Whether news coverage of Muslims is fair was hotly debated on March 8 by a panel organized by Baruch’s journalism department.

A clear consensus emerged that many American attitudes toward Muslims and Islams are unfair. Whether news coverage merely reflects this or contributes to it provoked some debate.

Panelists Muna Shihaki, Ehab Zahriyeh and Arun Venugopal (PHOTOS BY GLENDA HYDLER)

Faiz Shakir, who moderated the panel discussion, noted several studies that found a strong correlation between trust in Fox News and the belief that “the values of Islam are at odds with American values” — a result he called the “Fox Effect.” Shakir is vice president of the Center for American Progress and co-author of Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.

  Prof. Christopher Hallowell with Faiz Hakir

While some panelists called news coverage of Muslims a “demonization” and part of a long American history of “otherization,” others argued that the problem goes both ways — that the Muslim community’s suspicion of the media and “bunker mentality” has led it to demonize journalists and to avoid them rather than engage with them.

Muna Shikaki, a correspondent for Al-Arabiya News Channel who covers life in America for Arab communities abroad, touched off a sharp debate that lasted for much of the evening when she said, “I don’t see any huge media bias against Muslims.”

That ignited Prof. Deepa Kumar, professor of media studies and Middle East studies at Rutgers University and author of Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire. “Everyone needs to stand together and say this is wrong,” she said of news coverage about Muslims. She said the framework of journalism creates “a wholesale demonization of an entire group.”

Ehab Zahriyeh, a multimedia editor at the New York Daily News and a Baruch journalism alum, also questioned some law enforcement methods used to identify terrorist; he cited the “entrapment” of the so-called Newburgh Four—African-American converts to Islam who were lured into a terrorism ring by an FBI informant and are now serving 25 years in jail.

Arun Venugopal, a reporter for WNYC radio, said he saw fair coverage and unfair coverage of Muslims, and noted, “You can do 50 human-interest stories on Muslims, but the impact pales in comparison to simply one terrorism story.”

The event, organized by Profs. Andrea Gabor and Christopher Hallowell, was held at the Newman Conference Center in Baruch’s library.

The City University of New York