The portrayal of Muslims in the media is feeding prejudice and encouraging discrimination, according to Faeeza Vaid, Executive Director of the National Muslim Women’s Network.

The figurehead for Muslim women was speaking at a Birmingham City University hosted Integration Roadshow, held in partnership with the Department for Communities and Local Government. The half-day conference gave local residents the chance to speak out on issues that affect their communities, and engage with the policymakers who take hard facts back to central government.

Faeeza VaidFaeeza Vaid says:

“There’s a lot of research out there on the representation of Muslims in the media.

If you put ‘Muslims’ into google images, among the top 20 images you see will be bearded, warmongering men. If you google Muslim women, nine out of ten images you see will be of veiled women, and these will be the representations that are most dominant.

But we know that those images do not accurately reflect the communities they are supposedly representing.

There’s a very real issue with the representation of Muslims in the British media right now. It is largely negative. The Muslim Women’s Network did an event in January where we looked at this very issue. What the media fails to realise is the very real impact on individuals and communities.

What we need to see more of is the truth. It is not okay to have a scaremongering headline on the front page of a newspaper one day, and then a follow-up on page five issuing an apology days later. That’s not okay.

When blatant lies are put into our papers, that’s not okay.

There is a very real need for better regulation of the press. I’m not calling for freedom of expression to be taken away but I think there are lines that need to be drawn and people need to be held to account when those basic requirements of justice aren’t met.

We also have a very real issue with social media. If you look at the abuse of vulnerable women, we know that women particularly are the targets of online abuse, more so than men. We need better regulation of online activity to protect people from threats.

The media is a very useful tool. We are all using it in different ways. The Fox News debacle is a case in point. Their ‘expert’ issued a false set of statements about Birmingham being a ‘no go zone’. The response from the people of Birmingham was with typical humour, and it really changed the tone of the coverage of that story.

Social media is a powerful tool. But the overall negative impact that negative coverage of Muslims is having is impacting individuals in our community.

More needs to be done. We need more truthful stories, more positive stories, and more personal stories. We want to hear the individual life experiences of normal people. That’s what people want.”

There are 16 integration projects currently running in Birmingham, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government. The government will be looking at how to feed issues raised at this week’s Integration Roadshow into these projects.

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Rumandeep Gill

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