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Reporters Develop Religion Handbook

UNITED KINGDOM

By Abigail Frymann Rouch

THE first guide in the world to religious literacy for media professionals was launched on December 13 at London’s Frontline Club in an event co-sponsored by The Media Project and Lapido Media. 

Hailed by Tony Johnston, stepping down as Head of Training at the Press Association, who attended the event, as ‘a first class guide to appreciating the importance of faith in relation to a wide range ofstories’, Lapido Media’s Religious Literacy: An Introduction is unique in its attempt to end media inertia about the politico-religious stalemate in Britain.

Dr. Jenny Taylor, Founder and Senior Executive of Lapido, cited Professor Adam Dinham of Goldsmiths College, University of London, telling a capacity audience of journalists, diplomats, academics and supporters: ‘We’ve pretty much lost the ability to talk about religion and belief just when we need it the most.’

She said Lapido Media was now working with the Press Association and the National Union of Journalists to produce learning systems that incorporate religious literacy, for which there was ‘a crying need’.

Andrew Norfolk criticized ‘utterly feeble’ approach to religious stories. Photo: Geoff Crawford. Copyright Lapido Media

At the launch, The Times' chief investigative reporter Andrew Norfolk (pictured above), who won seven awards for his investigations into sex-grooming gangs in Rotherham, suggested that a lack of religious literacy had led to government and journalists failing to challenge the acceptance of extremist beliefs by a small proportion of British Muslims.

The event, chaired by historian Tom Holland, whose book In the Shadow of the Sword has become a standard reference on the origins of Islam, also included speeches from Sky News’ Ireland correspondent David Blevins who was nominated for a Royal Television Society award for his coverage of the Omagh bombing.

Dr. Paul Stott, lecturer at the London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), whose doctorate British Jihadism: the Detail and the Denial will be published by Routledge in 2018, spoke about the Islamization of left-wing politics.

In his speech, Norfolk criticized the British Government for accepting the Islamist-linked Muslim Council of Britain as the single body representing British Islam.

‘What else, after all, but ignorance or willful blindness can explain our government having been duped for several years into regarding the Islamist leadership of the Muslim Council of Britain as the authentically representative voice of Britain’s Muslims?’ he asked. 

He also criticized the government for ‘trotting out’ reassurance that jihadist atrocities had ‘absolutely nothing to do with Islam’, but was equally harsh towards journalists for accepting their line.

‘What else but a most un-journalist-like absence of curiosity can have explained the failure of most of us, for so long, even to have tiptoed towards exploring whether that’s always entirely accurate?’

He added: ‘We journalists have been utterly feeble at understanding and sometimes challenging religious beliefs.’

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