Are Muslim Journalists Cut-off from mainstream Media?

Many parts of the world, such as Korea, China, and India – basically medieval kingdoms fifty or sixty years ago — are now among the pacesetters of the modern world, both producing, and improving on, existing inventions. The Muslim world, however, often better off than these countries just half a century ago, has remained as it was, or has even, in many instances, deteriorated. This inertia in the Islamic world seems to stem not from any genetic limitations, or even religious ones, but purely from Islamic culture.
Although one can gain some insight into Islamic culture from books and other written material, if one is to really understand the Muslim world, there is no substitute for sitting in coffee or tea houses, spending time with Muslims, and asking them questions in their own surroundings and in their own languages. A result of these approaches would seem to indicate, with respect, some of the factors citizens of the Arab and Muslim world might wish to consider to use their extraordinary talents even more fully:
The Ability to Question – Western culture is predicated on questioning: inquiring of authorities how they came to the conclusions they reached — a concept from the ancient Greek word “historayn,” to learn by asking. Although in the Shiite world questioning occurs among religious authorities and the educated elite, in the Sunni world, for centuries, asking questions of those more learned or in positions of authority has been unacceptable. Until Muslims once again allow themselves to ask questions and engage in critical examination, they are disabling themselves from accomplishing as much as they otherwise might.

Malaysiakini Hit By Yet Another CyberAttack

The Malaysiakini website was once again attacked starting from 2.45pm yesterday. Although the cyberattack continued, the site was fully restored at 11.30pm.

It appeared that this was not an isolated attack againstMalaysiakini – simultaneous attacks were launch against a number of other websites in the country. At press time, most these websites, including those of Opposition parties DAP, PAS and PKR remain unavailable.

In a Twitter message, DAP leader Lim Kit Siang said: “DDoS attacks on DAP, PAS, PKR websites since afternoon. UMNO-/BN cyber saboteurs rehearsing even more serious DDoS in 13GE.”

The attack against Malaysiakini was the most sophisticated to date. “It used a complex attack pattern, and not easily detectable,” said CEO Premesh Chandran.

International syndicates

The attack – commonly known as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) –managed to overwhelm the Malaysiakini servers. It involves using a large number of computers to flood Malaysiakini’s servers with fake traffic, causing a traffic jam which denies access to legitimate users.

The attack is normally carried out by international syndicates paid to disrupt targeted websites. However,Malaysiakini’s technology team was able to bring the site back up after battling the debilitating attack for eight hours.

Over the past year, Malaysiakini has been hit with a number cyberattacks, most notably during the BERSIH 2.0 and 3.0 rallies as well as the Sarawak state election.–http://www.malaysiakini.com

