The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has launched a campaign called "Beyond Stereotypes," featuring a new publication called American Muslims: A Journalist's Guide to Understanding Islam and Muslims, which intends to educate the media and disabuse journalists of misinformation about the religion.
The guide and the campaign were developed by the nonprofit advocacy group's national office. The campaign's aim is to provide the Islamic perspective on such issues as democracy, women's rights, and "interfaith relations."
CAIR plans to distribute the publication to as many as 40,000 editors, reporters, and producers at major media outlets across the country, as part of the broader initiative to educate the media about Islam.
CAIR national communications director Ibrahim Hooper said that his group has already received "hundreds" of requests for the guide from media professionals via its Web site. Ultimately, it hopes to place the guide on the desks of journalists at all the top US papers; the talk show hosts and news directors of major TV and radio networks, such as CNN, Fox, NBC, and CBS; and the assignment editors and news directors of every local TV station in the US.
The in-house effort by CAIR also includes plans to train local Islamic leaders in media relations, including outreach through editorial board meetings, seminars, and media luncheons and breakfasts. In its online guide to hosting media events, for example, CAIR details a numbers of steps to ensure that meetings are effective and run smoothly, including inviting local community leaders and the media to meetings as well as "informing your guests about the proper etiquette of visiting a Muslim home or mosque."
CAIR members at its 33 chapters around the country, as well as others concerned about the media's portrayal of Islam, are being recruited as sponsors for the cost of distributing the guide. Recruitment efforts have taken place via e-mail lists, the CAIR Web site, and direct outreach by local Muslim leaders. Hooper said he doesn't expect difficulties gaining the financial support needed for the initiative given the level of concern by Muslims about their media image.
"That's one of the hot-button issues for American Muslims and Muslims worldwide - the portrayal of Islam and Muslims in the media" and the effect such portrayals have on general attitudes toward Islam and Muslims in the US, Hooper said. (MORE)