The unfolding story of Paris

For anyone who is living under a rock… Paris has been subject to a series of coordinated attacks that have so far cost the lives of 140 people (and counting). President Hollande has declared the first state of emergency for 70 years and shut down the French Border.

This is a terrible tragedy and it appears that the perpetrators are Islamist terrorists possibly linked to Islamic State, although it still has yet to be officially confirmed.

I’ve been watching the ABC 24 coverage which so far has been pretty good. It was thorough with some good commentary. However, I have one observation that demonstrate a major issue in the coverage so far.

One of the commentators, an Australian Journalist in Paris who graciously gave us an inside perspective of the unfolding tragedy at 3 am local time after arriving home from a horrendous evening in the newsroom.

The anchor asked her a very interesting question which went along the lines of, ‘what has been the reactions so far of the ‘moderate’ Muslim community’ (labels of ‘moderate’ and ‘radical’ Muslims is as problematic as ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ Catholics, they obscure far more than they reveal). The journalist then proceeded to begin what was an interesting answer, saying effectively that the Muslim community in Paris was horrified and have spoken on the matter. Unfortunately, we got no more because we were cut to a press conference with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. When it was over, THE QUESTION WAS NOT REVISITED.

I found that incredibly frustrating and disappointing. This Anchor has been asking questions for the last hour of various guests of ‘when will moderate muslims stand up to these terrorists’ and when someone FINALLY offers an answer and detail as to how the wider French Muslim community were doing just this… We get interrupted for ‘more important’ matters and we never hear the answer. So far there has been no air time given to any Muslim, let alone a French Muslim.

Where are the ‘moderate’ Muslims? Well, they are there. Maybe someone should make an effort to talk to them. This narrative silence is doing us far more harm than good. It is not only exclusionary, but it perpetuates the myth that moderate Muslims are with the ‘badies’ because they don’t stand up and condemn them. Well, its hard to stand up and be counted when you aren’t given a platform. Social media is certainly levelling the playing field, but the mainstream media needs to make greater efforts in this regard. It is extremely disappointing that with the number of high-profile Islamist attacks occurring in the last decade and a half, that it is not routine for the mainstream media to include Muslims and Islamic experts among its array of security and terrorism experts, politicians, journalists and random citizens.

I am still thinking this through, because it occurs to me that this is not just a problem that the Muslim community faces, it is common to many religious communities having fair (and safe) access to the public media space. Stay tuned for more.

Image: E. Galien-Laloue ‘L’Arc de Triomphe Paris’ 1941. Wikimedia Commons

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