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Muslim watchdog: Successfully holding the media to account

On an uncomfortably humid evening, I found myself in a packed Parliamentary committee room for the launch of the Centre for Media Monitoring (CfMM), the Muslim community’s watchdog for the print and broadcast media. Many familiar faces who are leaders and activists from the Muslim community were present, sitting alongside the editors of all the main newspapers and broadcasters in the UK.

Unsurprisingly, CfMM has found that 59% of all articles analysed associated Muslims with negative behaviours. Sky News and religious (not Muslim-religious!) media in particular were found to have ‘very biased’ coverage of Muslims. 78% of the Daily Mail’s stories featuring Muslims had negative themes. The difference now is that this perception is no longer anecdotal – it is backed by robust research.

Led by the veteran media activist Miqdaad Versi together with Rizwana Hamid, a dedicated team of experts keep a close eye on every article published and every piece covered in the media which mentions Islam or Muslims in the UK. They meticulously document and analyse each occurrence. The culmination of this massive effort comes in the form of the Centre’s first quarterly report. It sets out their findings as well as their clear methodology for the gathering and analysing of the massive dataset (10,931 articles to be precise!).

The most important, if subtle, result of this labour is that newspaper editors such as The Sun and The Express are present at this event, and willing to talk openly about how they can represent Muslims more fairly through their journalism. It is a clear testament to the non-adversarial and engaging style of the team.

“The way that the media reports on Islam and Muslims plays a role in Islamophobia,” Miqdaad Versi said. “This is not about censorship, this is about transparency.” The Muslim community in the UK has been uncoordinated and under-resourced in efforts to represent Muslims more fairly. This is one important step in the right direction.

National Zakat Foundation is one of the funders of the Centre for Media Monitoring.

Rizwan Yusoof 
Director of Leadership Investment Programme 
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