In the face of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the United States, Muslims need to be informed, aware and pro-active when dealing with the American media, which, in the past, has linked all Muslims to terrorism when similar incidents have taken place.
Below is a list of tips Muslims can use when dealing with the media in these critical next few weeks.
1. Form a media group in your local community
Get together with a couple of Muslims in your community (it can be as few as seven or eight) to form a Muslim media watch group in your city. Select a spokesperson. This person should ideally have some experience dealing with the media. If not, that's fine, as long as they feel confident speaking to the media. This person should be able to speak English very well, preferably without a foreign accent and be articulate.
All members of the group should work together to monitor all of the local media (radio, television and newspapers) on how the attack is being covered and if it is being linked to Islam and Muslims.
2. Issue a strong condemnation of this act of terrorism
This statement (provide link) must be sent as soon as possible to the news desk of all media outlets in your city. Your group's spokesperson should be ready to handle calls from reporters who will probably call as a follow up to the statement.
3. Carefully record and monitor your local media
Keep an eye out for links that the media may make between these acts of terrorism and Islam and Muslims. Clip all articles in the newspaper that appear about this. Also, record, if possible, all television and radio reports about this incident. This way, you will have proof of anti-Muslim bias when you approach media professionals.
4. Contact offending media organizations and demand a meeting with them
In a polite but firm manner, someone from your group should contact the editor or head of the offending news organization to arrange a meeting about their coverage of the incident.
5. Keep handy information about past media transgressions against Muslims
Examples of the media coverage of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing are good material to have handy to show editors and journalists that they should be careful about how they cover this incident.
Your group should also have on hand information about Muslim bashers who were prominent at that time and still are, such as Steven Emerson.
6. Remind the media to distinguish between the individual and the entire Muslim community
Blaming all Muslims for acts of terrorism committed by one individual or one group is something which individuals and the media are likely to engage in during this week. Remain calm and clearly explain that the actions of a few do not represent an entire community. Similar to how Timothy McVeigh, one of the men responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing does not represent all white Americans.
7. Be polite but firm
Tensions will be running high and if you also fly off the handle, the situation can get dangerous. Make sure to remain calm in the face of these attacks, but polite and firm when explaining your points.