Islamic Jihad. Radical Muslim. Fundamentalist Islamic terrorist. Stereotypes and slanders such as these were the subject of the Canadian Islamic Congress' annual report released Wed., Oct. 4.
Entitled "Anti-Islam in the Media," the study documents, analyzes and evaluates the depiction of Islam and Muslims found in a cross-section of Canadian media including The Globe and Mail, La Presse and the CBC.
"[Racist publicity] is a disservice to people from Islamic countries," stated Professor Malek Khouri of the Faculty of Communication and Culture at the University of Calgary. "It makes them feel self-conscious and unwelcome in their newly adopted country."
Rated over a six-month period, the grading criteria for the study progressed from worst-to-bad. It rated the worst media outlets as "Identifying Muslims by their religion when they are involved in violent acts, inferring that Islam is intolerant and an extreme religion that teaches, endorses or condones acts of violence and the use of terms such as Muslim Terrorists."
The severity of these inferences were weighted depending on whether the item appeared on the front page, in a cartoon or caption and upon the circulation of the media in question.
Worst-to-bad the finalists were The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and La Presse.
"This is a complex issue dealing with the relationship between the West and... Islam and Muslim countries," said Khouri. "Studies on this relationship have resulted in the stereotyping of these cultures. This type of stereotyping relates to colonialism and colonial powers' inability to relate to the life, religion and culture of these countries."
According to the authors, at a national level, the media coverage of Muslims is inadequate; there is a lack of coverage of their achievements and events as well as an absence of accurate publishing of their views. On an international level, Muslims are in the press too much principally due to the Israeli-Palestinian and other international conflicts. Coverage such as this lends itself to the stereotyping of Muslims as a violent and intolerant people.
"We need to take into account the political use of Islam," said Khouri. "These [political leaders] speak of imposing [Islamic Jihad] on the masses. This does Islam a lot of disservice. Islam advocates tolerance of other religions and races."
Both the Canadian Islamic Congress and Khouri identify education as the key to eliminating racial intolerance.
"As a university there is a responsibility to ensure people have sophisticated notions of other cultures," said Khouri. "[Events such as] Arab film festivals would show less stereotypic aspects of the Arab world. The more we are capable of seeing the beauty of our society the closer we are to relating to the beauty of its diversity and richness."