Reporters from U.S. and Saudi Arabia Report Jointly on Islamic Schools in Both Countries

Aug 102010

American journalist Kelly McEvers (pictured, right) and Saudi journalist Asma Alsharif teamed up to report on how Saudi-funded schools in both countries are adjusting curricula accused of inciting violence during and after 9-11. They worked on an ICFJ program aimed at building journalistic bridges between the United States and predominantly Muslim countries. Three other teams are also working on joint-reporting projects, all funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

McEvers' story ran on National Public Radio on July 14. She reported that promised reforms in the curricula of Saudi schools after 9-11 have been slow in coming because of resistance from the religious establishment, which controls the judiciary and the ministry of education. Alsharif published stories on the same issue in Arab News and Reuters. Following criticism after 9-11, Saudi schools removed all mentions of "jihad" or holy war, and "walaa wal baraa," the notion that Muslims should be "emancipated from non-Muslims." But many critics say the texts still incite violence against non-Muslims.

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ICFJ program participant Asma Al Sharif shares her concerns when covering religion. She also sheds light on her experience in the Faith in Media conference, held in Turkey that she participated in.

With support from Carnegie Corporation of New York, ICFJ held a conference in Istanbul, Turkey, called “Faith in Media: Improving Coverage of Islam and Other Religions.” Four pairs of journalists then embarked on joint reporting projects in Muslim countries and in the United States. Each of the four pairs of journalists attended the conference in Istanbul, along with other participants from the United States and majority Muslim countries. The pairs will conduct reporting together over several months. The pairs will be encouraged to collaborate on the writing of the stories, but they are not required to publish or broadcast identical stories in translation. Other teams are reporting in the United States and in Indonesia, Iran and Morocco.

ICFJ concluded the Faith in the Media program with an instructor-led online course on responsible religion coverage open to journalists in the U.S. and Muslim countries.