Muslim extremism in the modern media

Lead investigative journalist for the CBC, Nazim Baksh gave a presentation on Feb. 9 about perspectives concerning Muslims represented in the media as well as his experiences dealing with the 9-11 attacks in New York City.

“Everyone has their own beat in the newsroom,” Baksh said. “There’s the religion beat, the crime beat. In the past 20 years I found my own beat: the Jihad beat.”

Organized by the religion and culture department at Wilfrid Laurier University, Baksh presented using his narratives from the frontlines and clips from documentaries to contextualize Muslim extremism.

He questioned the ideological forces that deceive Muslim youth and the extent to which Islamist extremism is a threat to Canadian national security.

“You’ve probably heard of the Toronto 18,” Baksh said, referring to the 18 Muslim men who in 2006 conspired to plant and detonate bombs at three locations: the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Front St. offices of Canada’s spy agency [CSIS] and a military base off highway 401 between Toronto and Ottawa.

Baksh has worked intensively in the field of national security and religious extremism, covering issues in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the detention of Omar Khadr in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

His insight has been reflected over a 20-year career with the CBC, appearing on the 5th Estate, the National and serving as the foreign editor on As It Happens.
Baksh shared his experiences interviewing some of the most prominent people involved with the 9-11 attacks.

He had an opportunity to see the five men, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who were the masterminds behind the 9-11 attacks.

When asked if they admitted to the crime Baksh remembered Mohammed confidently admitting, “We are proud of what we did.”

As the presentation went on, the expected objective view concerning Muslim people seemed to become very negatively one-sided.

Though the presentation dealt with Muslim portrayal in the media, it seemed that the only Muslims portrayed were extremists.

Baksh spoke of an interview with Abu Hamid Maseline and Amu Kaitad, two men known for recruiting young men to join Al Qaeda.

He explained that they were asked how they felt about the World Trade Towers being hit.

As was translated, Kaitad told Baksh, “Everyone was happy when the planes hit the World Trade Center.” Further expressing Kaitad’s comments, Baksh said that he explained that it was like when the superhero of a comic finally takes out the bad guy: everyone cheers.

The focus on Muslim extremists was noticed by some of those who attended the presentation.

When an audience member asked if Baksh was concerned that people might take away only the negative stereotypes from the Jihad beat, Baksh’s response was frank.

In concluding his response to the question of the negative stereotypes being generated in the media, Baksh said, “There are people who make all of these outrageous arguments but they’re utter nonsense. You have to put things in perspective.”

He continued by exemplifying conservative radio and television host for Fox News Glenn Beck.

“You know Glenn Beck and how he says that 10 per cent of Muslims in the world are terrorists?” responded Baksh.

“There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. 10 per cent is about 158 million if I’m not mistaken. So he’s saying 158 million Muslims are terrorists.”

“Man, if you had that many Muslim terrorists in the world there would be nobody left.”