From the Spring, 1998 issue of Media Magazine, the official publication of the Canadian Association of Journalists
Media outlets are frequently criticized for painting crude caricatures of certain groups. Nowhere is that more evident than in stories about Muslims, write Sheherazade Hirji and Noordin Nanji, who say it’s time for journalists to strive for more context when writing stories.
In Alberta, a young Muslim man was elected a member of Parliament in 1997. He is a member of the Reform Party. Also in Alberta, a Muslim man was re-elected to the legislature. He is a Progressive Conservative. In British Columbia, a Muslim woman was nominated as a federal candidate for the Liberal Party.
Pluralism of political thought is taken for granted in Canada. The fact that these candidates were Muslim was not debated during the elections and may not even have occurred to those who voted for them. And unless relevant to the issues, it is quite appropriate that the candidates’ religious beliefs or cultural affiliations were not discussed.
But the media, particularly in the West, seem to have quite a different standard when they report on issues related to what they refer to as the “Muslim world.” Uninformed readers of the Western media can, at times, be forgiven for confusing the terms “Muslim” and “terrorist.” Many of us recall the reckless search for a “Muslim-looking man” following the Oklahoma bombing for which Timothy McVeigh was convicted. Following his arrest, there was neither a retraction nor an apology to all Muslims, not to mention “Muslim-looking” men (whatever that might mean).
Islam has played a significant role in the development of Western civilizations, so one would have hoped for a better understanding in the West about the religion, its history and the evolution of the societies in which it took root. With a little appreciation for this evolution, much of what is going on in the “Muslim world” can be properly contextualized
Complete at Media Magazine – Spring 1998
Sheherazade Hirji and Noordin Nanji are lawyers. Both are volunteers with the Ismaili Council for Canada, an organization responsible for the social governance of the Ismaili Muslim Community in Canada.