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EDITORIAL: 1-15 January 2000

MUSLIMS AND THE MEDIA...
The number of Indian Muslims is 150 or 200 million (depending on official and non-official figures). This is two to three times larger than the population of many major West European countries and over a hundred times larger than the population of small Gulf emirates. Yet, if you believe the Indian ‘national’ media they are in deep slumber every day of the year. Open the national papers any day and you might stumble once in a while on a news about a Muslim criminal or smuggler but there is no community news coverage, greatest of Indian Muslims may die but the national media remains blissfully unaware, storms surge and subside and the national media plays indifferent.. Great changes in mood and substance of the community take place and the media looks the other way. Rent-a-crowd Indian Muslims have ‘value’ only when leaders of the opposition or the ruling party want to show their popularity at a certain stage in their struggle for power or to retain it or when there is a demonstration against the Pakistani high commission in Delhi or against a Muslim cause. Beyond this, the future historian reading these papers will have to conclude that the 150 million Muslims in India, that is Bharat, made little contribution to their society after Independence. This is not the truth. Muslims are not sleeping. Like other inhabitants of this great land, they too toil for their and their country’s betterment and play a significant role in the country’s economic and social life. They are the unsung heroes of the land. Yet since the ‘national’ media is dominated by certain elements, regional as well as political and ideological, who could not care less about their Muslim countrymen. Rather, some how they would like to keep us for ever on our psychological toes by inventing or magnifying issues which have little substance or importance to the community. Take the issue of Talaq. If India’s national media is to be believed, Muslim men have no job other than pronouncing tora, tora, tora, er talaq, talaq, talaq to their hapless wives and taking new wives at the drop of the hat. No decent journalist seems to have asked his Muslim acquaintances if this menace is really that prevalent. If he did, he would have discovered that his Muslim acquaintance would be hard pressed to remember even one instance of talaq among hundreds of his relatives and acquaintances. This does not mean that talaq is not taking place among Indian Muslims but it is not that frequent or common place as the media has made it out to be. Similar is the case of ‘maintenance.’ It is not a big issue in the Muslim community. Rare cases do go to courts which get blown up by the media and the misplaced feminist cause-seekers who have to work hard to keep their NGO kitties well stocked by discovering new issues to impress western donors. 

Like any human group or community, we have our share of problems, and lots of them in fact, but the unsympathetic media is unaware of their nature and extent. Moreover it does not know that the remedy lies not in abandoning Islam but in truly adhering to Islam and its spirit. If Muslims adhered to Islamic injunctions faithfully there would be no talaq or maintenance or similar issues of injustice to a weaker party in a relationship. One recent lie spread by this irresponsible media is that madrasahs, that is Muslim religious schools, are centres of ISI and train their students for terrorism. Perhaps there is no greater lie under the Sun today. Whoever knows these madrasahs and its hapless students and teachers can only laugh at this lie. Even the police officer who first reportedly made this allegation has denied it, yet this lie is parroted day in and day out because it suits certain ideological quarters who are ascendant on the country’s political horizon at present. 

What is true about the Indian ‘national’ media is also true about the western media which, having for years made good use of the so-called ‘Islamic fundamentalism,’ is possessed these days about ‘Islamic terrorism.’ We, too, condemn terrorism by all including some disgruntled Muslims here and there but we cannot be blind to think that they are ‘mad mullahs’* who are thirsty for others’ blood. Western imperialist policies against the Third World and the blind western support for Israel and dictatorships in Muslim countries are the basic reasons for the rash response by some youth who see no other avenue for change. 

The media’s attitude is not going to change because it is calculated and premeditated in most cases. This necessitates that Muslims should have their own media in languages read by their new generations as well as by others who do not get the true and real picture of Muslims and Islam, especially in English. 

The issue of ‘the English newspaper’ has been on the Indian Muslim agenda for the last fifty years yet somehow this has not been achieved. It is this vacuum that this new publication will strive to fill to bring out a true picture of Islam and Muslims as well as to take notice of the lies and distortions spread by the media and other sources. Our aim will not only be to cover the Indian Muslim scene but we will also strive to cover the whole world from an Islamic perspective and take up vital issues in the dialogue of Islam with other cultures, especially with the west where a canard has been actively spread in recent years that after the fall of Communism, the next confrontation is with Islam. Islam, the religion of peace, does not pose any threat to anyone. It is the west which needs an ‘enemy’ to strengthen and mobilize its internal front and to prepare its public opinion to continue to sanction the huge spendings on defence. If there was no such ‘enemy’ the west will create one. We will expose these lies. 

The present publication is a fortnightly newspaper. Within a year or two it will be converted into a weekly, insha Allah.

* ‘Mad Mullah’ is the name given by British colonialists to the great freedom-fighter Mulla Muhammad ibn Abdillah Hasan (d. 1920) of Somalia. q

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