The conference, organised by Leicester University's Institute for the Study of Indo-Pakistan Relations department, debated the way Muslims have been portrayed in the media since 11 September.

 

"A positive, pluralist code of ethics such as Aljazeera's own code adopted in 2004 are important and should be made public by media outlets," the conference's organiser, Professor Richard Bonney of Leicester University, said.

 

The event on Wednesday brought together media representatives, Muslim groups and academics and examined the perceived media link between Islam and terrorism.

 

"This is a matter of interest to journalists, Muslims and the wider community," Bonney said.

 

Ethics

 

Bonney began his opening speech citing the Aljazeera code of ethics, which was implemented on 15 July 2004, after a Doha conference that focused on how news organisations dealt with the pressures faced by journalists.

 

"I know Aljazeera has been criticised by the US, but if all media outlets had a comparable code of ethics and kept to it, issues of Islamophobia would not arise. The media needs to learn the difference between facts and opinions.

 

"A positive, pluralist, code of ethics such as Aljazeera's own code adopted in 2004 are important and should be made public by media outlets"

Professor Richard Bonney, University of Leicester

"Western media on a whole has the tendency to turn good news stories into critical pieces. Look at last week's fatwa ordered by The Islamic Commission of Spain against Usama bin Ladin. The coverage that the British press, The Times, Guardian, BBC, Telegraph, Independent gave was really insufficient."

 

On the first anniversary of the Madrid bombings, Muslims in Spain issued a fatwa against bin Ladin, stating he had forsaken Islam by backing such attacks.

 

"The only adequate and accurate coverage was that by Aljazeera's English-language news website."

 

Muslim viewpoint

 

Bonney, director of the Centre for the History of Religious and Political Pluralism and of the Institute for the Study of Indo-Pakistan Relations at the University of Leicester, said the conference also discussed ways of getting more publicity for the views of the 'silent majority' - Muslims who were not speaking out.

 

"The views, too, of Islamic scholars who could discredit the terrorists’ usage of Islamic teachings are often not heard."

 

"Aljazeera gets people talking and discussing important issues. It encourages freedom of press"

Professor Richard Bonney, University of Leicester 

Bonney said good news about Muslims is often not perceived as being newsworthy. The opinion of mainstream Muslims gets less media attention than "the unrepresentative, and sometimes un-Islamic, views of extremists", he said. 

 

"If these views are ignored or viewed as not newsworthy, then a biased picture may emerge which in turn could lead to the increase of Islamophobia in Britain," he said.

 

The conference, the first in a series across Europe, discussed the way the media deals with Muslims.

 

Journalists' responsibility

 

Nadeem Kazmi, a consultant in humanitarian affairs and head of international development at the Al Khoei Foundation, spoke about the importance of an Islamic response to the threat of terrorism by putting the onus on Muslim leadership.

 

The media in the west and the Muslim world share a social responsibility, he said. "The work that journalists produce has a responsibility that is heavier in weight than other professions because of social ramifications."

 

Bonney, author of Jihad: From Quran to Bin Laden, said that the Islamic world is finally starting to face up to its own shortcomings and that Aljazeera has played an important role in this.

 

"Aljazeera gets people talking and discussing important issues, it encourages freedom of press."