Books and Documents

Islam and the Media

The writer Taslima Nasrin has hit out at a "growing cancer" afflicting Indian society, identifying a increasing "appetite for censorship" after the second high profile literary event in less than a month was cancelled amid concerns over security. "Writers and artists have become the soft targets of religious extremists," she said. "The authority tries to appease either Hindu fanatics or Muslim fanatics in India.

SOUTHASIA Magazine (Pakistan) wins the nomination for the 2012-Genesis Awards. This is an Oscar equivalent given to Media for promoting the case for Animal Rights. SOUTH ASIA magazine (Pakistan) "Importance of Animals in Islam" by an Islamic Scholar Nilofar Ahmed, "Animal Ethics and Social Justice " by a Supreme Court Lawyer Anees Jillani, and a commentary by Syed Rizvi a regular contributor on New Age Islam. The articles by Nilofar Ahmed and Anees Jillani was already posted on NewAgeIslam.com’s site: ...

This is exactly why in traditional newsrooms there exists a firewall between the editorial and marketing divisions. The corporate side of the media house has to look at the balance sheet, but expecting the journalist to do the same is not only unfair, it undercuts the very basis of journalistic principles. Proprietors who treat their media business like any other business end up falling into this trap,...

Mitti pao” (just forget about it),” the senior grave-digger shrugged his shoulders as he busied himself with his latest earthy assignment in a cemetery which was still open to the public. “Why should it bother us whether it is the Farishta government or the Shaheed? We do not discriminate, do we? We have no business with the immortals. And we know both the Farishtas and the Shaheeds are immortal … Mitti pao.”-- Ashaar Rehman (photo: Saadat Hasan Manto)

Pakistan’s media were accused of glorifying the killer of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer who had criticised controversial blasphemy laws. And when a cleric called on TV for a member of the minority Ahmedi sect to be killed, there was little outcry when someone did so the following day. Some subjects, it seems, are deemed too risky for comment by the media. -- Nosheen Abbas 

That’s why an isolated study of BSO and its factions can help one understand just what has made the Baloch nationalist sentiment to continue simmering for more than 40 years, despite the fact that violent action from the Pakistan military, in-fighting within the Baloch movement, and (ever since the 1980s), the ‘state-sponsored’ introduction of radical Islamist groups in Balochistan, have left the long-running Baloch nationalist movement a tough and multifaceted thing to comprehend. -- Nadeem F Paracha


A more recent example has been that of Mr Shamsul Anwar and his reportedly fraudulent story of the kidnapping of his daughter. Irresponsible journalism has affected scores of people in Pakistan, perhaps because most journalists have never studied the subject itself. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth (read: assemble facts and verify them) Its first loyalty is to the citizen (read: not to any political party or politician). Its essence is the discipline of verification (read: separate yourself from fiction, propaganda, and entertainment. -- Zoha Waseem

Among the rising global digital elite, there''''s a widespread awareness that the networked space that hovers over the geographic space is no less real. If you buy music online from a digital music store, for example, it''''s no less real than physically going to a local music store - or, for that matter, working for a New York law firm from Delhi, Kolkata or Chennai. As more and more people experience activities through an internet telepresence, they are unlikely to care about what is American, what is Indian, and what is Chinese. -- Narain D Batra


It must be soon after he arrived in Pakistan that Manto composed an open letter to Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, reminding him that he too was a Kashmiri pandit, highborn and thus his equal. Therefore, since he, a Muslim, had left India, Nehru must vacate Muslim-majority Kashmir, asserted Manto. That was perhaps the only time he bluntly subscribed to the underlying logic of the Two-Nation Theory. -- Ishtiaq Ahmed

One point that the entire Muslim community will want to watch is that there is the potential for an application for .Islam or .Muslim. ICANN claims that “community” applicants will be given preference for such a registration. ICANN regulations have provisions for government vetoes as well as public objection and arbitration procedures designed to prevent any domain getting into the wrong hands. It is essential that Muslims are active in following any application for a gTLD associated with their faith. -- Molouk Y Ba-Isa

There is no doubt that the Bombay cinema has on the whole played a very progressive role in upholding the vision of India as a multi-religious, pluralist society. The authors identify four genres of Islamicate cultures taken up in Bombay cinema: the Muslim historical, the Muslim courtesan film, the classic Muslim social and the new wave Muslim social and after. The authors theorise that Bombay cinema has explored these genres in the light of the secular-nationalist state project associated with the Congress-led freedom movement, which came to be known as the Nehruvian state project.  -- Ishtiaq Ahmed

