SYDNEY - The New South Wales State Parliament has launched a panel discussion on the Australian media coverage for Muslim protests against the US-made anti-Islam film, following accusation of being biased and unfair.
Sometimes it can be skewed to be controversial or sensationalist, and unfortunately Muslims bear the brunt of a lot of that type of media coverage, and we saw that with the riots in Sydney, Conference organizer Kuranda Seyit, the founder of the Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations, told The Voice of America on Thursday, November 1.
Sydney protests sparked last September to protest an anti-Islamic film insulting Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).
The march degenerated into violence after protestors clashed with police, leaving 17 people and six policemen injured.
Following the protest, Australian imams held an urgent meeting to denounce violence and highlight the message that violence has no place in Islam.
Personal initiations were also taken by Australian Muslims who showed generosity and kindness as they battled to repair the damage done to the community's reputation and image.
Analysts said the unrest damaged relations between mainstream Australian society and the Muslim minority.
It is a bit more frightening and dumping down of our program content, which is not a good indication for the future," said Seyit.
"But, I think it is coming down to, you know, ratings and dollar figures and advertising. Look, there are a lot of areas we can improve on.
Media executives denied accusations, saying that many outlets published articles by Islamic scholars.
The Sydney Morning Herald said the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Australia do not believe that a small band of violent youths speak for them.
However, some newspaper editorials accused Australia's Islamic community of trying to wreck multiculturalism.
Others suggested Muslims were too tolerant of radical anti-Western preachers and had allowed dissent to boil over.
Muslims lamented that negative media portrayal of their faith was not limited to Australia only.
We saw it with many other issues around the world, said Seyit, the founder of the Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations.
We see that Islam generally is seen as aggressive or violent or, you know, behind terrorist acts and things like that.
So there is not enough analysis, Seyit added, saying that news coverage of Muslims can often be too superficial or inaccurate.
New South Wales is home to 168.788 Muslims, about 49.6 percent of the total population, making the state a habitat to the largest Muslim population, according to the 2006 government Census.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
In post 9/11-era, Australian Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned.