When thousands of Muslims took to the streets of London for an annual March against terrorism, the double standard surrounding Muslim related events and reports was revealed once more. As the majority of mainstream media outlets serve corporate interests, bias reporting of controversial topics—particularly Muslims and the terror threat—has become a troubling and pressing issue.
On Dec. 6 2015, thousands took part in the annual UK Arbaeen Procession, organized by the Husaini Islamic Trust UK. Members flooded the streets of London, holding signs that read: “Islam promotes human rights” and “terrorism has no religion,” to highlight Islam’s core promotion of peace.
Arbaeen, is a Shia Muslim tradition to mark the anniversary of seventh-century social justice leader Imam Husain. However, in light of the recent radical Islamist terror attacks on Paris and Brussels, organizers decided to dedicate the march to denouncing all forms of terror.
Waqar Haider, one of the organizers, told The Independent about the transformation: “This year we had hundreds of placards which were basically saying ‘no’ to terrorism and ‘no’ to ISIS. A very direct message.
“For us it was a controversial move to go political. Normally we don’t mix politics with mourning. However with what’s happened recently, we thought we had to make sure we as a community totally disassociate ourselves with what’s happening elsewhere in the world,” Haider added.
However, despite the importance of the organization’s message, the event did not receive the coverage it deserved. Reports on radicalized jihadists, suspected terrorists and attacks on Western cities receive and unprecedented amount of coverage within the media. In comparison, the number of reports covering terror attacks on Muslim communities and the actions Muslim communities are taking against terrorism and ISIS (IS) is notably lacking.
— Aliya Zaidi (@aliyazaidi) 8 December 2015
“Unfortunately [some] media outlets have gone for stories that to some extent can be divisive. If a group of Muslims do something good, it’s not mentioned or the religion is not mentioned. But if someone does something [negative], it is on the front page and their religion is mentioned,” volunteer Mohammed Al-Sharifi, told The Independent. “I think the reason the mainstream media hasn’t covered the story is because I don’t think it’s juicy enough to sell papers. It’s simply not interesting enough.”
The result of this biased reporting: the public’s perception becomes misconsude and unbalanced—which in turn only exacerbates this troubling situation.
Al-Sharifi, who had personally attended the march, took to Twitter to express his disappointment in the mainstream media. In a tweet, which has since been re-tweeeted over 9,000 times, he said: “Hundreds of Muslims flooded the streets of London yesterday to condemn terrorism. Media’s response: Silence.”
Hundreds of Muslims flooded the streets of London yesterday to condemn terrorism.
Media’s response: Silence.
— Mohammed Al-Sharifi (@Malsharifi) 7 December 2015
“The reason my tweet went viral… is because I think people realise there is a huge disparity between what they’re being fed in the media and the reality of the day-to-day interactions they have with Muslims at work, at school.”
Haider believes that ‘stereotyping’ is the root cause of the lack of media coverage surrounding Muslim-organized events. “I think it’s because of stereotyping. People see the entire Muslim community as one community,” Haider said.
“[But] the Muslim community is a very diverse community, with the vast majority of us horrified by ISIS.
Haider added: “With our event, we had so many people from different ethnic backgrounds. It’s more of a family event in terms of people it attracts.”
The sense of community within Western-countries is narrowed. Shortly after the terror attacks on Paris and Brussels, many Western-nations bound together to create an image of solidarity by projecting the Belgium and French national flags of their own monumental landmarks.
However, just six days after the attack in Brussels, an attack in Lahore, Pakistan killed 69 people—with women and children making up a large percentage of the death toll—yet the Western-nations did not pay tribute to this tragedy. Why? Because Pakistan is a Muslim majority country.
“… I think people realize there is a huge disparity between what they’re being fed in the media and the reality of the day-to-day interactions they have with Muslims at work, at school,” Mr. Al-Sharifi told The Independent, calling for the UK’s leadership to take greater steps to combat Islamophobia.
During it’s existence, the terror organization has killed more Muslims than non-Muslims. Tens of thousands of Muslims have been killed and displaced at the hands of ISIS, yet mainstream media outlets continue to frame Western nations as the sole victims of ISIS threats, plans and attacks.
Despite these overwhelming facts, the Muslim community continues to be misrepresented in the media. As a result, the public’s understanding of Islamists, Quran teachings and world news as a whole becomes skewed, or in some cases, completely inaccurate. Over the past year, the number of reported Islamophobic attacks has increased in both Europe and the U.S.
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