"Pakistan remained the deadliest country for the press for a second year ... with the seven deaths in Pakistan marking the heaviest losses in a single nation." Journalists in Pakistan have a tough job, especially those who continue reporting/writing/analysing boldly, despite the dangers they face. My country is beset with terrorism, religious extremism, militancy; it is also a place where the army can get away with anything and everything. -- Mehmal Sarfraz

In a land where communal riots, honour killings are prevalent, liberty to indulge in religious, personal or social slander on social media is risky. The media in India has evolved though not to the desired levels of freedom but relatively to improved levels of freedom. It might be negation of the concept of freedom of press if the government actually enacts and uses the law to censor the unpalatable. That having been said, the whole concept of the social media is different from the traditional media as symbolised by newspapers, television etc. These types of media have a physical presence and are accountable to the society and to the laws of the land. Social media, on the other hand, is partly real and partly a virtual world, dominated by fake accounts and absolutely no accountability. -- Sajad Gani Lone

In recent weeks New Age Islam has posted on its web-site two very fine Animal Rights articles. They are:  Importance of Animals in Islam by Nilofar Ahmed, who cites scripture to demonstrate how Islam places great emphasis on the well-being of animals.  www.newageislam.com/NewAgeIslamArticleDetail.aspx?ArticleID=6057 Considering Islamic culture as part of  the fabric of the whole region, including the Middle East [and even India], an  article of this caliber is most likely going to raise the consciousness of  people concerning the inhumane treatment of animals that has become commonplace to the degree that atrocities committed against animals are hardly recognized as such. On a secular note, there is another article in which Anees Jillani (a Lawyer at the Pakistani Supreme Court) relates animal exploitation to the oppression of humans: www.newageislam.com/NewAgeIslamArticleDetail.aspx?ArticleID=5991 ... Such is the route South Asia magazine and other Pakistani media outlets seem to be taking by inviting thinkers and writers from within Pakistan to entertain this topic. Among the Muslim media, New Age Islam, with its vast membership reaching to the remotest corner of the globe, is doing its part in getting the word out where the other Islamic media might not have been able to reach.-- Syed Rizvi

Future wars will be fought in the mediascape. Does that mean there is no space for credible reporting anymore? "How can the western media say anything about a war without having covered it from either of the fronts?" I applied for permission to visit the front. The Chinese promised they would try. Two days later, they said a visit to the war front was not possible. I rushed to Bangkok where the ever helpful Abid Hussain (who retired as Ambassador to US) introduced me to a scion of the distinguished Bao Dai family who obtained for me the priceless visa for Hanoi in a jiffy. In Hanoi, the all-powerful secretary general of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Xuan Thuy, arranged for me to be driven to a vantage point on the hill with a commanding view of Lang Son where the most decisive battle of the war was fought. The celebrating, rejoicing soldiers in Lang Son confirmed Vietnam's victory. "How can the western media say anything without having covered the war from either of the fronts?" I asked. I was the only foreign correspondent in Vietnam. The Chinese had refused to allow reporters on the front. -- Saeed Naqvi


"A cousin of mine committed suicide just two days after starting a new job in Oman. Another cousin who worked in a cattle feed factory went missing for four months. I knew there would be hundreds of cases like this." He was wrong: It turns out there are thousands of such stories. Most stories revolve around trying to locate a missing husband. Huge migration flows from southern India over the past three decades, of mostly men in search of jobs, has left millions of so-called "Gulf wives" stuck in their communities, raising their children alone and entirely dependent on remittances from their overseas partners. When things go wrong, these women have nowhere to turn and no safety net to fall back on.-- Bhanu Bhatnagar

Contrary to popular perception, Urdu is not the language of Muslims. It was a lashkari (soldier) language (the word ‘Urdu’ comes from the Turkish word ‘ordu’ meaning ‘camp’ or ‘army’), nourished during the period of Mughal emperor Shahjahahn. It had words from Persian and local languages. The purpose was to make communication easy among soldiers who were from different places: Arab, Turk and locals. Based on the Khariboli dialect of Delhi and Western Uttar Pradesh in the Indian subcontinent, Urdu developed under local Persian, Arabic, and Turkic influence over the course of almost 900 years. It began to take shape in what is now Uttar Pradesh, India during the Delhi Sultanate (1206–1527), and continued to develop under the Mughal Empire (1526–1858). The first newspaper of Urdu language was Jam-i-Jahan-Numa, founded by Harihar Dutta in 1822 in Kolkata (then Calcutta). -- Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee


