Use media to counter Islamophobia: Yvonne Ridley

Hyderabad, Jan 12 (IANS) Award-winning British-born journalist Yvonne Ridley has called upon Muslims to join together and publish the truth to counter Islamophobia.

Addressing the 'Spring of Islam' conference here, organised by the Jamaat-e-Islami over video conference from London, she said more and more Muslims should join the media as it is the most powerful way to get the message out about the purity of Islam.

"Ambitious parents want their sons and daughters to become doctors, lawyers, scientists and engineers. Why don't you encourage them to join the media as writers, photographers, filmmakers and documentary makers," said Ridley, who was denied a visa by India to attend the conference.

She said by joining the media, Muslims can counter lies and distortion about Islam and can make people see Islam as a religion which promotes peace, encourages education and does not discriminate against women.

"We need to lift the veil of ignorance towards Islam from the face of the West and the best way is to create more and more journalists from within our ranks. Misinformation, deliberate or otherwise, and negative stereotypes, heighten tension and legitimise imperialistic wars, brutality and torture of Muslims," she said.

"If the pen is mightier than the sword, and I truly believe it is, then we must arm ourselves and be prepared to use it as a potent weapon in the war of words," she said.

Ridley, who hit the headlines after she was captured by Taliban in Afghanistan 2001, said the 9/11 attacks changed her life, like that of so many others, forever.

"9/11 brought us to the war on terror and the media began to portray Islam as an enemy towards mankind, especially the West. Islam became the new face of the public enemy, and Muslims, whether young or old, we all became targets of physical and verbal abuse," said Ridely, who embraced Islam in 2003.

"Men, women and children were targeted in work places, schools, universities and in streets in the West. I know similar abuse has been meted out to my Muslim brothers and sisters in India and hate crimes in India are reaching an unacceptable level. Islam is not a threat to India. It is not a threat to mankind or humanity," she said.

Ridley, who worked for The Sunday Times, The Observer, Daily Mirror, the News of the World and other newspapers, said being a Muslim journalist was challenging. "We are checked daily. Our work and words are scrutinized and the need of honesty and accuracy in reporting is probably at a level higher than for anyone else," she said.

Pointing to how Islam spread 1,400 years ago by word of mouth amongst merchants, who used to travel to far away countries, Ridley said it is now easy for the Muslims to use the sophisticated means of communication. She also called for harnessing social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to spread the message of Islam.

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