Muslim voice in the fourth estate

Notwithstanding the hard fact that Muslims in India are still discriminated against and there still prevails a communal prejudice at various levels targeting them, some importance must be given to the other side of the picture. The alacrity with which their voice and issues concerning them has risen in the recent years cannot be ignored. In this direction, a major role has been played by increase in number of journals, papers and online editions voicing and supporting their stand. This includes this fortnightly — The Milli Gazette. As remarkable as the emergence of this section of media is the amazing fact of their remaining in the race and showing no sign of being ever ebbed away into oblivion, at least for a long time to come. It is an extremely positive development which cannot be ignored or sidelined from any angle. At the outset, it is strongly suggestive of new importance gained in the Indian society by the Muslim voice. Undeniably, there was a phase, when there prevailed the apprehension of Muslim voice carrying little significance, to the extent of it carrying little appeal on whether it made any noise or not. This is hardly the case today. The Muslim voice is on the rise, as reflected by the increase in number of papers, etc representing the same and it is here to stay.

Not Urdu alone
Equally relevant is the fact that this “voice” is not confined to any one particular language, region, party, group or any organization. This point is being deliberately made as not too long ago only certain regional papers and/or Urdu language was assumed to be one medium, which focused on issues concerning Muslims. Of course, now and then secular sections of media have highlighted issues concerning Muslims. However, these have largely paid greater attention when negative news regarding Muslims has hit headlines — be it the case of alleged encounters with Muslims as suspect terrorists, political parties’ attempt to attract Muslim votes, a fatwa issued by some cleric on a controversial or sensitive issue and so forth. In other words, though secular media sections have not refrained from focusing on issues concerning Muslims, they have tended to hold a rather stereotyped approach towards the same. For them, the issue has “news” value, if a cleric issues a fatwa regarding nikah, hijab or any such issue. It has little or no “news” value, if Muslim girls hailing from conservative backgrounds emerge as toppers in examinations (educational and/or job-oriented). Herein lies a major role played by the Muslim voice making its presence felt today. It is because the voice is not confined to any one language and/or region, that it is making all the more greater impact than probably earlier expected.

There was a phase, when little space prevailed for the Muslim voice in media as a whole. Well, the Muslims, through their papers, etc, have crossed this hurdle. They have moved several steps ahead by not letting their message/news being confined to select sections. This is marked by their opting to have their say through the English language, something for which the MG must also be credited. The Muslim voice is making waves so that it is taken note of not just by Muslims but by all concerned. This point is further elaborated by contributions to these papers not being confined to only from Muslim personalities. This adds a secular as well as Indian touch to issues concerning the Indian Muslims, with their being projected from a nationalistic and a religious angle.

Undeniably, though commendable, this is not enough. A lot more attention needs to be paid by the government and political leaders keen to display their respective concerns for development of Indian Muslims. Nevertheless, the Indian Muslim community cannot be blamed for keeping quiet and/or remaining a mute spectator to issues worrying them. The Muslim voice being repeatedly raised through news papers and other sections of media must be credited for this. From another angle, the Muslim voice through the internet and English language is making substantial waves to be noticed significantly across the world. In a major way, the platform has also been prepared for coming years, for more Muslims — young and old — their say and make their presence felt regarding their grievances as well as other issues concerning them.

This also implies, it is time the concerned authorities understood that they cannot afford to ignore and/or sideline issues concerning Indian Muslims any more, at least not for too long. The time when they gave importance to Indian Muslims primarily for electoral gains and/or while drafting their policies no longer holds any relevance in today’s age for today’s Muslim as indicated by increasing prominence of their voice through their own media units. The Muslim voice is here to stay, making its presence felt and also acting as a credible fourth estate – keeping a watch on the attention being paid to issues concerning Muslims by various government ministries and political parties.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 February 2010 on page no. 14

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