SHAFAQNA – Muslims in Ireland have been strongly encouraged to remember that they are not “guests, or visitors” in Ireland, but here by right and they should engage more with Irish society
“You are not guests or visitors. You are here by right and are the same as any other citizen,” Press Ombudsman Peter Feeney told a conference on Muslims’ representation in the media.
Saying that he had not received a single complaint from a Muslim in the last two years, Mr Feeney said he had “a very simple message for Muslims living in Ireland: get engaged, get involved. If you feel something is inaccurate, get involved.”
As Press Ombudsman, he could not “do anything about it unless I receive a complaint from the public,” he said.
Mr Feeney was speaking in Dublin at a seminar organised by the Immigrant Council of Ireland on Muslims in the Media: Challenging Misconceptions.
He pointed out, however, that when it came to commentary there was “less right to complain”. As there was “no right not to be offended”, the better option in such a context was “to seek a right of reply”.
Noting that journalists “must not give undue offence”, with an emphasis on “undue”, he said he could understand sensitivity [among Muslims] concerning images of Muhammad.
“But you live in a society where it is not seen as offensive,” he said. “If you bring cultural values to a new society you cannot necessarily expect these to be respected in that new society,” he said.
There was “no absolute right to freedom of expression”, he added, also pointing out that images of Muhammad had not been used in Irish newspapers or shown by broadcasters in Ireland. This, he said, was “out of fear of the consequences”.
It was also the case that the Press Council was “not a regulator”. Unlike broadcasting in Ireland, which was controlled by laws, the print media’s participation with the Press Council was voluntary. “The only sanction is that they must publish my decisions in full,” he said.