Guidelines for Countering Racial, Ethnic and Religious Profiling
On Oct. 6, 2001 at its National Convention in Seattle, the Society of Professional Journalists passed a resolution urging members and fellow journalists to take steps against racial profiling in their coverage of the war on terrorism and to reaffirm their commitment to:
Use language that is informative and not inflammatory;
Portray Muslims, Arabs and Middle Eastern and South Asian Americans in the richness of their diverse experiences;
Seek truth through a variety of voices and perspectives that help audiences understand the complexities of the events in Pennsylvania, New York City and Washington, D.C.
Seek out people from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds when photographing Americans mourning those lost in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Seek out people from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds when photographing rescue and other public service workers and military personnel.
Do not represent Arab Americans and Muslims as monolithic groups. Avoid conveying the impression that all Arab Americans and Muslims wear traditional clothing.
Use photos and features to demystify veils, turbans and other cultural articles and customs.
Seek out and include Arabs and Arab Americans, Muslims, South Asians and men and women of Middle Eastern descent in all stories about the war, not just those about Arab and Muslim communities or racial profiling.
Cover the victims of harassment, murder and other hate crimes as thoroughly as you cover the victims of overt terrorist attacks.
Make an extra effort to include olive-complexioned and darker men and women, Sikhs, Muslims and devout religious people of all types in arts, business, society columns and all other news and feature coverage, not just stories about the crisis.
Seek out experts on military strategies, public safety, diplomacy, economics and other pertinent topics who run the spectrum of race, class, gender and geography.
When writing about terrorism, remember to include white supremacist, radical anti-abortionists and other groups with a history of such activity.
Do not imply that kneeling on the floor praying, listening to Arabic music or reciting from the Quran are peculiar activities.
When describing Islam, keep in mind there are large populations of Muslims around the world, including in Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe, India and the United States. Distinguish between various Muslim states; do not lump them together as in constructions such as "the fury of the Muslim world."
Avoid using word combinations such as "Islamic terrorist" or "Muslim extremist" that are misleading because they link whole religions to criminal activity. Be specific: Alternate choices, depending on context, include "Al Qaeda terrorists" or, to describe the broad range of groups involved in Islamic politics, "political Islamists." Do not use religious characterizations as shorthand when geographic, political, socioeconomic or other distinctions might be more accurate.
Avoid using terms such as "jihad" unless you are certain of their precise meaning and include the context when they are used in quotations. The basic meaning of "jihad" is to exert oneself for the good of Islam and to better oneself.
Consult the Library of Congress guide for transliteration of Arabic names and Muslim or Arab words to the Roman alphabet. Use spellings preferred by the American Muslim Council, including "Muhammad," "Quran," and "Makkah ," not "Mecca."
Regularly seek out a variety of perspectives for your opinion pieces. Check your coverage against the five Maynard Institute for Journalism Education fault lines of race and ethnicity, class, geography, gender and generation.
Ask men and women from within targeted communities to review your coverage and make suggestions.
Web resources on this topic
Informational Resources on Arab-Americans, the Arab World and Islam
The Quran online (1 or 2)
The South Asian Journalists Association provides a stylebook, sources and a roundup of coverage for journalists.
Newswatch is a site dedicated to diversity in journalism, with commentary on media performance. It is a project of the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism of San Francisco State University and a collaboration between the Native American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.
Maynard Institute for Journalism Education
The Religion Newswriters Association maintains an extensive set of resources on religion and covering religion.
The mission of the Anti-Defamation League is to combat anti-Semitism andbigotry of all kinds. One section of its Web site details how ADL leaders have responded to anti-Muslim and anti-Arab-American violence.