MEND attends Byline Festival to raise awareness of systemic Islamophobia
Categories: Latest News
Monday September 03 2018
Over the bank holiday weekend, 24th to the 27th of August, MEND attended the second iteration of the Byline festival and hosted a festive reception, multiple thought-provoking discussions, and networked with guests to raise awareness of the rising problem of Islamophobia in the field of published and broadcast media.
The Byline Festival is an annual event that aims to promote fair and honest journalism, calling out instances where journalistic ethics have been compromised in the form of inaccurate, racist and Islamophobic stories.
The festival was founded by Stephen Colegrave and Peter Jukes last year, 2nd to 4th of June 2017, and is held at Pippingford Park, Nutley, East Sussex.
The festival has been, and was over the weekend, attended by a number of prominent voices from the fields of politics, media and journalism including: Naz Shah MP, Baroness Warsi, Tom Watson MP, Rushanara Ali MP, Damian Collins MP, Baron Adebowale, Bonnie Greer OBE, John Cleese, Gary Lineker, Carole Cadwalldr, John Ford, Nick Davies, as well as many others.
Due to the powerful voices present and the type of audience it attracts, MEND has sought to continually make a presence at the festival to raise awareness of Islamophobia perpetuated by news stories, films and TV series that fuels intercommunity tension between the British Muslim community and the wider community.
One panel hosted by MEND, titled: “Monstering Muslims in the Media”, looked into the representation of Muslims in news stories and was chaired by, MEND CEO, Dr Shazad Amin. The panel voiced their various views on why Islamophobic stories are prolific in the media, noting the failure of IPSO, the rise of popularist far-right politics and the failure of politicians to condemn it, with some prominent politicians fostering it.
The panel consisted of: Sahar Al-Faifi, MEND’s South Wales & West England Regional Manager; Isobel Ingham-Barrow, MEND’s Head of Policy & Research; Professor Brian Cathcart, professor of journalism & founder of Hacked Off; Miqdaad Versi, Assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain; Richard Peppiatt, former tabloid journalist, filmmaker and producer).
Ms Al-Faifi, remarking on Boris’ recent comments on the Burka, said: “I’m a geneticist, I’m Welsh, I’m a skydiver. Post Boris’ remarks, I’ve had to change my route to and from work. It’s not just Islamophobia, it’s misogyny!”
Another panel hosted by MEND, titled: “Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Political Parties”, looked into the accusations of racism being prevalent in the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, and was chaired by Ms Ingham-Barrow.
The panel consisted of: Naz Shah, MP; Dr Evan Harris (joint executive director at Hacked Off; Miqdaad Versi, Assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain; and Dr Shazad Amin, CEO of MEND.
As well as hosting multiple thought-provoking panels, MEND also hosted a number of workshops looking into the portrayal of Muslims in the media. One, titled: “The Good, the Bad and the Muslims – Islamophobia in the Movies & the Riz Test”, looked into “the stereotypical portrayal of Muslims on screen, and the impact these have”. The workshop was organised by Shaf Choudry, one of the founders of the ‘Riz Test’ and Rizwan Wadan, a filmmaker and specialist in the camera industry.
Another workshop, titled: “Lies, Damned Lies and Headlines about Muslims – Challenging Islamophobia in the Press”, dissected societal structures that allow for inaccurate articles on the British Muslim community to thrive, including the failure of IPSO to regulate effectively, the lack of Muslim representation in the field, and the prioritisation of selling stories over accuracy by the industry. The workshop was organised by Ms Ingham-Barrow and Zeeshan Ali, Media & Policy analyst at MEND and who has written several articles calling out Islamophobic stories and provided commentary on their prevalence in the field.
MEND also held a reception at the festival and invited people to enjoy cake, tea and kebabs whilst learning about different forms of Islamophobia by interacting with MEND volunteers, reading MEND’s exhibition and undertaking our quiz. More than 70 people took part in the quiz!
Thanks to everyone who attended our events and came to visit us on day 1 at #BylineFest!
We finished off the day with a cake cutting 🎂
We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did 🙌 pic.twitter.com/hQ3h4Qt80M
— MEND Community (@mendcommunity) August 26, 2018
There were also a number of notable non-MEND events, in particular the ‘Bad Press Awards’ which aimed to “highlight the worst in British journalism”, with categories ranging through: most misleading headline; least accurate article; most incorrigible columnist; worst sponsored content.
Notably, the least accurate article award was given to Andrew Malones article in The Daily Mail titled: “Powder Keg Paris” that was said to contain at least 15 errors and resulted in the platform removing the article and the author deleting their Twitter account due to backlash.
In addition, the Bad Press Award for the most misleading headline was ‘Christian child forced into Muslim foster” by Andrew Norfolk of The Times, which was inaccurate in several areas as explained by Professor Brian Cathcart, Professor of Journalism at Kingston University.
The Byline Festival was a great opportunity to network with prominent individuals from the field of journalism, other discipline and the public to ensure MEND’s message resonates in all communities.
It is imperative that legitimate grassroots British Muslim organisations continue to enter such spaces, as the Byline Festival, to ensure that the different manifestations of Islamophobia in society are recognised by ordinary members of the public.
Increasing public support to tackle Islamophobia is imperative in persuading the Government to more robustly tackle political and media causes of Islamophobia.