The floor was opened for a general discussion of policy recommendations that could be drawn from the previous sessions. Haroon Siddiqui noted that in the United Kingdom, a media guide had been published the year before.17 Roger Hardy mentioned that follow–up efforts are under way to produce similar guides in Germany, Spain, and France under the auspices of the OSCE. Mr. Siddiqui also urged the convocation of workshops to train media professionals about minority issues. Although the topic was different, one could look to the series of workshops organized by the media association and advertising standards body in Canada in the 1990s as a general model. Such workshops could take place on a national or European level, but Mr. Siddiqui considered the national level preferable since conditions vary between countries. Furthermore, the workshops should be sponsored by nongovernmental media organizations to preserve their apolitical authenticity and prevent accusations of government interference with freedom of the press.
In support of the notion of NGO–sponsored workshops, Sophie Body–Gendrot described a recent event in Washington, DC, addressing the media’s neglect of issues surrounding discrimination and racism. Journalists from TV channels, many of whom were themselves minorities, argued that their viewers had no interest in these topics. However, at the end of the meeting, the journalists agreed to encourage editorial attention to discrimination and racism and to get more involved in these issues in their own lives.
Mr. Hardy pointed out that despite their best efforts, journalists have a difficult time obtaining reliable information when investigating, for example, how many Muslims are in Italy, where they come from, what issues plague them, and how they compare to other communities around Europe. A media guide with basic statistical information would benefit not only the media and journalists, but could also be made available to school teachers, public figures, local councils, and so forth.
Shireen Hunter noted that there are already some good resources, including a book of essays that she herself had edited based on a conference held in 2000.18 The challenge lies in dissemination. Abdelmajid Charfi suggested that the documents drafted as a result of the current conference be given to program producers of stations like the French–German TV channel Arte, which once broadcasted a segment on Muslim women.
Mustapha Tlili summarized that, so far, two recommendations had been put forward:
Ambassador Gnodtke noted that while an exchange of experiences already exists within Europe (as mentioned in the Danish minister’s speech), the Center for Dialogues approach adds a transcontinental perspective. Naheed Qureshi, agreed but proposed that the exchange of best practices also include the communities’ perspective on their difficulties. Karen Hopkins recalled the earlier suggestion of having celebrity spokespeople from various fields take up the cause of Muslim integration. The group agreed that these celebrities should be culled from both the Muslim communities and non–Muslim communities, as they both have legitimacy. Participants also recommended that efforts be made at the grassroots level to reach out to people who harbor anti–Muslim sentiments and are therefore often excluded from the debate.
Mr. Charfi noted while these practical measures are important, it is also necessary to establish a theoretical basis for integration that can be reconciled with religious thought. Several members agreed that only after a distinction is drawn between cultural and religious integration, will it be possible to collect accurate data and conduct meaningful discussions of the issue in the media.
Mustapha Tlili closed the session by thanking the participants for tackling these difficult issues, which have a critical impact not only on governments but civil society as well. He stressed that a number of countries had been represented at the conference, including Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Given the continued level of tension and uncertainty surrounding the Muslim world, he imagined that the recommendations issued by this diverse group of participants would be taken quite seriously. He seconded the call for a follow–up conference to evaluate progress and further expand the dialogue. He also urged participants to make personal efforts to brief the media and to distribute the conference report to actors on every level of society. Successful integration of Muslims in the West is everyone’s concern and everyone’s responsibility.Back to the top.