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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Panel: Western media misinterpret Islam

The Associated Press printed more 100,000 words about terrorism in the first four days after the attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., Texas A&M journalism professor Douglas Starr said at a Thursday night panel discussion on media interpretation of Islam.
More than $500 million in commercial revenue was lost in around-the-clock television news coverage, Starr said.
“Reporters try very hard to not use opinion words,” Starr said. “But we’re all human – errors creep in with biases.”
More than 500 students met with experts on Islam Thursday night to discuss the role the media plays in interpreting the Muslim religion. Speakers examined media coverage of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and how the attacks have affected Muslim life in the United States. Reports of 58 incidents involving harassment against Muslims on college campuses prompted Memorial Student Center (MSC) organizations, in conjunction with the Muslim Student’s Association, to host the forum.
James Copp, an A&M sociology professor specializing in race and ethnic relations, explained what being a Muslim means. He said there are six reasons Islam and the western world are at odds.
* old colonial powers of the western world
* arrogance of the western world over Islamic society
* the U.S. and Israel’s diplomatic alliance
* Islam’s poor ability to properly govern their countries and religion
* the rapid growth of population coupled with a declining economy
* the biases of the western media
Through his studies around the world, Copp he has attained a view as an outside observer that has helped put a different perspective on Islam, he said.
“Islam is a very monotheistic religion,” Copp said. “They believe in one god named Allah. Islam is more monotheistic than Christianity appears to be.”
Islam is based on five pillars of faith, Copp said: public profession of faith, daily prayer, alms given to the poor, the fast of Rahmadan, and a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.
John Janney, a Muslim convert and media activist in the Dallas area, discussed the role of the media and how it has inaccurately portrayed the Muslim society as a terrorist society for the past ten years.
“The media is a portal for which many people obtain their views,” Janney said. “The frequency of words like ‘Islamic terrorist’ has had a huge impact on the western world’s idea of Islam.”
Janney said that the best way to help bring an end to unfair bias in the media is to educate the media and its readers about the true religion of Islam.
“Words shape thoughts and are like the paintbrush of the mind,” Janney said. “The media balances people’s thoughts and shapes their viewpoints.”

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