Al Jazeera, the Arabic television channel, has come under fierce criticism from Fareena Alam, managing editor of Europe’s leading Muslim magazine, Q News.
She told journalism students at the University of Lincoln: “It is very antiwest and simply stoking the anger in a region which is already very angry.”
She claimed the station was merely providing what it felt the millions of Arabs around the world wanted to hear -giving them more reasons to hate Israel and America. While she acknowledged Al Jazeera provided important footage of atrocities from Iraq and Palestine not seen elsewhere, she believed that overall its journalism was “very poor.”
Alam’s anti-American comments on BBC’s Question Time, just after the 11 September atrocities, famously made former US ambassador Phillip Lader cry and produced an apology from Greg Dyke, the BBC’s former director general.
She accused the British-based Muslim press of being “too defensive”, recycling “victim” stereotypes or too quick to celebrate the “good things” in the community.
“I believe with John Pilger that the journalist must question everything.
And the Muslim press must change to ask tough questions about the community it is serving.”
Features on Muslims in the mainstream media, she claimed, too often focused on the obvious issues of headscarves, halal meat and terrorism. “We need to go beyond these issues and the usual ‘talking heads’ from the Muslim Council of Britain. Instead we should seek out the opinions of local Muslim youth and community groups.”
She said reports rarely focused on Muslims facing ordinary, everyday issues; Islam tended to be linked to either politics or terrorism. “But Muslims need to be interviewed on housing, education or sports. That is how you help them to become part of the mainstream, when your opinion is relevant whatever you are talking about not just when it is directly Islam-related.”
Muslims, she argued, took ethics seriously because they were aware of being accountable for all their actions. “We believe in the day of judgement, in the afterlife and inGod judging us for what we did with our profession, our time, our money and the information we were given. So perhaps there is a greater awareness of ethics because ultimately you fear your own neck after you die.”