Media & Religious Phobias Workshops
The workshop looking at 'Christians, Muslims, Religious Phobias & the Media’ was held on Monday 20th May, 2019 at the Christian Medical Fellowship in central London. About 25 Christians attended from a range of backgrounds and interests. The workshop explored the way in which the media represent religion and Muslim concerns about misrepresentation and Islamophobia.
Introduction (audio) - Dr Richard McCallum spoke briefly about the concept and aims of CMPL and sketched the terrain of the discussion around Islamophobia in the Christian community ranging from those Christians concerned for the safety and support of ordinary Muslims suffering abuse and discrimination to those concerned that new definitions of Islamophobia are seeking to stifle criticism of Islam and restrict free speech.
Stories from the media (audio) - Rev Dr Christopher Landau, now a Church of England curate, recalled how he was the BBC journalist who interviewed Rt Revd Dr Rowan Williams on the occasion of Williams’ comments about aspects of shari‘a being unavoidable in Britain. Even though this was badly managed, Landau suggested that if religious people want to see change in media they have to engage, as the alternative is to retreat into a religious subculture and lose all influence. Landau is a trustee of the Religion Media Centre which is seeking to improve religious literacy among journalists and other public figures.
Islamophobia and the misrepresentation of Islam in the media (audio) (powerpoint) - Miqdaad Versi, Assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, explored the new definition of Islamophobia proposed by the APPG on British Muslims and stressed that its intent is to protect Muslims as people rather than Islam as a religion. Versi explained the reasoning behind defining Islamophobia as a type of racism – a controversial move which he suggests has wide support. He then went on to give statistics and examples of how the media misrepresent Islam and Muslims, thus materially damaging public perceptions of them.
The human cost of Islamophobia (audio) - Akeela Ahmed MBE, founder of She Speaks We Hear and advisor to the Cross Government Working Group on Anti-Muslim Hatred, put a human face to the problem. Islamophobia is evident in the verbal abuse that follows negative news stories about Muslims when people shout insults at Muslims and tell them to get out of the country. It happens when people are physically attacked and have bacon thrown at them. Ahmed herself has received threatening tweets and reminded people that “Islamophobia kills”. This was literally true in the cases of Mohammed Saleem, Muhsin Ahmed and Makram Ali who were all killed in Islamophobic hate attacks.
The media and religion (audio) - In his second talk Christopher Landau explored themes around truth and love, asking what it means to “love your neighbour with whom you disagree”? He considered why there are so many bad news stories about religion and shared some good news stories and encouraged Christians to get more involved with the media - locally as well as nationally.
Panel discussion with guest speakers chaired by Richard McCallum
Christian reflections on the Media and Phobias: Papers developed by discussion groups
In the discussion time, attendees at the workshop were asked to join a group that reflected their response to media and Islamophobia. The aim was for the members of the group to develop a coherent rationale for the positions that they hold. These views do not necessarily reflect the views of the workshop organisers or of CMCS. They are included here to illustrate the range of thinking on these topics that exists within the Christian community.
Group 1 Christians should be concerned for Muslims facing Islamophobia - Islamophobia and misrepresentation of Muslims in the media are serious problems hurting Muslims and Christians should oppose this and support Muslims experiencing discrimination.
Group 2 Christians should be concerned about definitions of Islamophobia - The defining of ‘Islamophobia’ is a problem which risks stifling freedom of speech and valid criticism of Islam in the media.
Group 3 Both Muslims and Christians are misrepresented by the media - There may be shared responses to media portrayals by Christians and Muslims.