As tensions have heated to a rapid boil this election season, one group of Americans being unfairly targeted by others is Muslim Americans. Since the election ended, Muslim women have admitted they are terrified to wear their hijabs in public, fearing for their lives (although this kind of discrimination isn’t exactly new).
But what are we, as media, doing to contribute to this? Or, if you’re scoffing at that sentence, what are we doing to prevent it?
The SPJ Florida Pro chapter is putting on Muslimedia this Sunday, and organizer Kathleen Devaney — the chapter’s VP of programs — wants you to go. Here’s what she has to say about the most important discussion you may ever be in.
Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably offended Muslim-Americans in your coverage. Yes, it’s true, sometimes even journalists don’t get the facts straight. For example, the term “Islamic terrorism,” which we in mainstream media have adopted so easily, isn’t exactly accurate or representative of the world’s second largest religion. In fact, it’s offensive.
That’s why SPJ Florida is hosting Muslimedia, an eye-opening panel between South Florida journalists and local Muslim leaders, where each group will have the opportunity to discuss how and why the media covers them the way we do. And in exchange, each side might learn something new from each other.
The panel will consist of staple topics like what are the basics of Islam, ISIS in the media and the looming future of what a Trump presidency looks like for Muslim-Americans. But perhaps the most provocative topic will be a local one: the fact that the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, the location of our event, was once determined to be an election polling site but was then revoked because the surrounding community did not feel comfortable voting in a mosque. Local and national outlets were buzzing when this news broke, and at Muslimedia, we’re going to analyze the differences in reporting to see which outlets were culturally sensitive.
In addition to the back and forth conversations, attendees will indulge in a halal lunch buffet and also get the chance to observe an afternoon prayer session.
We hope SPJ chapters nationwide adopt our concept and try Muslimedia locally. When I signed up to plan this event a couple months ago, I had no idea how little I knew about the Muslim community. Even now, I realize that what I’ve learned is only the tip of the iceberg and I am hopeful to see that same ah-ha moment in the faces of my journalism friends at the event.
Want to go? Help us make sure we’ve got enough food and RSVP on Facebook.
Kathleen Devaney is a social media producer for the Palm Beach Post and the Vice President of Programs for SPJ Florida Pro.