MSU documentary criticizes media coverage of imam's killing
By Natasha Dado | Friday, 12.10.2010, 11:06 AM

A 17-minute documentary film created by two Michigan State University (MSU) professors and a doctoral student condemns the media for its coverage of the controversial death of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, a local community activist.

Imam handcuffed after being shot 20 times by FBI
The film shows reporters immediately took the one sided narrative of the government which depicted Abdullah as a radical Muslim who was a threat to society.  Executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations-Michigan, Dawud Walid, says reporters never went into the community where Abdullah lived and asked local neighbors or mosques about his character or what he preached. "Reporters never asked if he was ever heard speaking radical, how he treated others, what he preached about or what type of man he was.  I believe his character was assassinated," Walid said.

Abdullah, a college-educated United States military veteran according to Walid, made feeding the hungry in his community a top priority. He ran a soup kitchen for decades that supported the homeless.  Walid says the media has never touched on that.   

Abdullah was killed in a Dearborn warehouse after being shot by FBI agents on Oct. 28, 2009. The FBI claims Abdullah was encouraging his followers to commit violent acts against the United States, and the agency attempted to arrest him on charges that included conspiracy to sell stolen goods and illegal possession and sale of firearms.

In the film Niraj Warikoo, religion reporter for the Detroit Free Press, says it wasn't until later when reporters had time to investigate, that the truth came out about Abdullah being a positive influence on his community. Warikoo says by the time reporters discovered that, the public was not as interested in the story.

 The documentary premiered at the University of Michigan-Dearborn on Dec. 1. About 100 were in attendance including students, faculty and the family and close friends of Abdullah.

After the documentary was presented a panel discussion that included the film makers and Walid took place. Warikoo was expected to speak on the panel but was advised not to by the Detroit Free Press. He attended, but declined to comment.

The documentary was produced by Geri Alumit Zeldes, a Michigan State University (MSU)  journalism faculty member, Salah Hassan of MSU's English department and Brian J. Bowe, a MSU media and information studies doctoral student and visiting assistant professor at Grand Valley State University.

Andrew Arena of the FBI appeared in the film and was asked to attend the event, but declined saying he was out of town.  

Zeldes said when reporters are running on tight deadlines they tend to take the only narratives they have because they don't have time to gather information on the other side of the story.

Hassan said the objective of the documentary was to look at the representation of Muslims in the media. "The media's coverage begins with this terrorist plot, and as the evidence starts to pour in its clear that there's nothing really there to implicate Abdullah as a terrorist. Then it becomes a crime story, and complicated. The story becomes 'what did the FBI do,' not 'what did Abdullah do,'" Hassan said.


By Natasha Dado

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