Reading India’s mainstream English language newspapers and magazines, and viewing the electronic media one realizes that news reports and columns by Muslim journalists are rare. If we go by our population, the authors of about 10 percent or more of reports and columns should be Muslims. But in reality only about 1 % of reports and columns are authored by Muslims. At the national level there are just about half a dozen English language Muslim journalists whose reports appear in the national dailies.
In the whole of India, 65 years after independence there are only two small English language biweekly newspaper (Milli Gazette, Madhyam) and three online electronic websites (Two Circles News, Indian Muslim Observer, Ummid.com) that are operated by the Muslim community.
There are quite a few Urdu language newspapers that are operated by the Muslim community. But their readership is limited entirely to Muslims and generally they confine themselves to happenings in the Muslim community. Thus whatever is published in Urdu newspapers has hardly any chance of reaching mainstream India that comprises of a large number of secular Hindus.
That brings us to the question as to why there are so few English language Muslim journalists in India and why Muslim journalists are not writing for mainstream Indian media (Times of India, Indian Express, Hindustan Times, Hindu, India Today, Sunday, IBN, NDTV etc).
A review of the few English language Muslim outlets that exist, indicates that these outlets spend most of their space in writing about Muslim community’s complaints of injustice from the Indian government authorities, complaints against injustice to Muslims from Western governments, the rabid pronouncements of the extremist Hindu groups and coverage of personalities and events in other Muslim countries. Thus their readability for secular Hindus who may want to feel the pulse of India’s Muslims, is very small; and there is very little material of national interest there that non-Muslims want to read in a newspaper, whether print or electronic.
The Urdu media aside from being in a language that Hindus can not read is also full of the internal politics of Muslim groups and individuals and the internecine conflicts of various Muslim religious leaders and sects. All in all their utility in communicating the community’s issues and situation to mainstream India is almost non-existent.
The Indian mainstream media writes about the Muslim community only when major events happen, eg the recent UP and west Bengal elections where Muslim votes swung the election, or if a major Hindu-Muslim congflagration takes place, eg Gujarat genocide. That news too lasts just a few days. The coverage of the Muslim community’s recent vociferous and continuing demands for implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations and reservation has received only infrequent coverage in the mainstream media. The reports on the Batla House conflagration and the plight of Azamgarh’s Muslim youth lasted a few days and then disappeared.
A few Indian Muslim journalists write in some Arab newspapers like Arab News, Khaleej Times etc. But those reports almost always appear to be either about the social events of the NRI Muslims in those countries, or about the oil-rich Muslim countries, or about the past glory of Muslim nations in the centuries gone by, or writeups on global Muslim politics. Again, not much for non-Muslims who are looking to learn about the present state of affairs of the Muslims of India.
The question remains that if the Indian Muslim community has to bring improvement in its very backward condition, it has to influence the large number of secular Hindus and together with them the major political parties and the government. Journalists and media – print and electronic – are some of the major weapons in today’s public relations war to change the policies of the Indian state. The first step is to change the perceptions of secular Hindus who are the majority of India’s Hindu population about Muslims. If Muslims remain cutoff from mainstream Indian media, and remain preoccupied in our narrow world of complaints, internal politics, other Muslim countries, mutual appreciation etal; and if Muslim journalists’ reports about the community’s ground realities are not being published in adequate numbers in mainstream media, then we are missing a golden opportunity. We simply can not be happy talking about the past glory of Muslims, or the glory of oil-rich Muslim countries or complaining that the world is against us. Because communicating with and influencing India’s secular Hindus in a democracy and a country where Hindus are 80% of the population, is an essential need of our community’s national strategy. Indian Muslim journalists can fill this essential need of the community.
Thus it is incumbent for Muslim journalists in India to redouble their efforts to find a place in the mainstream English media more frequently. Only a handful of successful mainsteeam Muslim journalists like MJ Akbar, Saeed Naqvi, Seema Mustafa cannot do the job. Of course there is a big need for more quality English language Indian Muslim journalists who are in very short supply.
The Khaksar Tehrik’s weekly “Al-Islah” was started by Allama Mashriqi in 1934 from Lahore. Distinguished Scholar and Historian Nasim Yousaf’s article entitled “Khaksar Movement Weekly ‘Al-Islah’s’ Role Toward Freedom” has recently been published in “Pakistaniaat” (Vol. 3, No 3, year 2011, Autumn Issue). According to the description given on the journal’s website (http://www.pakistaniaat.org), “Pakistaniaat is a refereed, multidisciplinary, and open access academic journal offering a forum for scholarly and creative engagement with various aspects of Pakistani history, culture, literature, and politics. Housed in the English Department of the University of North Texas, Pakistaniaat is a sponsored journal of the American Institute of Pakistan Studies…Pakistaniaat is an approved journal of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan.”
The abstract of the said article is as follows: “In-depth study and analysis of the Khaksar Tehrik’s (Khaksar Movement) weekly paper “Al-Islah” (started in 1934) is imperative from the perspective of British India’s independence — the emergence of Pakistan and India in 1947. It is not conceivable to record a balanced and uncontaminated account of the freedom movement of the Indian sub-continent without examining the role of “Al-Islah” in the 1930s and 1940s.
This paper, Khaksar Movement Weekly “Al-Islah’s” Role Toward Freedom, discusses the paramount and pre-eminent role that the said weekly (newspaper) played in spreading the Khaksar Movement’s ideology, the goal of which was to inculcate character and discipline amongst the masses and ultimately lead to freedom of India from the British. “Al-Islah” indeed served to spread the Movement, which rose to become a Private Army (as referred to by Lord Linlithgow, Viceroy of India) of 5 million, and generated following in other countries. In addition, the “Al-Islah” inspired others who copied the Khaksars and formed similar organizations. The weekly also helped to achieve Allama Mashriqi’s (founder of the KhaksarTehrik) mission of instilling unity, strict discipline, equality, and self-less community service (regardless of religion) amongst millions of Khaksars.
The spread of the Khaksar Movement in British India and other countries and the emergence of analogous organizations provide clear evidence that “Al-Islah’s” motivational, instigating, and morale-raising contents brought about an awakening amongst the people of pre-partition India. The Government of British India was alarmed and banned the “Al-Islah”. Yet they could neither suppress the Khaksar Movement nor the spirit of freedom which “Al-Islah” had infused throughout the nation.
This piece argues that the British would not even have spoken to Indian leaders or thought of transferring power, and the emergence of Pakistan and India could not have been envisioned, unless the rulers understood the grave threat posed to their rule by this awakening brought on by “Al-Islah” and the Khaksar Movement.”
The said article is exceptionally important from the perspective of the freedom of the Indian sub-continent from British rule. It fills a key gap that exists in the historiography of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. It also depicts the leading role played by “Al-Islah” and its founder Allama Mashriqi in bringing freedom to the Indian sub-continent.
According to the author, Mr. Yousaf, people have been reading false history of the freedom of Indian sub-continent. It is sad that people only know about the All-India Muslim League and the Indian National Congress leadership’s role in the freedom movement, whereas Allama Mashriqi and the Khaksars’ sufferings and rigorous fight against the British Raj in Pakistan and India have been buried, in order to give the full credit of independence to the two formerly mentioned political parties. This is also evident from the fact that access to original documents in National Archives of Pakistan and India is terrible.
The author said, “it must be realized that behind partition were vested interests of Muslim and non-Muslim leaders. Endorsement of partition breeds hatred between Muslims and Hindus and serves no purpose; therefore, writers and speakers must shun the justification of partition. To obtain peace in the region, the history of both countries needs to be rectified and re-written; peace in the region will not be found, unless it is realized on both sides (India and Pakistan) that partition was not endorsed by the majority of Muslims and Hindus. Partition was a blunder and was sought to meet political ends.”
The author’s published works unequivocally give new shape to the existing narrative of the freedom movement and, indeed, compel historians to re-visit the history of the Indian sub-continent.
Historian Nasim Yousaf comes from a renowned family of the Indian sub-continent and is a grandson of the pre-eminent Allama Mashriqi (world-known scholar, mathematician and founder of the Khaksar Tehrik). He is also a nephew of globally recognized social scientist Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan (both Allama Mashriqi and Dr. A.H. Khan were nominated for the Nobel Prize; Mashriqi for Literature for his book “Tazkirah” and Dr. Khan for Peace for his rural development and poverty alleviation projects). Mr. Yousaf is an expert on the Khaksar Movement and is the author of 10 books, many articles in the press, and works in scholarly journals; he has also presented at conferences in the USA.

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