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Youth UPF

Youth UPF-Finland Takes Part in Islamic Media Conference

Helsinki, Finland - Youth UPF-Finland was invited to participate in the Islamic Media Conference Finland 2014, which took place in Helsinki’s Technopolis science park on Sept. 27. Under the theme of “Intermediate Islamic Media,” the conference focused on the role of Islam in Western mainstream media and impact on the integration of Muslims in Europe. The aim of the conference was to strengthen relations between the Islamic media and official media institutions in Finland and Europe, and to help build a new image of Islam in the Western media. In addition to well-known speakers from around the world, Youth UPF-Finland could present its views on the subjects of discussion.

Youth UPF-Finland Director Hakim Salem spoke on "Islam and Social Media: Initiate, Like and Share." After showing a short video about UPF, he addressed the challenges to gaining accurate and verifiable information on Islam despite the growing accessibility to social media. In the view of Youth UPF-Finland, Salem said, Islamophobia is largely caused by a lack of communication and of mutual understanding. To overcome this problem, Salem suggested intercultural youth dialogues, encouraging global citizenship and enhancing pluralism within both European and Muslim communities. Youth UPF-Finland is willing to network with Muslim youth organizations. In regard to media and social media in particular, Salem challenged the audience by asking: “It is not enough to like Muslim events. The question is, will you share it with your network?”

Islamophobia and the role of the media are topics that came up in almost every speech. Mustafa Assyed Issa, head of the Media Department of the Islamic Society of Sweden, talked about the portrayal of Islam in the European media and contrasted “media Muslims” and real Muslims. He noted that repetition in the media creates stereotypes and said that journalists should be better informed about Islamophobia itself. The chairman of the Islamic Council of Finland, Anas Hajjr, called for the activity of Muslims in Finland in his speech about the image of Islam in Western media. He said there is a need for more Muslim professionals in the media, more youth dialogues and activity, more publications on Islam, faster reactions to society and more proactivity among the Muslims of Finland. Related to this, Juha Rekola, a representative of the Union of Journalists in Finland, pointed out new opportunities for Muslims in the field of media. He stated that the Union of Journalists had changed its membership requirements and that positions within the union are now more accessible to ethnic minorities. Moreover, even if they are not part of the mainstream media, Muslims should try to cooperate with the main media, suggested George Hourany from Al Jazeera Channel. He advised minority media to take positive success stories and approach the bigger media with human interest stories.

The conference had a strong focus on youth. Youth organizations were called together to correct misconceptions about Islam. When discussing Finland, Abdi-Hakim Yasin Ararse, head of Politics and PR in the Islamic Society of Finland, stated that 70 percent of the Muslims in Finland are under 35 years of age. Consequently, there is a strong demand for commitment to youth needs and for more youth leaders in the community. As a peace and youth organization, Youth UPF-Finland finds this of particular interest and is willing to cooperate.

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