Muslims Host Media Panel on Coverage of 9/11 Aftermath
Twair, Pat, Twair, Samir, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
"One fact you have to grapple with is that the perpetrators of 9/11 were Muslims acting in your name." So said Jeffrey Kaye of PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" during a Sept. 10 panel on the "Media and Muslim Americans" sponsored by the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
"On 9/11, for most Americans, Islam was an unknown," Kaye continued. "This was followed by massive hysteria as the Justice Department rounded up Arab Americans and Muslims. Our job, as we saw it, was to profile Muslim communities in California and Virginia, to focus on the Taliban in Afghanistan, the conflict between Muslims and Hindus in the Indian subcontinent and offer a theological discussion about what Islam is during Ramadan of 2001."
Rob Eshman, editor-in-chief of the Jewish Journal, argued that Muslims weren't an unknown, owing to his publication's coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The challenge to the Jewish press, he said, was to carefully differentiate between who the perpetrators of 9/11 were and who the Palestinians are.
"Our over-arching concern is for human rights," Eshman stated, "and we ran an editorial the day after the attack on the importance of upholding civil rights."
Proof that he had done his homework in preparing his presentation was Eshman's reading of a rabbi's editorial warning against fundamentalism and his recitation of a Jewish Journal editorial taking Attorney General John Ashcroft to task for violating civil rights.
Los Angeles Times religion writer Teresa Watanabe stated that in 1996 the Times published 156 articles on Islam and that in 2001 this number had increased to 775 stories.
Noting that she had just returned from a trip through America's Bible Belt, Watanabe said the overriding question put to her was "why don't the Muslims speak out against their extremists?"
"There is confusion in the mind of the public on who speaks for Islam," she continued. "At one point, we hear a sheikh who says suicide bombing is against the tenets of Islam, and the next minute, we hear a sheikh who condones it."
Bill Rosendahl of Adelphia Cable TV stated that cable television tends to take a moment and run with it until the image is no longer marketable.
"Fundamentalism is a problem everywhere," he said, "but when we see the Nigerian woman about to be stoned to death for having a baby out of wedlock, it imparts a barbaric concept of Islam around the world.
"Television appeals to fear. Fear sells--fear of another terrorist attack grips viewers. What is needed is more credible Muslim speakers. …