The Analyzer (acmeeoy) wrote in ontd_political,
The Analyzer

Muslims and the Media

“To me, appearance is…”

Every school student faces that question, but if you are a Muslim girl, there's an added dimension. 

“Regardless of race or culture, what you wear, the clothes you choose, the events you attend, and how you comport yourself, says something about you -- about your values, self respect, and beliefs,” said two Duke undergraduates in a video they produced in conjunction with six women from Raleigh's Muslim Youth Coalition. “But when you’re a Muslim American girl, there’s an added dimension. You can wear your religion. You become the face of Islam.”

The video and blog posts at emerged from a collaboration with a Duke course on Islam and the media this semester.

The idea for the class came from Phil Bennett, who as a veteran journalist and former managing editor of the Washington Post, felt something was missing from media coverage of Muslim Americans.

“American journalism has spent a lot of time portraying Muslim Americans, but Muslim American self-portraits scarcely exist in our culture in a way of understanding the moment we’re living in,” he says.

Bennett joined the faculty at Duke’s DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy this year, and decided to teach a course on Islam and the media with senior research associate Wendy Ewald.

“We wanted to do a project looking at Islam and how it was represented in the media, but also have a hands on piece,” Ewald says.

After spending the first part of the semester studying how major news organizations approach coverage of Muslim Americans after 9/11, Bennett and Ewald’s class collaborated with the Islamic Center of Raleigh and Al-Iman School to create original media projects exploring different facets of Muslim American life. Groups of Duke students worked with eighth grade students from the Al-Iman School, and teenagers and women from the center on a variety of projects including books, blogs, photos and video. The groups presented their work to the Islamic Center and at the Center for Muslim Life at Duke this weekend.

Ewald, artist in residence at the Duke University Center for International Studies, says she and Bennett asked the students to think about what things they would change about coverage of Muslim Americans, stories they wanted to tell, and the stories that are most important to tell.

Duke junior Carol Shih worked with five eighth grade girls from Al-Iman who decided they wanted to explore wearing the hijab – something most of the girls had just recently made the decision to do – through a book of photos and essays.

“I think many people have misconceptions about the hijab,” Shih says. “They think it’s only the headscarf…they think it’s something all Muslim women have to do, but Muslim women have the choice. The media has something to do with [misconceptions].”

Mussarut Jabeen, principal of the Al-Iman School, says the projects were a great opportunity for students at the school to counteract stereotypes of Muslims.

“The best thing is they took ownership of their learning,” she says.

Imran Aukhil of the Islamic Center says the collaboration was the first time the local Muslim community engaged with an external academic group such as Duke.

“This sort of research helps bring to light the realities of the Muslim community, and how we are misrepresented by the media,” he says.

Bennett says he came away from the project with an appreciation for Muslim American youth as “some of the most adept and interesting cultural translators in America today.”

“There is a group of young people in our community and in the country who have really developed…such a rich experience of what it means to be an American that is still entirely new and unexplored,” he says.

“I think what we all learned from working with the people at the mosque was how hungry they were to tell their stories and how open and creative it was,” Ewald adds. “It was very active and made us all think we should do more of this.”

Tags: education, islam, islamophobia, media, muslims

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