Friday, January 26

IHRC: The British Media and Muslim Representation: The Ideology of Demonisation Click for more info

The Islamic Human Rights Commission today launched the sixth of a series of reports outlining the British Muslims' expectations of the Government. This one focussed on the media: what image it's giving of Muslims, what perception it has by Muslims and how it can change to serve Muslims and non-Muslims better.

The launch took the form of a panel discussion. Three authors of the report each covered a different aspect of what was found by the research. First up, Dr. Saied R. Ameli talked about the re-presentation and representation of Muslims in the media.

He spoke about how the media (and art and even live witnessing) by nature will never completely portray the subject it is trying to, and so care must be taken to be as accurate as possible and, if desired, as positive. It was a kind of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle for media and art, and that this re-presentation results in conflict in the represented world.

He also spoke about how race is more of a social construction borne out of a class struggle than essential scientific classification. He finally outlined the Standpoint Theory; that only someone from within can get the subject matter - so, women talking about women, black talking about black and Muslims talking about Muslims.

Seyfeddin Kara then took the microphone to talk about some of the contextual analysis that the report made. This was basically talking about the results of the various questionnaires and surveys made. It was all pretty straightforward stuff about how they covered a variety of different genders and ethnicities. The biggest point I took from Kara was how Muslims who had each experienced varying levels of discrimination in real life all thought that there was also quite a bit in the media too. I feel that this indicates that the Muslims' complaints against the media are due to more than just over-sensitivity or a victim mentality.

Finally, Arzu Merali talked about some of the recommendations made in the report. This consisted of some pretty obvious things like:

  • the objective monitoring of media output
  • the quality checking of Muslims characters (and not just in drama)
  • the formation of formal subjective media watchdogs
  • the increasing of opportunity for Muslims to create media
  • the accountability of politicians who decide to use the media
There was a question and answer session afterwards but I was unable to hang around for much that. It seemed to be heading towards a debate of much wider scope anyway so I'm not sure what relevance it had on the day.

As before, this IHRC report made the papers, appearing to be nothing more than the over-sensitive rantings of yet another Islamic organisation: complaints toward Disney's Aladdin and the like were brushed off as busybody overreaction even by some Muslims. However attending today and reading some of the report itself convinced me that the work that the IHRC has done here is more than that and does have some merit - at least more than had been given to it by the media it was reporting on.