Why We Are Expanding Muslimedia

 

Last summer, Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky pitched an idea at an SPJ Florida board meeting — how about we have an event in a mosque?

At the time, the election results were not yet in; Donald Trump had not yet won. But his words attacking the Muslim community were striking. What’s worse was that he was not alone in his beliefs — millions of his fans and followers have been touting this rhetoric since the Trump presidential campaign started. But do those who are vehemently against an entire religion know what they are fighting? What about journalists who cover both the Muslim community and the hate they are getting?

Aside from being the chair of the Diversity Committee, I’m also the president of the award-winning SPJ Florida Pro chapter. Muslimedia was originally scheduled to happen before the elections, but Hurricane Matthew didn’t want that to happen. Instead, we had it after the elections — when an entire community started to face the realities that their next president does not believe they are human beings.

The chapter pitched in $500 to host the event at the Islamic Center of Boca Raton (ICBR), with the logistic help of Region 3 and SPJ FAU. The mosque made national news last summerwhen it was removed as a polling site after voters complained. We had a panel of journalists and ICBR directors who were able to actively and openly discuss how the Muslim community is covered in the media. For journalists who are covering a community they know nothing about, how can they report accurately and fairly? By learning about it. That was the goal of Muslimedia.

The mosque’s public relations and outreach director Annie Hayat said it was an important discussion to have. “Bridges were created, and trust was built. I would recommend this event to all Islamic Centers.”

Attendees — journalists, religious leaders, and activists — toured the mosque. They saw the imam’s office. They saw children’s classrooms. They saw prayer rooms. That followed with the panel discussion and then a halal lunch buffet.

Before Muslimedia even happened, I knew the importance of having this type of open and frank discussion. Once we wrapped, I emailed our board about a Muslimedia expansion grant — giving a few micro-grants to chapters across the country to put on a Muslimedia event in their community. Earlier this month we accepted more applicants than we could award and the response — even from those that didn’t apply — was overwhelming: this event needs to happen.

I’m happy to announce that five groups from all over the United States have been awarded $200 each to put on a Muslimedia program in their community.

While we couldn’t give everyone some extra cash, I’m happy we could help out those that won. I’m happy that SPJ is already working on expanding this program even further. While we were the first, we most certainly won’t be the last.

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