Uncharted: media must stop stoking Islamophobia
Media should use the utmost restraint to avoid inciting Islamophobia with sensational, inflammatory headlines and stories
Responsible journalists must use restraint; avoid the ‘Yellow Brick Road’ of sensationalism that fuels Islamophobia
In the wake of the horrific slayings of 14 people at an office holiday party at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif., Dec. 2, the FBI is now calling the mayhem perpetrated by what appears to be a “radicalized” Muslim married couple, an act of terrorism.
It goes without saying that the Islamic community in the U.S. and around the world has been painted with a broad brush by many who would demonize all Muslims, an extremely unfair characterization since there is a diversity of teaching in the world of Islam. Most would agree Muslims are not monolithic. Islam, with an estimated 1.6 billion adherents, is the second-largest religious tradition after Christianity according to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.
It is fairly safe to say that a very small percentage of Islamic worshipers is given to militancy. Few are “jihadist” in their approach to Western politics.
That said, my colleagues in the media should use the utmost restraint to avoid inciting Islamophobia – angry emotions and groundless fears about Islam and its worshipers – with sensational, inflammatory headlines and stories that will only serve to add grease to the fire and possibly lead some inspired factions to induce harm to innocent Muslims here, whose embrace and worship of Islam is neither violent nor threatening.
U.S. media must not tread the ‘Yellow Brick Road’ of journalese for profit motives. Such was the case with the New York Daily News’ story, Dec. 5, 2015, bearing the cover headline — “God Isn’t Fixing This,” or the New York Post’s equally inflammatory headline — “Muslim Killers.”
Freedom of the press begs ‘responsibility’
In America, freedom of the press is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but responsibility must be the first order in the use of this awesome power.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch vowed Dec. 3 to prosecute those who use “Anti-Muslim” speech that “edges toward violence” against nearly seven million Muslims who live in the U. S.
She pledged that to a Muslim advocacy and lobbying consortium at the Muslim Advocates’ 10th-anniversary dinner Thursday. Lynch said her “greatest fear” is the “incredibly disturbing rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric” in America and vowed to prosecute anyone guilty of what she deemed violence-inspiring speech.
“The fear that you have just mentioned is, in fact, my greatest fear as a prosecutor, as someone who is sworn to the protection of all of the American people, which is that the rhetoric will be accompanied by acts of violence,” she said.
“Now obviously this is a country that is based on free speech, but when it edges towards violence, when we see the potential for someone lifting that mantle of anti-Muslim rhetoric — or, as we saw after 9/11, violence directed at individuals who may not even be Muslims, but perceived to be Muslims, and they will suffer just as much—when we see that we will take action,” Lynch said.
Assuring the pro-Muslim group that “we stand with you,” Lynch said she would use her Justice Department to protect Muslims from “violence” and discrimination, and her warning clearly was inclusive of media.
“I think it’s important that as we again talk about the importance of free speech we make it clear that actions predicated on violent talk are not America,” said Lynch. “They are not who we are, they are not what we do, and they will be prosecuted.”
Conservative media and others cross the line
Some conservative broadcast media in America that have routinely crossed the line in promoting divisiveness in U.S. race relations with less than subjective news reporting and callous commentaries will now have to toe the line and avoid speech that “edges toward violence,” and actions predicated on violent talk — or face prosecution.
Muslim sects of all races have contributed to the vitality and stability of America, which should not be lost on the morbid actions of a terrorist organization hell bent on the destruction of America.
This should be the message of the American press.