The Charles Sturt University (CSU) School of Communication will host an open forum with representatives of the Forum on Australia’s Islamic Relations (FAIR) on Wednesday 30 May on its Bathurst Campus to consider the topic of Islam and how it is represented in the media.
The FAIR representatives are Nasya Bahfen, who is a lecturer in broadcast journalism and also works for ABC Radio Australia, and Silma Ihram, the 2005 Muslim Woman of the Year. Both are leading spokespeople on Islamic issues in Australia.
“The forum is open to all students, staff and the wider Bathurst community, and its aim is to raise awareness and try to bring communities together through understanding,” said Dr John Hadley, lecturer in Communication Ethics at CSU.
“I believe that it is important that we attempt to break down barriers to social harmony and strive to engage in a constructive dialogue where possible, and that is why members of the audience will be encouraged to raise concerns and ask questions of the speakers and the students.
“The School of Communication expects its journalism graduates to be informed about matters of public importance and to have the knowledge and skills to report on these matters in a fair and balanced way,” Dr Hadley explained.
“The journalism students who will participate at the forum are the future of the media in Australia, and many will soon be working in newsrooms where they will no doubt be called upon to write stories about Islam and issues of concern to Islamic Australians. We see this forum as a chance for them to learn more about Islam and to hear first-hand from Islamic Australians about how they feel about the media’s portrayal of their faith.
“All too often the media is responsible for creating harmful stereotypes through reporting on Islamic issues in an emotive and simplistic way. At the very least, participants should find the forum an interesting and thought-provoking experience,” Dr Hadley said.
The forum will consider Islam in general and issues relating to the media’s treatment of stories concerning Islam – religion and the meaning of tolerance in a multi-cultural society; freedom of the press to present controversial issues in ways that engage their readership; the role and status of women in Islamic society; the harm of stereotyping, and what it means to be a Muslim Australian.
Forum speaker, Nasya Bahfen previously worked as a reporter for SBS Radio and as a news director for Melbourne youth broadcaster Hitz FM. She has a degree in Journalism and has a first class honours degree in media studies. She has been a teacher of communications and is currently working on her PhD.
Co-speaker Silma Ihram recipient of the 2002 Centenary Award and the 2005 Muslim Woman of the Year Award has held a number of executive posts with Muslim organisations in Australia, including Vice-President of the Australian Council for Islamic Education in Schools (2004). She is a mother of six children and in 2005 she featured in the documentary Silma’s School
which screened at the Sydney Film Festival and later on SBS TV.