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Islamic world must not surrender to foreign media stereotypes

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Dubai: The Islamic world must not surrender to how foreign media and countries are portraying them, said Eyad Madani, Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, on the first day of the Arab Media Forum on Tuesday.

The 14th edition of the Arab Media Forum was inaugurated by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, today in Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai. The two-day forum will allow speakers from across the Arab region to share their expertise and take part in discussions regarding issues relevant to daily life.

During the inaugural session which discussed what is required to change the negative stereotype caused by minority terrorist groups, Madani said the Islamic world is united by the same identity and culture, which are currently being attacked by the media and far right groups who portray Islam as a danger.

Instead they should present a moderate, multicultural side of Islam and have the will to rise again as a great contributor to civilisation, said Madani, who was the speaker at a session titled ‘Stereotypes: Islam and Muslims’.

“If we take the whole 20th century we will see wars that resulted in racial cleansing and radical leaders who caused the holocaust. They were justified by non-Muslim countries, so violence and killing should not only be linked to Islam.”

Madani said some countries are targeting Islam as a political strategy to fulfil their goals in the region and Islam was in the forefront. Look at Iraq, after the war there are no longer Iraqis, there are Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

Madani said he hopes that the Islamic world does not fall for this delusion, that they are incapable countries that once achieved great things in the past and simply stopped at one point

He said the Arab world never stopped contributing to humankind and has the capability to rise again as a leader of civilisation, “It is in our hands, we just need the will to do so,” he said.

Madani said the raising of stereotypes about Islam and Islamophobia is caused by media, which is ruled by those who have political power.

He said the media calls Islam a closed religion that resists adapting to society and the progress of civilisation.

“What is more dangerous is that we see it with us. We see the rise of extremism through groups like Daesh, Al Qaida and Boko Haram. However, Muslims have opportunities — a duty even — to present the moderate, multicultural side of Islam.”

Madani said scientific progress and education will also help turn back the tide of fundamentalism.

“We should look towards the future, not feel disabled to do anything about the problems. We are rich with ideas and the future, God willing, is in our hands,” said Madani.

The Secretary-General also discussed the role of women and accusations made about women coming after men in Islam. He stressed the fact that women’s share in economy and legal rights are now a priority for Organisation of Islamic Bodies.

During the opening speech, Mona Ganem Al Merri, Chairperson of AMF Organising Committee and President of the Dubai Press Club, emphasised the importance of creating international dialogue for advancement in the region.

“Among the topics that will be discussed is how the media can act as a tool to spread hope and optimism in the Arab world,” said Mona. “We have learnt from our leaders that optimism is the essence of life and that positive energy is the key for success.”

She added that with the recent events concerning the Mars probe, it was named Al Amal [Hope] because the United Arab Emirates remains hopeful for constant innovation, progress and success. She also emphasised the importance of such forums in order to discuss both regional and international dilemmas such as the perception of Islam and Muslims and the image of Arabs in the eyes of the rest of the world.

“Through the workshops and session, we hope to provide new perspectives for a brighter future,” said Mona.


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