SPJ Florida, along with help from Region 3 and SPJ FAU, hosted Muslimedia, an interactive panel between journalists, activists, and religious leaders to learn more about the Muslim community on Nov. 20
“I’m so proud of the initiative we started with this inaugural Muslimedia event,” said Emily Bloch, an SPJ Florida board member. “The conversations we had in that mosque between journalists, members of the Muslim community and Boca Raton residents were important — especially in a post-election America.”
The panel was comprised of:
- Lulu Ramadan, the only Muslim reporter at The Palm Beach Post. She covers Boca Raton and Delray Beach. She graduated last year from Florida Atlantic University, where she was editor of the student newspaper.
- Ilene Prusher, an FAU journalism professor, but for the previous two decades, she was a foreign correspondent for publications ranging from TIME to the Christian Science Monitor. An observant Jew, much of her coverage occurred in Muslim-majority countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Turkey. In 2012, her novel Baghdad Fixer was published.
The ICBR has invited several rotating panelists, including…
- Olivia Cantu, Emerge USA’s South Florida director
- Afifa Khaliq, SEIU’s communications director
- Bassem Alhalabi, ICBR president
- Annie Hyatt, ICBR PR and outreach director
- Wilfredo Ruiz, CAIR Florida communications director
During Muslimedia, guests were given a tour of the mosque, including prayer rooms, children’s classrooms, and the imam’s office. Afterwards, dozens of people gathered for an open discussion with panelists and the audience, with a break for a halal lunch.
“We were able to have a very open discussion about how Muslims, for the past several years, have been portrayed by journalists. Both sides learned a lot about each other, bridges were created, and trust was built,” said Annie Hayat, the mosque’s public relations and outreach director.
The discussion included a range of topics, from what they wish non-Muslims knew about their religion, where the media gets it right and wrong, and their concerns about their future with a new president in the White House.
“The fact that we went an hour past schedule because no one wanted to stop talking is a testament in itself. We’re excited to keep this going and the momentum up,” Bloch said.
Students from Florida Atlantic University’s Owl TV also attended to film the conversation and the tour of the mosque.
While promoting the event, several universities and SPJ chapters across the chapter showed interest in hosting their own Muslimedia event.
“I would recommend this event to all Islamic Centers,” Hayat said. “Nothing can be healed unless there is an open discussion. We have to make sure our stories and perspectives are heard. The best way to do that is to reach out to our trusted friends in the media. These strong relationships will only help our community. I thank them for listening to us and learning about Islam and the struggle Muslims go through everyday.”
Words and pictures by Christiana Lilly