The mainstream media’s portrayal of Muslim women today varies from stereotypes of ‘oppressed’ Muslim women to more positive images reinforcing the independent, working Muslim woman.
There are an increasing number of Muslim women who are taking up roles within the media either as journalists, writers or activists in order to combat stereotypes and create understanding between faiths.
In April 2011, Women In Islam, Inc. hosted the “Under-Represented: Muslim Women and Media,” an event featuring Laila Al-Arian, a writer and producer for Al Jazeera English.
Al Arian highlighted the importance of combatting stereotypes within the mainstream media and said that, “The focus has been on women’s appearance rather than action, so that even if Muslim women are visible, they are voiceless. Even when Muslim women in hijab become reporters, they are seen as women in hijab, rather than reporters”.
Due to the challenging times when the media has the power to shape perceptions it is highly important to have reporters which reflect the views of the community. Although some Muslim female journalists may feel that they are being judged by their appearance I feel that times are changing and people are more accepting of Muslim females in the media.
Inevitably there will be challenges and one of the main hurdles that Muslim journalists face is the perception of delivering biased reports. As journalists neutral, reporting is part of the job and ensures professionalism. Journalists regardless of their faith know what is required of them and I believe in giving a fair report portraying both sides of the story.
Many people from socially diverse backgrounds often find that they are misrepresented within the media and that is why there is a need for more varied reporting of issues surrounding the communities at large.
Leave faith aside, I have always adhered to the principles of Journalism and I do feel that reporting needs to be done based on facts, logic and justified reporting. There is nothing wrong in voicing opinions on issues concerning Muslims and ethnic minorities as many people from these communities often feel their views are unheard.
Al Arian further stated that, “Portrayals of Muslim women have the potential to impact discrimination and rights of the community, Muslim women have a critical role to play to help humanize the Muslim community.”
Discrimination can be harmonised if there is more effort from both the mainstream media and Muslims themselves to show a varied and fair portrayal of women in the media. There are countless working, Muslim females in the UK such as Respect Party Leader Salma Yacoob and Conservative Baroness Warsi who are taking leading roles within the community and providing a sound example of shattering stereotypes that have aroused from misrepresentation in the media.
Aspiring writers and journalists from diverse backgrounds are being encouraged to fulfill their dreams through various initiatives such as the Journalism Diversity Fund (JDF). The JDF offers support for the training of journalists from ethnic and socially diverse backgrounds and creates a platform for progression within the industry.
For more information on the JDF fund visit: www.journalismdiversityfund.com