Muslims in Western Media: Just to ‘Like’ or Dare to ‘Share’?

Our Finnish Youth UPF team was invited to participate in the Islamic Media Conference Finland 2014, which took place in Technopolis, Helsinki on the 27th of September. The topic of the conference was Intermediate Islamic Media, and the discussion focused on the role of Islam in Western mainstream media and consequent effects on integration of Muslims in Europe. photoThe aim of the conference was to strengthen relations between Islamic media and the official media institutions in Finland and Europe, and to participate in the building of a future image of Islam in Western media. We got to listen to the insights of various well-known speakers from around the world and to present our organization and views on the subject discussed.

The speech by Youth UPF Finland was given by our director, Hakim Salem, and the title was “Islam and Social Media: Initiate, Like and Share”. Salem presented a short video about UPF and then carried on to address challenges in gaining accurate and verified information on Islam despite the growing accessibility to social media. He stated that our organisation considers lack of communication and mutual understanding a cause for islamophobia. photo (2)To overcome this problem, Salem suggests intercultural youth dialogues, encouraging global citizenship and enhancing pluralism within both European and Muslim communities. He states that Youth UPF is willing to network with Muslim youth organisations, and when it comes to media and social media in particular, he faces the audience with a question: ‘It is not enough to like Muslim events. The question is, will you share it with your network?’

Islamophobia and the role of media are topics that came up in almost every speech. Mustafa Assyed Issa, Head of Media Department in Islamic Society of Sweden, talked about Islam in European media, and differentiated between the ‘media Muslim’ and the real Muslim. He noted that repetition in media creates stereotypes and journalists should be more educated on islamophobia itself. The Chairman of Islamic Council of Finland, Anas Hajjr, called for the activity of Muslims in Finland in his speech about the image of Islam in Western media. He sees the need for more Muslim professionals in media, more youth dialogues and activity, more publications on Islam, faster reactions to society and more proactivity among the Muslims of Finland. Related to this, Juha Rekola, representative of the Union of Journalists in Finland points out a new possibility for Muslims on the field of media. He states that the Union of Journalists has changed its’ entry requirements and positions within the union are now more accessible to ethnic minorities.  Moreover, if not within the mainstream media, Muslims should try and co-operate with the main media, suggests George Hourany, from Al Jazeera Channel. He advises minority media to take positive success stories and approach bigger media with a human aspect. photo

The conference, in general, had a strong focus on youth. Youth organisations were called to get together to correct misconceptions of Islam. When discussing Finland, Abdi-Hakim Yasin Ararse, Head of Politics and PR in Islamic Society of Finland stated that 70 % of Muslims in Finland are under 35 year olds. Consequently, there is a strong demand for commitment to youth needs and for more youth leaders in the community. As a peace and youth organisation, Youth UPF Finland finds this of particular interest and is willing to co-operate.

Katri Olkkonen, 

Youth UPF Finland

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