Don’t Mistake Politics for Religion

Which GOP presidential hopeful can trump Donald Trump? Apparently Ben Carson, according to an Oct. 27 USA Today article. The retired neurosurgeon, although lacking a background in politics, is gaining more support than former frontrunner Donald Trump.  
 
Carson made headlines for a different reason, though, last month in a GOP debate when he said the United States should not elect a Muslim president. He received both praise and criticism for these comments, which indicates the polarizing nature of religion in America.
 
Politicians aren’t the only ones harnessing this bias, though.    
 
U.S. media has a consistent bias toward Muslims as well, especially when it comes to terrorism and war, said Noor Tagouri, a Muslim journalist at CBS Radio and a public speaker. 
 
Cultural ignorance, she explained, is common in the media. People often mistake politics for religion.  
 
“It’s important to understand the difference between what is religious and cultural and what is simply political,” Tagouri said in an email interview. “Take ISIS for example. It has nothing to do with Islam or religion, and everything to do with politics.”
 
Tagouri said she finds this lack of understanding discouraging in mainstream media. Journalists need to take their time and do their research on religions and cultures so they know the appropriate way of telling it.  
 
Religion and culture play a great role in the media, which many people don’t realize, she said.  Most stories have a background in some specific culture or religion, and it’s important to report these stories truthfully and respectfully. 
 
“Cultural diversity is important in media outlets because as storytellers, we cannot tell the stories of other people without having an understanding of their background. There needs to be diversity in the newsroom for firsthand understandings,” Tagouri said. 
 
Even though the mainstream media isn’t very accepting of Muslims, she said she hopes, as a journalist, to make progress by taking the initiative to understand people when she tells stories. Other people are able to do the same now by using social media to tell stories better.