Books and Documents

Islam and the Media

Pakistan Bans Website on 'Liberal' Islam
Neha Pushkarna, Daily Mail, London

Pakistan Bans Website on 'Liberal' Islam
Neha Pushkarna

Selling new-age Islam to Pakistan is a daunting task. For Sultan Shahin, who runs a liberal-view website with the same name, it proved to be futile.

Shahin's newageislam.com - a Delhi-based online resource on Islam - has been banned in Pakistan for being 'too liberal' as well as critical of the contemporary interpretation of the 1,400-year-old religion.

Shahin's multilingual website, started in 2008, was banned in Pakistan on June 30 this year. According to him, it was done on the directions of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority following the website's tirade against Talibani writings. ....

When the Screen Goes Blank
Mohammad Ali, The Hindu

“What is very interesting is that most of the blocked pages, apparently by the Pakistani authorities, talk about basic ideas of gender equality, Islam’s emphasis against terrorism and violence and its tolerance of dissent. How can these ideas be in any way against the welfare of any society or Islam? In fact, these ideas need to be talked about in order to create awareness about the essence of Islam,” said Mr. Shahin, who is planning to raise the issue with concerned authorities in India as well as Pakistan…..

The Entire New Age Islam Website Is Banned In Pakistan Now: New Age Islam Readers Understand Why?

Finally, the entire New Age Islam website has been banned in Pakistan. Readers in Pakistan informed us about an hour ago. After blocking one page, then 2/3, then 4/5, then 10 pages of New Age Islam in Pakistan, mostly pages from our Urdu and Arabic section, now the whole website is blocked. During the last week we have kept our readers informed of not only the pages blocked in Pakistan but also how our thousands of readers in Pakistan are beating the ban.  Indeed, one reader sent us a video of exactly how they are able to open blocked pages of New Age Islam in Pakistan.


We found the ban of a few pages in Urdu and Arabic a good opportunity to analyse why some particular pages of the website had been blocked and what does it tell us about the mindset of people who run the Pakistan government.  This led us to the conclusion that the Talibani elements in Pakistani army and the bureaucracy probably forced PTA, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, to ban some of the ‘offensive’ and ‘objectionable’ pages of New Age Islam. It was perhaps then that the Pakistan government woke up  to the realisation that blocking only specific pages could send the 'wrong' message that the Talibani elements were behind the ban as the articles that were blocked only hurt the interests of Taliban and other extremist and Salafist-Wahhabi forces in Pakistan.


 This would clearly show that the pages were blocked not because it hurt the interests of Pakistani nation but because the articles refuted and opposed the un-Islamic views of Taliban on suicide bombing, rights of Muslim women, on the education of girls and on the killing of Shias and other minorities in Pakistan by Taliban and on the power of peace. By banning the whole website now, they seem to be on a damage control mode. They want to create the impression that the website was banned because it published ‘offensive’ content and not specifically for publishing anti-Taliban content.  But the damage is already done and New Age Islam readers globally, particularly in Pakistan, have seen the real forces and motive behind the ban. .....

Pakistan Government Bans Some Pages of Multilingual Islamic Website New Age Islam: Not Difficult To See Why

The Pakistan government has banned some of the pages of New Age Islam including an article on Shah Rukh Khan in Urdu. This is another example of how Pakistan government gags the media in Pakistan. Journalists and reporters inside Pakistan have earlier been killed or incarcerated for exposing the wrong policies of Pakistan government. New Age Islam which has been in the forefront of the war against terrorism, fundamentalism and sectarianism has always criticised the wrong policies of successive Pakistan governments. It has also criticised and condemned its inactivity in protecting the rights of minorities in Pakistan. ...

Now the readers themselves can decide what was so objectionable in the column which irked the Pakistan government that they decided to block the page. The column had in fact not even been written by a New Age Islam columnist but by a conscientious Pakistani writer and had been posted in his blog.

If the Pakistan government does not like what is written in the column, and, of course, one can easily see why it won’t, it should strive to rid Pakistan of the social and political ills that have gripped the Pakistani society. But it can definitely not be done by allocating funds worth cores of rupees to the terrorist organizations like Hafiz Saeed’s Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba as the new Shahbaz Sharif government of Punjab has done recently following Nawaz Sharif’s victory at the national level with support from Islamist militants of Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba and the like…..

Pakistan’s Ban On Some New Age Islam Pages Points To Insidious Taliban Control Over Islamabad’s Policies: Which Articles Have Been Blocked And Why?
New Age Islam Edit Desk

It is a fact that all the articles go against the ideology of Taliban – the ideology of violence, subservient status of women, suicide bombing, persecution of minorities, etc. It should also be noted that the extremists and fundamentalist forces are active in Pakistan army as Adnan Rashid, a Pakistani terrorist having worked in the army, had disclosed in an interview in the Taliban’s English mouth piece Azan. Since New Age Islam had published an article to highlight this aspect of the Pakistan army’s activities, the Talibani/Jihadi elements in the military might have taken the initiative to block the pages of New Age Islam.

Since the new government has come to power with the tacit support of Taliban, the militants are clearly in the driving seat in the Nawaz Sharif government. Only the last week, the Punjab chief minister and PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif granted Rs 61 million to Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba, a terrorist organisation. The opening of the political bureau of Taliban in Qatar was facilitated by the government of Pakistan, according to a foreign office spokesman. The Pakistan government is pressing for the holding of dialogue between the US and Taliban though Karzai is opposed to it. The Pakistan government has released some powerful leaders of Taliban held by the previous government. All these developments point to the fact that the new government of Pakistan is being controlled by Taliban elements......


Please See A New Age Islam Reader's Ordeal In Pakistan, Struggling To Open Some Blocked Pages


Islamic Discourses in Cyberspace: Online Wahhabi Forums Fuel Vitriol, Promote Uninformed Fatwas, No Genuine Ijtihad
Corrie Mitchell

Khamis said that the growth of the online Islamic community has introduced the “threat of uninformed religious advice, or Fatwas, from online muftis” (interpreters of Muslim law). She said online forums tend to lack traditional Muslim scholars, and websites from authoritative voices “are not very well-visited websites.”...


In Bangladesh, Climate Worsens For Journalists
Sumit Galhotra

Many bloggers have stopped writing, and some have gone into hiding fearing for their life, according to a Dhaka-based blogger who did not want his name publicized due to security concerns. At least eight sites announced a blackout on the blogosphere in protest of the recent arrests and wider crackdown. One such site posted a notice that read: "Bangla Blogosphere begins blackout in protest against harassing and cracking down on bloggers."...


On April 8, the readers of the Urdu daily were shocked to see two press releases of the pro-Jamaat ideologue of Bengal published in the same daily. These press releases had already been published by another Urdu daily. But pro-Delawar fanatics were not satisfied. They wanted the press releases published in the same Urdu daily which published pro-Hasina editorials. It would be a befitting reply to the Pro-Hasina editor if a press release against him was published in his own newspaper. So, under threat or on the order of the owner of the newspaper who is a fruit merchant, the editor had to publish a press release in which he was called an ignoramus, an inexperienced and insane person who does not understand politics and does not know the truth. It might have been a huge embarrassment to a person working as an editor of an Urdu daily who had to publish something against himself, denigrating and ridiculing himself in his own newspaper. Never in the history of journalism has an editor been humiliated in this way. One should appreciate the fact that the editor has not committed suicide out of shame and humiliation….

Media Heading For Berlusconisation
Adeela Naureen and Umar Waqar

“The negative phenomenon of Berlusconisation is largely characterised by providing the audience with mainly sensational information and low-quality programmes such as obscene soap operas, talk shows, private monopolies in the broadcasting industry, as well as permanent control over the media and blatant partisanship in the media.”...


Press in Pakistan: From Persecution to Perks
Dr Mohammad Taqi

The policy goes on to add: “...journalists do not take part in politics...No staff member may seek public office anywhere. Seeking or serving in public office violates the professional detachment expected of a journalist. Active participation by one of our staff can sow a suspicion of favouritism in political coverage.”Absent the existence of such guidelines for many journals in Pakistan it usually is the conduct and advice of the editor and his/her discretion that may serve as a benchmark for the younger generation to emulate....


Media Depictions of Muslims Kill Two Birds with One Stone, Justifying Oppression At Home and Imperial Devastation Abroad
Belen Fernandez

It's not enormously difficult to see how such a climate would spawn record levels of anti-Muslim violence in the country. The de facto criminalisation of certain types of facial hair and other signifiers of Islamic piety is meanwhile aided and abetted by certain journalistic manoeuvres such as references to "bearded savages" and the like in the mainstream press. ....

Terrorism: Is Media A Watchdog Or Lapdog?
Dr Mohammad Taqi

The weekly asked the rabblerousing cleric that his outfit is known for chanting the slogan ‘Kafir, Kafir Shia Kafir (apostate, apostate, the Shia are apostate)’ in public rallies but does it not provoke the people to attack the Shia? Ludhianvi’s response was: “Kafir, Kafir Shia Kafir is just a slogan, like any other, such as Roti, Kapra aur Makaan (bread, clothing and shelter). It does not tell anyone to kill Shias....

India - Pakistan Relations and the Media
Seema Mustafa

This can come through high-level regular briefings where anchors are introduced to the many dimensions of a complex relationship and are made aware of the responsibilities that have to be attached to any reporting on India-Pakistan relations. Reporting cannot be without responsibility, particularly when instead of preaching peace, journalists today believe that advertisements come from waging war....


An Unconvincing Secularism at Karachi Literature Festival
Uthman Badar

The ambivalence he spoke of was the various positions on the nature of the state expressed by Jinnah, sometimes speaking of secularism whilst others times saying that the Islamic Sharia would be the basis of the state. In sum, the panel sung from the same hymn sheet, arguing that Pakistan must be secular, such that there is a clear separation of religion from state but people are allowed to practice whatever beliefs they chose....

Pakistan, Under Cultural Siege, Is Buoyed by Book Festivals
Declan Walsh

Assailed by jihadist attacks and the moral cudgels of religious conservatives, Lahore’s celebrated cultural vitality has waned somewhat in recent years. A famous kite-flying festival is no more; a performing arts festival vanished after being attacked; and music concerts take place in restricted circumstances. But last month, the city welcomed spring with a raucous new party — a celebration of books...


Karachi Literature Festival: Books, Bombs and Mangroves
Raza Rumi

....Prior to KLF, I had been most excited about conducting a session with him and another formidable talent, Vishal Bhartwaj, the avant-garde Indian filmmaker. The last time I had met Gulzar ji was at Ghalib's birthday celebrations at Delhi, where I walked with him like a shamelessly smitten fan. Ameena Saiyid read out Gulzar ji's letter in which he had apologized for his absence by saying, "Mujh se naraaz na hona"....


Pakistan: One of the Most Dangerous Countries in the World for Working Journalists
Irfan Ashraf

 Unlike the Taliban, the intelligence agencies have put in place a system in which journalists seem to be causing their own death by dissenting from the norm. Therefore, the consistent pattern of dumping journalists’ body bags along the roadside in Balochistan is a consequence of certain laid-out conditions, which compel state agencies to eliminate dissenting voices....


Pakistani Satire Refuses to Tackle the Military, the Intelligence Agencies and the Religious Extremists
Nadeem F. Paracha

For example, a show like Hum Sub Ummeed Se Hain by Dr Younis Butt is certainly able to leave a number of urbanites chuckling at the sight of politicians dancing to tweaked Bollywood tunes, or shown looting the ‘common man’, or being subservient to US dictates, but political satire this is not. Political satire is never populist. In fact it usually satirises populism.....


A Look Back at Media Coverage of Islam and Islamic Law in 2012
Krystina Friedlander

Many of the international stories this year focused on gender and sexuality: A French Muslim opened an LGBTQ-friendly mosque in Paris; transgender Muslims in Malaysia fought for expanded rights; Muslim clerics made it easier for women to obtain divorces in the Palestinian territories; UCLA law professor Khaled Abou El-Fadl commented on the tradition of female imams and women-led mosques in China; and there was considerable coverage of the experience of female athletes in the 2012 Olympics, as well as those pushing boundaries in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.


On Tuesday there is another political protest planned. I will have to go to the office. I will have to pass through the rally. Bombs will be thrown and I will run in fear. Then Chhatra League or any other student wing of political parties will mistake me for being a member of the other party and hack me to death.

Forty journalists from twenty TV channels and a similar number of print journalists, a large contingent of police personnel and general public will stand by and witness, photograph and take video footage of my brutal murder but even a hundred people will not stand up against a mere ten sword-wielding ruffians. The media will be busy garnering TRPs of their channels and increasing sales of their own newspapers and magazines. The price of my death will go up manifold as an enabler of their business advantage.

Freedom of Thought and Expression in Islam
Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef (Shahbaz Nadwi), New Age Isl

Freedom of Thought and Expression in Islam
Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef, New Age Islam

Freedom of thought and of speech is the most important value of modern age, rightly called summum bonum. According to which every man and woman has an unconditional and absolute right to express his or her mind, no matter whether he or she is right or wrong? The only condition they have is that one's freedom shouldn't cause a physical damage to others. No doubt that this freedom has its merits and demerits. And as one has a right to criticize its demerits, so also he ought to appreciate its merits and virtues too....

Top 10 Golden Rules To Write an Urdu Column
Sabir Nazar

Throw out all English literature, preferably sell it to Raddiwalah and buy a few red hardbound books with golden printing. Buy a few books of Urdu poets, preferably Allama Iqbal. The rest are easily available on footpaths on Sundays. These books will come in handy when you are starting a column. Keep a copy of Firozul lughat, a book with lot of fancy words and a cassette of a mullah from the local mosque….

While at public meetings Hafiz Saeed and other leaders of his organisation unmistakably breathe fire, his TV appearances are marked by a measured tone and a fairly plausible line of argument. But it is social media where JuD’s sophistication becomes apparent. Earlier this week, Hindustan Times carried a story that Ziaur Rehman Lakhvi, one of the key accused facing trial for the Mumbai carnage in Rawalpindi’s Adiyala prison, has fathered a child during his four-year incarceration....


Pakistan’s Urdu Dailies: The ‘Wrath’ Of Words
D Asghar

The Urdu newspaper columns were littered with rebuke and it was mostly on the line of ‘divine lesson to the evil Umreeka’ (America) theme repeated over and over again. I was reminded of a Sufi poet’s Punjabi line back then. “Dushman maray tay khuskhi na kariyey, Sajana wee marr jaana” (Do not rejoice on the death of your enemy as your friends are going to perish too). Little did I know that this line would resonate with many of my fellow Pakistani brethren within weeks of Katrina. ...


Arab States in Transition and the Role of the Media
Asiem El-Difraoui

The Arab Spring took both regional potentates and the West by surprise. For years, the pan-Arabic news broadcaster Al-Jazeera was regarded either as a mouthpiece for Bin Laden or as Saddam Hussein TV. Then, with the start of the transformations in Arab countries in early 2011, it was seen as the station of freedom. At the same time, talk of Facebook revolutions and YouTube uprisings were all the rage....

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