Media is the biggest bigot

23rd March 2007 at 00:00
Liz Thomas works for Cyfanfyd, which represents organisations working for sustainable development and global citizenship

How many positive opinions need to be expressed before we can wipe out the negatives too often expressed by the national media? And how many of us have the time, energy and inclination to continue to express our opinions in the face of an overwhelming move by a large proportion of the national press to promote and reinforce racist views, particularly those expressed against Islam?

This thought, sparked by participants at Cyfanfyd's recent conference, looked at links between Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship (ESDGC) and Race Equality. Not challenging negative comments and viewpoints whenever we read them in the national (or local) press makes me wonder whether any of us are really prepared to respond to the definition of a good global citizen as someone who is outraged by injustice and prepared to challenge it.

Since 911, and increasingly since 77, representatives of the British press have worked to create and promote a culture of Islamophobia.

Articles linking Islam, Muslims and the Arab race as a whole with terrorism and barbarity appear with unquestioned regularity in the papers and are read, absorbed and repeated by many of their readers.

How many of us, when asked for our immediate response to the words Islam, Muslim or Arab would not reply "terrorists"? This view is blatantly untrue and unjustified but it is presented to us, unchallenged, on an almost daily basis, drip-feeding fear, hatred and mistrust among the public. Seemingly authoritative articles present one-sided arguments that simply must be true.

It is ironic that these self same newspapers were in the forefront of criticism for Jade Goody following her racist comments in the Big Brother house. They had the collective power to destroy her career, whereas we seem to have little or no strength to suppress the divisive and insidious reporting of Muslim activity.

Even if everyone who noticed this in the media took the time to write a letter or a positive article, how far would that go to countering this view and to questioning the unquestionable?

We are often half-hearted in our acceptance of other nations, and this is echoed by the oft-stated desire that Britain should be seen to be a "tolerant" country. Do we really just want to tolerate (suffer, endure, permit by not preventing) people who might originate from other parts of the world in Britain, and should we really be proud of ourselves for expressing our tolerance?

By embracing ESDGC in Wales we are aiming to educate young people about social injustice and global inequity. We hope, through this education, that young people will grow up to willingly embrace people from all countries, ethnicities and cultures with a welcome and acceptance that goes far beyond toleration.

We hope they will understand and accept cultural diversity as something that enhances and adds value to all our lives.

We can only begin to do this by challenging the unchallenged and by questioning the unquestionable. We need to develop a critical understanding of what we are told in the press. Maybe, if enough of us take the time and trouble to counter the myths and untruths, we will go some way towards becoming a truly inclusive, multi-cultural Britain.

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