Muslimedia brings together local Muslims, campus community

The Sept. 11 dinner provided an opportunity for Alamance County and Elon University community members to engage in open and honest conversations regarding the portrayal of Muslims in the media, the role the Masjid plays in the community and other related topics.

The Oaks and East neighborhoods hosted a dinner conversation with Elon University students, faculty, staff and local Muslims on Sept. 11 at the Burlington Masjid. Dubbed Muslimedia, the event asked participants to engage in conversations related to how the media cover Islam, the impact of 9/11, the role the Masjid plays in the community, the five pillars of Islam, and much more.

Sonya Walker ’20 and Marjorie Anne Foster ’20, Multifaith Scholars and journalism and religious studies double majors, also offered brief remarks about their individual research projects, which have an Islamic focus.

The conversation was well-timed, as the Media Portrayals of Minorities Project Lab at Vermont’s Middlebury College released a study Sept. 3 that analyzed 26,626 articles from 2018 mentioning African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, Jews and Muslims that were published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

Researchers evaluated each article on how positive or negative it was toward a particular group. A score above 0.5 was viewed as positive, and a score below -0.5 was seen as negative. Coverage of Muslims averaged out to -0.7, a figure one of the researchers called “striking.”

“We hosted this event to provide a space for our students, faculty, staff and the Muslim community to engage in open and honest conversations,” said Colin Donohue, faculty director of the Oaks and School of Communications director of student engagement and alumni relations & instructor in journalism. “We are deeply appreciative of the hospitality and generosity of the Masjid leadership, who opened their home to us and who were so willing to share their perspectives and experiences.”

Muslimedia was originally conceived by the leadership of a regional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Its original mission was to bring local professional journalists and Muslims together over a meal for an open discussion of media portrayals of Islam.

Thomas Kerr (top right), an adjunct instructor in political science and policy studies, and Betty Garrison (top left), business research librarian and assistant librarian, have a conversation with two members of the Burlington Masjid during the Muslimedia event.

But the Elon version of the event – organized by Donohue, East Faculty Director and Director of Global and Experiential Initiatives Mark Dalhouse, Oaks Community Director Trianne Smith and East Community Director Sylvia Wade – broadened the scope of conversations and asked participants to have free-flowing talks in small-group settings.

“An event like that should push us to be better,” Masjid member Moneeb Sayed told Elon News Network reporter Brian Rea ’21. “To push us to be more aware of who’s around us and what is really a Muslim, what is really a Christian. Know a person not just by their religion, know them by who they are.”

Supporting the Oaks and East with Muslimedia was the Truitt Center for Spiritual & Religious Life, the School of Communications, the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture & Society, the Department of Religious Studies and Elon’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Several members of the Masjid expressed a desire to host a similar event in the future in order to extend the conversations and goodwill between the Elon and local Muslim communities.

“The Masjid event is an emphatic statement that the people who perpetrated 9/11 don’t get the last word,” Dalhouse said. “Watching our students and our Muslim friends at the Masjid eat and talk together, I thought of a quote from Sandy Dahl, wife of Jason Dahl, the captain of United 93. She said, ‘What we learned from 9/11 is that life is short, and there is no time for hate.’”