London, 2008/03/25: Today the official launch of the Western Islam Dialogue report by the World Economic Forum in association with Media Tenor International took place in London. Lord George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury and Co-Chair of the C100 Initiative of the World Economic Forum, held the opening speech at the seminar of Muslim Communities in Europe:
"Your Royal Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure on behalf of the West Islam Dialogue Community or C-100 of the World Economic Forum to join in the welcome here to all of you today to this seminar on Muslim Communities in Europe.
Thus we see that still, years after these initial acts of terrorism, over one third of all media reports in Germany see Islam as primarily a terrorist threat and security risk (36.6 % of coverage in Germany in 2007)
This is all part of a wider picture where the negative has framed not merely reporting, but the place of Muslims in general. And I must add sadly, that this has increasingly extended beyond Islam to religion of any kind. Religion as a whole is increasingly being portrayed as a threat to orderly society despite the fact, which history makes clear, that modern societies are in many ways the products of religion themselves.
All sides in the West and Islamic worlds seem guilty of damaging negativity. Thus, after the Regensburg address, negative reporting seemed to dominate Arab media coverage of Christianity. In the West too, there has also been a negative reaction to the violent responses manifest in the Islamic world after the Danish cartoons were published.
This lack of balanced coverage has left a vacuum for negative stereotypes to prevail. All of this becomes part of a self sustaining negative cycle that becomes ever harder to break and which seems to focus attention relentlessly on extremists among Muslims rather than more mainline religious voices.
Yet there is perhaps also a lesson to learn, for one point of note is that such positive media coverage as there has been of Christianity (pitifully small and geographically narrow as it is) stems from reporting Christian engagement in solid work that clearly benefits all in society. Is there a message here for Muslim communities too? Are Muslim communities sufficiently outward looking? Can we work more together to help show the positive social potential of Muslim communities and thus refashion the popular perception away from their being a threat?
It is troubling that only 1 in 20 media statements refers to economic and social aspects when discussing Muslims, so what can we do to change this? To what extent can we help Muslim communities show themselves to advantage?
In discussing the media it is important not simply blame the media. It is vital that the positive story of what religious communities contribute to society is conveyed to them. Religious communities both Muslim, Christian and others have a responsibility not only to do good things but to make sure that others know about them and it is appropriate to explore what is needed to help achieve this.
However, it does seem to me that our Report does issue a challenge for the media to consider: are there biases that impede objective reporting? Are there blinkers that prevent coverage of the positive?
But for today - together with my co-chair, Princess Lolwah al?Faisal, and President John DeGioia - I welcome you all and let our discussions begin!"
Lord Goerge Carey of Clifton,
Co-Chair of the C100 Initiative of the World Economic Forum
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