An online database, Muslim Sources, has been launched to make it easier for journalists to find credible Muslim experts.
By including diverse voices in their coverage, journalists are better able to reflect Canada’s increasing diversity in their content.
Our goal is to help the Muslim community reclaim its narrative by amplifying Muslim voices. One way we are doing this is by building a database of Muslim experts in various subject areas to help journalists in their quest for inclusion and diversity. We also hope to work with the Muslim community to encourage them and equip them with the tools and skills necessary to tell their own stories and to communicate their knowledge and opinions in an effective way.
There are over one million Muslims in Canada, comprising more than three percent of the total population and representing one of the fastest growing religious groups in the country. Yet how much do you see Muslims in your daily news? How many Muslim voices do you hear in the news that you read, watch and listen to?
Writing for The Walrus in November 2019, Haroon Siddiqui, former editor at the Toronto Star stated: “One of the other biggest shortcomings of the media has been that they always talk about Muslims, but they rarely talk to ordinary Muslims.”
A 2018 Environics Survey found that of all the distinct groups in Canadian society, Muslims were most widely “considered to be the “other” because of where they came from, associations to terrorism in other countries, and specific religious practices like head coverings.”
When Muslims are missing from stories that affect the community and sometimes stories that are about the community, we only get a partial or inaccurate picture of reality often leading to misrepresentation and content that propagates hate and Islamophobia. It is easy to overlook this, but an incomplete story is as dangerous as a fake story. To truly be fair and accurate, journalists must speak to and include diverse voices from within the community they are covering.
In the absence of a unified platform where authentic and diverse Muslim voices are gathered and made available to the mainstream media, the media often do not know who to choose to interview and quote as experts and commentators from the Muslim community.
Media professionals and editors often speak about how it is a challenge encouraging journalists to expand their go-to source lists and how it is easy for reporters to often fall back on the same old voices due to lack of time and connections.
Keeping all of this in mind, we decided to put together Muslimsources.org.
It is our hope that by collecting many diverse Muslims in an easily accessible resource, journalists, newsrooms, media producers and conference organizers across Canada will be facilitated in their quest to include more diverse voices in their reporting, analysis and discussions.
Muslim voices do not have to be reserved to speak only on Islamophobia or racism. While those are important topics, we believe Muslims have knowledge, talents and experiences across a range of diverse subject areas and those voices and perspectives should be a part of media and society to truly normalize diversity and inclusion.
We hope to represent Muslim talent and voices and encourage Muslims to tell their own stories.
Part of the reality of being Canadian is acknowledging our role as settlers on the traditional territories of the First Nations. We acknowledge the contributions and the presence of Indigenous communities in Canada and encourage all our community members to learn more about the land they are situated on and recognize the Indigenous stewards of the land.
Inclusion – the key to trustworthy news
Internews, an international non-profit organization that works for media development in more than 100 different countries, notes that the inclusion of citizen voice and diverse sources is the key to trustworthy news.
“When people don’t feel heard, trust drops and tensions rise. We know that when media reflects the larger community, trust and civic engagement increases and we all benefit.”- Internews
Diverse voices and perspectives are among the eight Trust Indicators established by The Trust Project, an international consortium of news organizations aiming to amplify journalism’s commitment to transparency, accuracy, inclusion and fairness.
“Inclusive coverage, to me, means amplifying or elevating voices we don’t hear from enough—and taking the time to actively seek those voices out. It means acknowledging when we have missed an important voice in a story and when we need to do better.” – Robyn Smith, Editor in Chief of the Tyee.