UK faith leaders accuse media of encouraging religious prejudice

 A discussion at the British Library this week between Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith leaders, chaired by Lord Melvyn Bragg, condemned the media for contributing to prejudice through its "dangerous" failure to report on religious dialogue, preferring instead to emphasise rifts between communities, creating a world in which people need to become spectacularly violent or rude in order to gain a hearing for their cause. Lord Bragg voiced disappointment at how faith is sidelined in public debate in the media. He pointed out that mainstream radio programmes were not interested in broadcasting the discussion "What does it mean to live with faith in 2007?", held at the British Library on Monday, to herald the opening of its exhibition Sacred: Discover what we share which showcases the world's greatest collection of Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy books. The panel comprised: Most Reverend Kevin McDonald, Catholic Archbishop of Southwark; Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth; Moulana Mohammad Shahid Raza, Director of the Imams and Mosques Council UK and founder trustee of the British Muslim Forum; and Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. Lord Bragg said: "It seems to me that a forum like this sort of discussion, across faiths not only deserves to be but really should be, needs to be, part of the general broadcasting culture. "I don't only think it's a loss, I think it's a danger.. It's dangerous, because the very idea of four people coming from different faiths sitting around and talking to each other intellectually, honestly, trying to work things out, is something that many people in this country think is impossible to envisage." Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks also condemned the failure of the media to report on good news concerning inter-faith discussion resulting in people having to be spectacularly rude or violent to win a hearing for their case. He said: "Where we are currently situated, in Europe, in Western civilisation, is more dangerous, Melvyn, than you fear. Here we are, we have spent an hour and a half, Jews, Christians, Muslims, sitting together in friendly discourse, sitting on the same side of the table, something that any previous generation in our history would have regarded as impossible and here it is happening, and it's great news, and nobody wants to know. "And what do they want to know? They want to know something that resembles the public spectacles of Rome in its decadence, they want to throw Christians to lions, or lions to Christians, and so the voices that gain resonance in our culture and in the media are extreme secularists or religious extremists. And they're very comfortable with one another because the extreme secularists can point to the religious voices and say they're fanatics and the religious extremists can point to the secularists and say they're totally atheist decadentsetc, etc. "And in a culture like that, the angriest voice wins. And the only way you win a hearing for your case is either to be spectacularly rude or spectacularly violent. And that is the world that the media creates and people who are either very rude or very violent know exactly how to use it to gain a hearing. The danger that that represents is unbelievable and it is serious." Podcasts of the discussion in full can be heard via the British Library website:

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