My Kind of Hero

Category: Life & Society Views: 3121

By Mohamed Elmasry

Zinedine Zidane led France to its Europe 2000 soccer championship this month, just as he helped it to victory in the 1998 World Cup. The supremely talented midfielder was chosen the player of the tournament, and it took two of Italy's best defenders to blanket him in Sunday's final game.

But more significant to me, the 28-year-old superstar is a French Muslim. In this and other tournaments, he was making a statement: Muslims in the West are making important contributions to their countries.

Zinedine, which means "the pearl of the religion" in Arabic, was not identified by his religious faith in the media. Reporters figured that his religion has nothing to do with the fact that he is the best of the world's top soccer midfielders. And they are probably right.

But journalists routinely identify Muslims by religious labels when they are involved in acts of violence or when they are suspected of crimes. Worse still, when political groups promote shocking policies "in the name of Islam," all too often their statements are not qualified. It is rare that a report notes that what they are doing is according to their particular interpretation of Islam.

Islam should not be measured by criteria different from those used for Christianity or Judaism. Events in societies that are shaped by Islam must be measured by the same yardsticks. There are perhaps as many interpretations of Islamic teachings or the Qur'an, as there are of Christian teachings or the Bible.

Furthermore, comparing a religion such as Islam to a region, the West, misleads the public. There are Muslims in the West, too, like Zinedine Zidane -- and like Mohammed Nematian-Zaroor, a genuine Canadian hero.

It was Mr. Nematian-Zaroor who used his taxi last July in a rolling rescue of a Toronto police officer shot at the wheel of his cruiser. His quick thinking, bravery and skill brought Constable Patrick Ferdinand's cruiser to a safe stop on the highway. In a front-page story, The Globe and Mail noted that "it was not his first attempt to help the law, but it was the most dramatic." The paper quoted Mr. Nematian-Zaroor as saying that he would pray for Constable Ferdinand, who was in hospital in critical condition, but it made no mention of the fact that the hero was a Muslim. The reporter and/or editor rightly decided that his religion had nothing to do with his act of heroism, or with his prayer.

Yet when dealing with Muslims abroad who are involved in social or political struggles, many journalists assume that everything these Muslims do is in the name of Islam.

But not every religious-sounding phrase necessarily has a religious meaning. Often such expressions have become woven into the culture, and are used in speeches for various issues, be they political or social. Would anyone suggest that the German Christian Democratic Party is a religious party? Or that Bill Clinton is a Christian fundamentalist because, in his first speech as President, he asked God to guide him in his office?

Conversely, not every act of political violence is religiously inspired. When Americans bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City, no one suggested that the crime had religious roots or was linked to Western American or Christian tradition.

Journalists need to examine the reasons behind certain actions or phenomena and not impose their assumptions on their reporting. This leads to more meaningful social and political correlations. When a similar phenomenon exists here and there, they should be looking for common origins, not automatically blaming religion, for religious hypocrisy is practised within all faiths.

It is against Canadian values to stir up emotion designed to incite hatred against any group. Therefore, Islam should be treated by the media as any other religion.

(Mohamed Elmasry, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Waterloo, is national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress. This article appeared in the latest edition of the "Friday Bulletin" and was re-published with permission from the author.)

  Category: Life & Society
Views: 3121
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Older Comments:
Please stop repeating Zidane is muslim, you should ask about the way he is practicing it first.
You remind me the crowd outside running in Algiers streets yelling ...Zidane Zidane ...and ended up supporting French who banned the muslim girls scarves, sent the first warplanes escadrons to bomb Irak in the previous attack, oput more and more pressue on a weak, jobless muslim community large of more than 5 millions persons....
He is not even algerian so why the muslims where ever they are in Algeria or everywhere else think they should consider him wether an example or something like that, he is french, win as French and loose as french national BIG fullstop.
Our ummah shoud see a serious psy.