Special Reports

Muslim media conference in Jakarta

By Our Own Correspondent
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Jakarta: The second international Islamic media conference was held here during 12-15 December after a long gap. The first such conference was also held in Jakarta  33 years ago. The purpose of the conference, held jointly by the Mecca-based Muslim World League and the Indonesia Ministry of Religious Affairs, was to bring together Muslim media experts and important journalists to deliberate on the problems of media in the Muslim World, the image of Islam and Muslims in world media and to thrash out plans and programmes for a better Muslim presence in world media.

The majority of the around 500 participants were from Indonesia while about a hundred came from other countries including the West and erstwhile Soviet Union. From India, three persons participated: Dr SQR Ilyas, editor of Urdu monthly Afkar-e Milli, Ejaz Aslam, editor of weekly Radiance and Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, editor of The Milli Gazette.

The conference deliberated on five core issues: Contemporary Media: Components and Impact; Collaboration and Networking of Media in the Muslim World; Islamic Media Discourse; Media and Dialogue; and Proposals to Boost Muslim Media.

Speakers included Abdul Rahman Al-Shubaily, a prominent Saudi writer and former member of the Shoura Council,  Dr Saud Saleh Katib of King Abdulaziz University, Muhammad Sallam, director general of Iqra Channels who spoke on “Successful Satellite Islamic Channels & Websites”.

Farhat Umar of South Africa said that western societies tolerate multiculturalism so far as Muslims promote the chosen brand of multiculturalism in their host societies.

Prof. Izzuddin of Malaysia said that stereotyping Muslims is not new; it has been going on for centuries. He said that while building skyscrapers and buying billions worth of Boeing aircraft, we want to preserve our identity. He said that Muslims should build their own brands and added that Halal is now a 3 billion dollar economy.

Dr Hamdi Abul ‘Ainain of Egypt said that 700 TV channels are now active in the Arab World and the decadence that they preach is not coming from the West. He lamented that Arab regimes controlled the political content of these channels but have left all else without check. He warned against reliance on Internet sources as it is brimming with unverified and concocted information. He also warned against the dangers faced by Arabic language as a new language of very limited vocabulary is emerging as a result of the new IT media.

Prof. Parni Hadi of Indonesia said that the new media is destroying our language and culture.

Jamal Muhammad Arafah of Egypt, formerly of Islamonline, stressed on the many uses of modern media and said that we have still not managed to answer the question: how to use media to achieve progress.

Muhammad Ali Harrath, CEO of UK’s Islam Channel, offered a presentation of his channel and said that British media’s daily message to Muslims is: you should feel ashamed of your past and your presence in the west. He said that the Mayor of London had conducted a survey of UK media and discovered that 90% of contents were anti-Muslim.

Dr Syed Arabi Idid, former rector of International Islamic University of Malaysia, stressed that ownership of media is very important. He said that we should not be afraid of new media. He gave the example of television, saying that in the beginning we were very much afraid about its adverse influence but look, five decades later we are still good Muslims.

MG editor Zafarul-Islam Khan presented a paper in Arabic on the Western media attitude towards Muslims and Third World. The paper studied the attitude and policies of western media towards Muslims. Dr Khan stressed that Muslims should own media organisations and enter all fields of the world of media.

Muhammad Ali of New Zealand said that Third World countries complained to the UN against western media for its coverage of their issues. The UN appointed McBride committee which found out that imbalance is huge in western media’s coverage of Third World issues. He also mentioned that an EU report said that western media has not been fair to Muslims. He said that spending on media in our societies comes third after food and clothing and we spend a lot of our time on media. He said that de-regulation as a result of WTO accords has allowed western media to penetrate our societies as never before.

Dr Kamaluddin Umar Zayat of Indonesia said that it is not true to say that new media is all about pornography. He mentioned that ulama in Indonesia are using twitter and facebook to preach Islam.

The conference approved a revised code of honour for media institutions and journalists in the Muslim world. The first code of honour was proposed by the first media conference 33 years ago. The new draft called on mediapersons to spread Islamic teachings and values while countering biased reports. The code asks mediamen to support Muslim people in their efforts to resist oppression and occupation and to adhere to the general principles in journalists’ universal code of ethics such as refraining from publishing and broadcasting all forms of incitement to violence, keeping away from fabrication of events and to verify the news and be honest in reporting.

Addressing the concluding session, Abdullah Al-Turki, secretary-general of the Muslim World League, called on Muslim media organizations to implement the resolutions taken by the conference in order to have a major impact on the world, correcting wrong perceptions about Islam and Muslims. “We should also make use of the media including social networks to enhance dialogue with other faith communities,” he added.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 January 2012 on page no. 13

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