Community Questions (CQs) events provide an excellent opportunity for community members to discuss concerns and challenges with community leaders and topic experts. These events are organised in partnership between the Prevent team and local community organisations and focus on issues identified by community groups as being pressing or contentious. Previous topics have included mental health, terrorist propaganda online, far-right extremism, alongside Stop & Search and Schedule 7 stops.
The Prevent team ensure that CQ events reflect local issues by tailoring the sessions to the concerns that are raised with community and local authority partners. In the 2018/19 financial year, Community Questions have focussed on: hearing from the Somali diaspora, Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and Muslims in the media. The events provide context to often contentious issues and are solution focussed – feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
21/11/18 – Muslims and the Media CQ Summary
The team’s Muslims and the Media CQ was designed to respond to local community concerns about the way in which Muslim people are sometimes portrayed in the media. The event featured panelists from academia, media agencies, and IPSO, and ended with a Q&A session.
Professor Tony McEnery, Lancaster University, showcased his two research projects, one from 1998 and one from 2011, on the portrayal of Islam and Muslims in the media. He noted that the words ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslims’ were traditionally twinned with negative events, such as terrorist incidents, with 1 in 20 uses of the word ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islam’ directly next to ‘extremism’. Professor McEnery stated that there has been a slight improvement in reporting in recent years, with more nuanced reporting – especially in the local press, which are significantly more positive – but he stressed that more needed to be done to improve the standard of media reporting.
Professor McEnery suggested that people could do the following to improve the portrayal of Muslim communities in the media:
- Let the press know about positive stories, especially local press
- Complain about inaccurate or unfair portrayals to IPSO
- Share views and stories on social media
- Write to political representatives
Mohammed Anass, from Al Magharibia, spoke about the need for the next generation of Muslims to adopt leadership roles to promote positive change in the media. He detailed the news process and explained the way in which news stories are decided upon and reported.
Spencer Fearon, from Sky Sports, spoke about his career as a professional boxer and his podcast, which allowed him to remain involved with the sport after retiring. He noted the fear that Muslims have about revealing their religious identity, especially after negative portrayal in the media. Spencer said that Muslims need to produce their own narrative, as they are under-represented in the media, and said that more diversity in the boardrooms of media corporations is needed.
Lauren Sloan, a representative from IPSO, explained the role that IPSO played in regulating press in the UK. She stated that IPSO operates a complaints handling service, and can require titles to issue letters of correction and apologies if they breach the IPSO code. Complaints can be submitted via the IPSO website, but can also be done by phone or in writing. Lauren also noted that guidance on reporting Islam and Muslims in the UK is currently being written.
The Questions and Answers session gave attendees an opportunity to ask panelists about their concerns – feedback from the event was positive.