On Thursday May 25, CAIR Chicago’s Executive Director, Ahmed Rehab, participated in a University of Chicago panel with a notable group of Chicagoans including Dr. Aminah Beverly McCloud, Professor of Religious Studies and Director of Islamic World Studies at DePaul University; Tim McNulty, Chicago Tribune Public Editor; and Margaret Holt, Chicago Tribune Senior Editor for Standards and Staff Development.
The panel, sponsored by the Office of Vice President and Dean of Students in the University, the Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities, and the Muslim Students Association, was put together to provide a forum for education and discussion concerning complex cultural and religious questions that have bearings on how the media portrays Islam and Muslims.
The event began with welcome remarks from William Michel, Asst. Vice President for Student Life and Assoc. Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago official, as well as M. Hasan Ali, outgoing MSA President.
The capacity room, packed with attendees and representatives from a diverse cross section of local Muslim communities, inter-faith communities, professors, students, and activists were on hand to participate in the dynamic program. Among those present in the audience were Dr. Scott C. Alexander, Associate Professor of Islam and Program Director in Catholic-Muslim Studies of the Catholic Theological Union; Imam Frederick Al Deen of Oak Park; Minister Marcus Muhammad, Benton Harbor Representative of the Nation of Islam; and Nation of Islam Latino student Minister Abel Muhammad.
The spirited open dialogue provided concrete advice for Muslims seeking accurate media representation and allowed Muslim community members an opportunity to offer feedback to the Tribune editors as to how the Muslim image may more fairly be covered. Rehab stressed the need for Muslims to forgo self-imposed censorship and to actively engage the media. He asserted that, for the most part, the American media does not bear an inherent bias against Islam and that members of the media are diverse and non-monolithic, like Muslims themselves. Rehab further explained that he believed Islam and Muslims are unfairly portrayed in the media, but that more often than not, it is a result of ignorance and not malice, “that’s all the more reason for Muslims to reach out to their local media,” he said.
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