THE BLOG

Terrorism In Britain: We Need Clear And Responsible Reporting

02/07/2017 21:25
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Another day goes by and another senseless attack is launched against the British values we hold so close to our hearts. The question that a savage and tragic attack at a Finsbury Park mosque has thrust into our minds is clear - "When will the violence end?"

In the UK, one of our greatest qualities is our ability to pull together in the wake of catastrophe. As a community, we emanate a rare kind of patriotism, a respect for one another and a widespread willingness to lend a compassionate helping hand wherever it is needed. We saw this after the bombings in Manchester - in just three days, over £5m was raised for the victims. And after the more recent Grenfell Tower disaster so many donations were received from the public that supplies had to be sorted through on the street, and many collection centres were completely filled and unable to accept further donations.

Our hearts are in the best place and we are passionate about maintaining a collaborative community, this much is clear. But it is all too easy for all of us to play on stereotypes, or worse still create them, when we are discussing subjects that are often nuanced and full of subtlety. Whether it is print, online or social media, content is often sensationalist and dripping with hate where minority communities are involved. Stigmatising faith groups should not be tolerated and can lead to serious division within our society.

The evidence trail is just a Google search away. Over the past 12 months we have seen headlines such as "BBC put Muslims before YOU!" and "Muslim plot to kill Pope". While these headlines may be intended as nothing more than 'clickbait, in most instances, designed to draw someone into an article, they damage our ability to look forward and find solutions, and are deeply offensive and divisive. I recently witnessed a march where participants made anti-Semitic comments and brandished flags of terrorist organisations. Just as the Jewish Community continues to protest against that, we all need to speak out against this type of hyperbole. Society cannot tolerate hatred, whatever the means of expressing it.

The need for social media companies to be held accountable for the content that is hosted on their sites has grown over the last six months, particularly in the case of hate speech. It is vital that we take every step to stop our youth being exposed to inflammatory and misguided information. Across all kinds of media, not just social, sensationalist messages do nothing but misinform and create hate. The trickle-down nature of news means you are not just hitting those that read papers cover-to-cover and are well-versed in current affairs. You are also hitting the scan readers - those that dip in and out, perhaps picking up a paper on a seat of the tube or see a headline on their social media timeline.

With this in mind, the messaging we push out needs to be clear and impartial. It is too easy to play on the public's emotions, especially following the horrific attacks we have witnessed this summer. But using emotive language around faith issues means we are unable to take a measured and responsible approach to solving the issues that arise from national disasters. When everything is masked by hate, fear and unhelpful conspiracy theories, it's easy for our coordination as a community to get lost in the noise, and even easier for those who are most impressionable - on both sides - to be swept up in it.

If we wish to work together as a nation that prides itself on tolerance, respect and kindness, we must make sure that every facet of our society is working towards that goal. It should not need to be stated that the media, in all its forms, is one of those facets. As it stands, not enough is being done to counter the divisive rhetoric which is all too common placed in our country. It is a major block to progress, and not conducive to peace.

As a nation I feel we are good at making the point that Islam is not synonymous with extremism - we rightly and frequently recognise that they are simply members of a faith, a community to be listened to and respected. As a majority, we understand this. But there is a clear disconnect between this sentiment and the media we allow ourselves to consume each day. And, looking ahead to the future, this is something that needs to change if we are to become a safer, more peaceful country.

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