The British media needs to be more balanced in its coverage of Islam, according to members of Christian-Muslim dialogue groups.
On the fifth anniversary of the atrocities of 9/11 in New York, suspicion of Islam in the UK is higher than ever, as shown in a recent YouGov poll in which 53 per cent of respondents felt they thought Islam was a threat to Western liberal democracy. Meanwhile 65 per cent of those surveyed said security services should focus anti-terrorism intelligence on Muslims.
Ibrahim Mogra, chair of the interfaith relations committee of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the media in the UK too often presented a distorted view of the religion. He said:
“Not all of the media is bad but some sections present Islam in a very negative way which is not practised by the majority of Muslims in this country. The media should be going out and talking to mainstream and ordinary Muslims and presenting that to the nation, rather than a perverted view. How many Imams have we see on the front pages talking about compassion and love, there are hundreds of them.”
Mr Mogra added that he felt that 9/11 had led to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and that the media needed to ask more questions about British foreign policy, which he feels motivated the 7/7 bombers.
Meanwhile, Julian Bond, Director of Management and Communications at the Christian Muslim Forum, said the media had to take more responsibility for its coverage. He said:
“I think the negative perceptions are there among many people in this country from all kinds of backgrounds. “You can pick up a paper everyday and read something about Islam, sometimes positive but sometimes negative, such as the searching of the Islamic school at the moment. I think the media needs to think about the impact that their coverage has and try to be more even-handed.”
Mr Bond agreed that perceptions of Islam had got worse in the last five years since 9/11. He said: “It has got more difficult because there’s a real fear, which was heightened by 7/7 and what happened on the underground with the perpetrators all being Muslim. But that is a minority as the majority of Muslims are peacefully practising their religion and living normal lives.”
Mr Bond called for Christians to get to know Muslims so they could better understand them, by spending time together, sharing meals and even reading scripture together, despite their doctrinal differences.
He said it could be helpful for Christians to read the Koran to raise their awareness of Islam, and added: “It’s not rocket science. If we show an interest in Islamic people it’s more likely they will show an interest in Christianity and we can build bridges.”
Such interfaith co-operation finds no favour with Jihad Watch, where the report is posted under the heading of “Eurabia Alert”.