Journalism & Islam: Food For Thought: “Blunt debate” on the way journalists cover Muslims

Apr 20, 2017

A panel discussion is planned for this Sunday afternoon at the Islamic Center on Heim Road in Amherst. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the University at Buffalo is teaming with the organization to provide community education on how Muslim communities are covered by journalists.  

"We want to bring together journalist and representatives from the Muslim and other faith communities to talk about how the communities are covered,” said Jody Biehl, director of UB's Journalism Program.

The event is titled Journalism & Islam: Food For Thought. It will examine how journalists cover Muslims at home and abroad. As Beihl works to education future journalist, she wants them to become more sensitive to the perceptions reporting can create.

Rasul Khan & Jody Biehl discuss their planned event.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“We want the discussions to be blunt – the questions to be real. We’re not looking for politically correct answers. We want people to say what they are afraid of and we want the journalist to answer openly what some of the fears are, so for instance we’ve talked about the word – Islamist and if this word is accurate or offensive,” explained Beihl.

“How does journalist really justify and manage – and make those decisions – when to use their religion and when to not,” asked Rasul Khan, president of Islamic Society of Niagara Frontier. 

Khan and Beihl will co-moderate the panel discussion Sunday.

Journalism & Islam: Food For Thought.

The discussion will examine how the term "Islamic terrorist" can be accurate or offensive. Khan explains that some in his community feel reporting has been unfair in describing incidents.

“Locally if you go all the way back of beheading that happened in Orchard Park and then they put immediately the face of the religion on top of it and then that is very troublesome when you try to explain it to your kids,” Khan described.

The event is open to the public and it will actually take you inside a mosque and begin with a prayer to offer some a brand new experience.

“I see my students reporting about Islam at UB – UB students, UB journalists and also local media, sometimes, without ever having been in a mosque – without really knowing what an Islamic prayer session is – that there’s a fear that comes from the unknown,” declared Beihl.

“The panel is going to be three religious leaders. We a pastor, we have an imam and a rabbi, along with a couple of Muslim community people and also the journalist,” said Khan. 

Well-known veteran journalists Rich Kellman and Lee Coppola will join the panel for a frank discussion to share views and ethics.

The event will begin with a welcome and interactive afternoon prayers at 1:30 p.m. The panel discussion begins at 2:30 p.m.