Panelists discuss coverage of Islam

“Chicago’s Islam community is much like Chicago,” Franklin said; its people are numerous and “just as diverse.” When media make mistakes, he said, “it affects lives here and lives around the world.”

The panel included: Rummana Hussain, Chicago Sun-Times reporter; Jawaid Riaz, bureau chief of both Urdu Times and Pakistan Post International; Ray Hanania, a Christian Arab-American blogger, broadcaster and activist; Toure Muhammad of the Nation of Islam; Franklin; and moderator Ken Davis, former broadcaster now running and appearing on CAN-TV19.

The evening audience of about 25 at Roosevelt University included other working journalists, community organization leaders, students and others.

Comments included repeated assertions that media reflect bias by depicting Muslims as terrorists and threats to society.

“It’s a terrible way to cover a community when you only look at them when they’re in crisis,” Hanania said.

Hussain added: “There is a misconception that every … Muslim is an immigrant. I was born here. We understand this culture. This is our country.”

Panelists and audience members advised the Muslim community to not be afraid to be heard. Franklin, Hanania and others offered advice on building relationships, being assertive about offering good news and responding promptly to badly done reportage.

About chaotic coverage of a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero, audience member and activist against racism Anya Cordell said: “The frame has now been set and now everything has to be argued against it. You have to defend yourself against the accusation whether the accusation is valid or invalid.”

Gerald Blake Hankerson, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said, “I am very happy that the discussion allowed for journalists and members of the Muslim community to look into ways that we can have constructive story coverage and ensure … truth and diversity.”

(From reports by Roosevelt students Casey Nunes and Cassandra Clegg)