I went through customs in Rome after studying five weeks in Morocco. The customs officer asked me a lot of questions. I told her I lived with a host family. She asked me if they helped me pack. She asked me if they could have put anything in my suitcase.
She asked me if they put a bomb in my bag.
The officer’s question was rude, loaded, and ignorant, but I don’t believe she asked it to be hurtful. She was uninformed.
It’s the media’s responsibility to depict the recent issues in the Middle East. It’s also the media’s responsibility to minimize harm. This includes the harm in perpetuating negative stereotypes, which journalists will continue to do unless they stay informed.
The resources to be informed are available, but too many journalists don’t take the time or effort to educate themselves. California State University Northridge has a free guide called The Journalist’s Guide to Islam and Muslims. There are free e-books such as Islam for Journalists, and cheap books that are dedicated to teaching journalists about the religion and Muslims.
On Sept. 26, comedian Bill Maher said Islam and ISIS have too much in common and that liberals refuse to criticize Muslims because they don’t want to be labeled as Islamophobic. The comedian suffered backlash because he used facts that weren’t accurate. The Poynter Institute published an article that fact-checked Mahler’s comments. In the opinions column of the New York Times, Reza Aslan, a professor of creative writing at the university of California, said there are both sides to this debate, but, “failing to recognize that religion is embedded in culture — and making a blanket judgment about the world’s second largest religion — is simply bigotry.”
Maher isn’t a journalist, but his inaccurate statements influence viewers to look at Muslims and Islam in a negative way. Are journalists doing all they can to counteract these statements?