want to avoid bigotry.

"Stop treating Muslims as if they're some kind of foreign, alien entity rather than part of the fabric of Canadian society or American society or British society."

Hasan's presentation "Misreporting Muslims: Islamophobia and the Media" takes place Monday, April 17, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. PT at the Aria Banquet Hall in Surrey.

Listen to the full interview with Mehdi Hasan on CBC's The Early Edition: