Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Detecting and Correcting Anti-Muslim Bias

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Detecting and Correcting Anti-Muslim Bias

Article excerpt


The conference's afternoon session focused on "Detecting and Correcting Anti-Muslim Bias," and was moderated by Prof. Jamshed Uppal.

Khalil Jahshan, vice president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) examined bias in think tanks and educational institutions involved in policy research. The U.S. has 12,000 think tanks, Jahshan said, and many of them become part of the political process with an important impact on policymaking. There was a "fuzzy line" separating think tanks and the government, he noted: think tanks are policy incubators that the government may use to research specific questions. Think tanks offer talent pools or training grounds for people who later take positions in the government. Some, like Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk, take advantage of the revolving doors between think tanks and government office. Think tanks also offer prestigious retirement jobs for people leaving government employment.

Think tanks offer important public relations tools--complete with seminars and conferences--and supply talking heads for the media. They also publish journals which advocate their perspectives.

Jahshan suggested five ways for American Muslims to influence think tanks: monitor their research; visibly participate in their events and provide input in their reports prior to publication; fund projects; intern with think tanks; and, finally, Jahshan said, Muslims should start their own think tanks.

This reporter, news editor of the Washington Report, spoke about detecting anti-Muslim bias in the media, especially in the American media's reporting of the Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories. As a result of the media's routine use of certain language, misleading headlines and anti-Arab stereotypes, America continues to blame the victim and Israel's image stays squeaky clean.

As Washington Report executive editor Richard Curtiss once said in a speech, "There is a media conspiracy of silence when it comes to anything critical of Israel. Most daily newspapers, virtually all television stations, and many radio stations are deathly afraid of offending advertisers and readers supportive of Israel. And it is for this reason that they have also tended to keep their distance from Muslims and anything to do with Islam."

Muslims in the U.S. get bad press because supporters of Israel fear that if Muslim- and Arab-Americans gain access to the media and political leaders, Americans will learn what really is happening in Israel.

Professor M.M. Ali discussed anti-Muslim bias in academia. Coincidentally, he said, just as the Muslim presence in America has grown, the Israeli-Arab conflict has intensified. As a result, Ali noted, "mischievous" supporters of Israel repeatedly bring up a purported "clash of civilizations," or accuse Muslims of being anti-Semitic, anti-Christian or even anti-American. Muslim bashers, he continued, add their "shrill voices to the cacophony that equates Muslims with terrorists," and color the vision of well-meaning, but naive, Americans.

"Political activism on the part of the Muslim community will be a guarantee against bias and hate-mongering," Prof. Ali concluded. "No one messes with muscle."

The subject of visiting University of North Carolina Prof. Robert Newman's keynote talk was "The Moral Economy of the American Media. …

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