MUPPIES Toronto held a highly anticipated event, Muslims in Media: Shaping perceptions, on Nov 18th, 2015. The audience heard from prominent figures in the media, journalism and arts fields about their professional experiences as well as how to positively influence the perception of Muslims. With the recent Paris attacks and the San Bernardino (CA) shooting, the insights from this discussion were highly relevant and interesting.
The panel speakers were:
- Nazim Baksh, Lead Investigative TV Producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
- Noor Javed, Reporter for the Toronto Star
- Urz Heer, TV Show Host for “Heer Now”, Rogers Communications
- Zaib Shaikh, Film Commissioner & Director of Entertainment Industries at City of Toronto
All of the panelists followed career paths that are not common in the Muslim community. Their belief in following their passion, doing what they felt was right, and having honest and open conversations with their family encouraged them to take on new and exciting opportunities.
Based on their experiences, they shared 5 key insights on how we can positively influence the perception of Muslims:
- Media coverage can be biased and sensationalized: We need to think critically of what we see and hear on the news. Some news can be poorly framed and communicated. The key to encourage good journalism and bring positive and honest stories to light is to celebrate good coverage. Next time you feel that a journalist has covered a story well, share the story and you can even tweet to the journalist saying that it was a job well done!
- Muslims must have a voice: In the midst of the negative perception, the backlash, and the fear, we forget that we have a voice. Rather than being reactive, we have to stand up and start a conversation about ourselves. We have to set the tone of who we are. In the words of Zaib Shaikh, ‘We are this amazing, diverse, smart, young community that doesn’t tell the world that’. It’s about time we do.
- We live in a world that allows us to have a voice: Social media has disrupted how we communicate. With easy access and massive reach, social media provides a great way to start a positive dialogue and celebrate ‘us.’
- Take the opportunity to connect with others: Our faith teaches us to be kind and to offer charity. We should take the opportunity to volunteer, network and connect with the broader community. We need to actively participate and be part of a changing world.
- Non-traditional routes to a career in media/journalism/arts exist: While formal education is still important, the explosion of social media has opened up new ways to work towards a career. YouTube, Twitter, Blogger and many more social media platforms allow us to target our audience, express ourselves, communicate a message and start a dialogue.
Changing perceptions take time, patience and work. However, if we all work together, we can definitely take this challenge head-on and make progress in this area.