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The Racial Hatred Act: Case study 1

 case study1an australian muslim's experience of the media


  • two different experiences of the media
Media report:
  • 'Renaissance: why women and Christians are embracing Islam', The
    Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Fray, May 1995
  • Sydney Morning Herald journalist Peter
    on producing a balanced article
  • Maha Abdo, President
    of the Australia Muslim Women's Association, on visual cliches and stereotypes

Please note that none of the reports in the case studies have been the
subject of complaints or queries under the Racial Hatred Act.


When asked to comment on her experience with
the media, Maha Abdo, President of the Australian Muslim Women's Association,
cites two very different experiences: one with a metropolitan broadsheet
and the other, live interviews on morning television.

Maha cites, as a positive experience, the interview for a Sydney
Morning Herald series (May 1995) Beyond Fundamentalism - Islam in Australia
by then Religious Affairs writer Peter Fray. His article, Renaissance:
Why Women and Christians are Embracing Islam, outlines some of the problems
experienced by communities with a culture and religion which is different
from that of mainstream Australia. These problems are exacerbated when
cultural differences are clearly manifested in appearances, as is the case
for some Muslim Australians.

Fray's article breaks down the stereotypes that associate Islam with
fundamentalism, terrorism and war. He acknowledges that Muslims have been
misrepresented by the media through the misuse of terminology and visual
images and the perpetuation of clichés.

In the Herald's report, Maha Abdo had drawn upon her own personal experiences
to explain some cultural traits of Muslims that are often misunderstood
and misrepresented.

The Muslim Women's Association has about 3000 members nationally and
represents the interests of many more. Its aim is to correct what it says
are widely held misconceptions about Muslim women in this country.

It does this through an extensive program of community development,
cross cultural training and education initiatives through schools, hospitals
and other institutions.

While she says that the Herald series on Islam reflects a depth of understanding
and sensitivity, Maha Abdo cites other reportage which inflames prejudice
and contributes to misinformation in the wider community.

Maha says that during the Gulf War, the media's persistent use of images
of Muslim women to accompany editorials on the crisis played a major part
in an increase in violence and vilification of Australian Muslim women. Her comments highlight visual clichés
and stereotyping

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