Media blamed for Islam’s image

The misperception of Islam that led to the attacks on six Auckland mosques two weeks ago was fuelled by negative media portrayal of the faith, Auckland’s Muslim community says.

Last night at Ponsonby Mosque, Government and police officials re-iterated their support for New Zealand’s Muslim community in the wake of the mosque attacks on on July 10. The acts were an apparent backlash for the bombings in London three days earlier.

Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter, Labour MP Ashraf Choudhary and Police Commissioner Rob Robinson joined other officials to hear the concerns of about 50 leaders and members of Auckland’s Muslim community.

The Muslim community was united in thanking the Government for its support and the police for their swift arrest following the attacks. But the loudest applause followed their own comments condemning the mainstream media’s portrayal of Islam.

One man, who did not want to be named, said some coverage bordered on hate speech and promoted the kind of misunderstanding that would have led to the mosque attacks.

Muslim woman Rana Sobh, referring to a piece about Islam and terrorism by current affairs show 60 Minutes, said:

“The message was to hate the religion and hate Muslims and be fearful. It’s irresponsible to show such a distorted view. We love New Zealand but it breaks our hearts to see our faith portrayed negatively in the media.”

Mr Carter said the misperception that Islam was synonymous with terrorism had to be addressed. He urged the Muslim community to reach out to the wider community to teach the true nature of Islam. Islam Awareness Week, starting on August 8, was an ideal opportunity, he said.

The Council of Christians and Muslims is organising a rally “in defence of tolerance” at Aotea Square at 2.30pm on Sunday.

New Zealand Herald, 21 July 2005