Rachad Antonius, professor of sociology at UQAM, is a specialist in Middle-Eastern, socio-political issues and conflicts. He shares his personal beliefs on the confusion that exists between politics and religion in media.
Can the media objectively report on religious issues?
Religion is multiple in many ways. There are several religions: Judaism, Islam, Christianity, each with its sub-branches. There are several trends within each religion: the conservative, the liberal, etc. And finally, there are several dimensions to religion: the spiritual, the ritualistic, the social, the political, the belief, and the organizational dimensions. The media is multiple as well. There is the dominant media and the alternative media. If there are no political stakes to be gained or lost by the dominant forces in society, the media can report objectively. But whenever there is something to be gained or lost politically, in the dominant media, the political issues takes precedence over the issue of objectivity.
Is it difficult for media to responsibly cover religious issues in a balanced way?
I believe it’s not that difficult actually. It’s a matter of attitude, of critical respect. The media has the right to notice that certain things are justified by religion, but should not really be justified. If I take the example of Islam, I feel free to say that a particular interpretation of Islam is wrong. And I can explain why, but in respectful terms. There is a question here of dignity that should be taken into consideration, whether I’m talking about Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism. There is an attitude of respect for people who have a different religion than me.
How is the topic of religion treated by Quebec media?
First, the media in Quebec do not treat religions equally. Anglophones and francophones do not read religions the same way. Even francophone newspapers like Le Devoir and La Presse, say, do not treat this the same way. I would like to take the example of Le Devoir. It has a column written by Jean-Claude Leclerc, professor of journalism at the Universit