They say that being outside a picture helps in one’s understanding of what we see. What I have so far gathered from the western and global news media is that Gaddafi was an oppressor, a criminal, somehow responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, being involved in the buying and supply of arms, leading an extravagant lifestyle, shabby sense of dressing, eccentricity and so forth -- the usual markers of any dictator. However, having been exposed to only one side of the story, not many people bother with the how, the why and the ground realities -- the obvious is overlooked, and the good done is forgotten. Why I question the reasons behind the Libyans’ detestation of this leader, is because nowhere have I heard or read so far what this ‘monster’ dictator did for his country. The prosperity of Libya under the Gaddafi regime is something that the media has done its utmost to overshadow, so as to avoid depicting Gaddafi in any positive light. With policies like free education, zero unemployment, grants and scholarships for studies abroad, free and best healthcare in all of Africa, a one-time startup capital for any new business venture, a fixed sum of money for every newly-wed couple to buy accommodation, unbilled electricity, yearly growth in GDP, and not to forget Libya’s riches in oil and gas wealth, it sounds to me like a model economy. Therefore, to say or to ridicule Gaddafi to the extent of utterly vilifying his personal character, full of idiosyncrasies of course, and discrediting the economic successes of his regime, is unmerited and for these services for the Libyan people, he deserves at least some respect. -- Mahrukh Malik

I could go on and list many other problems. After all, we have just seen that the judge who sentenced Mumtaz Qadri has had to go into hiding for applying the law. We have just seen multiple sectarian attacks on the law-abiding, nonviolent Hazaras by that absolutely bestial terrorist organisation, Lashkar-e Jhangvi. For several days now I have been subjected to a string of calumnious emails that describe Najam Sethi, long-time friend and one of the best editors I have worked with, as an American agent. It has been said that Najam is presenting some ideas which are against Pakistan’s national interest and he is doing this because he wants to become an American citizen. I have no interest in what Najam might be seeking, if at all, because I know nothing about that. I am interested in his arguments. When I worked with Najam I often disagreed with him. At the same time, I know of no other chief editor who would have let someone write as freely as I did. If there is one thing which I am certain of, it is this: Najam is a patriot through and through; certainly more patriotic than those who have chosen to mount low attacks on his person and his family. -- Ejaz Haider


The claim of Hindutva forces that there was a Ram Temple there, which was demolished by Mughal Emperor Babar to build a mosque has been refuted by many a scholars and film makers. Many a valuable documentaries have also weighed the claims of RSS family about the Ram Temple being there at the Babri mosque and that it was a birth place of Ram. This yet another film on the topic not only demolishes the claims of Ram Temple and birth place of Ram, but also brings to our attention, in a serious way the claims of Buddhists that whole Ayodhya was the place of Buddhists and that many a Buddha places have been destroyed by king Pushyamitra Shung and others, who undertook to wipe away Buddhism form India. In a more profound way the film establishes the symbolism of demolishing Babri Masjid, not just being anti Muslim, but also anti Dalit also. -- Ram Puniyani


In The American Way of War, Engelhardt documents Washington's ongoing commitment to military bases to preserve and extend its empire; reveals damning information about the American reliance on air power, at great cost to civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan; and shows that the US empire has deep historical roots that precede the Bush administration--and continue today in the presidency of Barack Obama. “There are a lot of ways to describe Tom Engelhardt’s astonishing service to this country’s conscience and imagination: you could portray him as our generation’s Orwell, standing aside from all conventional framings to see afresh our dilemmas and blind spots, as the diligent little boy sending in regular dispatches on the nakedness of the emperor and his empire, as a Bodhisattva dedicated to saving all beings through compassion and awareness, but analogies don’t really describe the mix of clear and sometimes hilarious writing, deep insight, superb information, empathy and outrage that has been the core of Tom’s TomDispatches for almost a decade, or the extraordinary contribution they’ve made to the American dialogue. Check out this bundle of some of the best from that time span.”-- David Swanson


The journalistic discourse in "Al-Ahram" displays both positive and negative characteristics in the portrayal of the West. The negative aspects of medial perception emerge in particular in the idea of a "hegemonic demeanour", while the positive aspects are based on terminology such as "scientific superiority", "reason" and "technical progress". The international edition of "Al-Hayat" presents a similar image of the West to its Muslim Arab readership, although "Al-Hayat" sets greater store by political ideas than by daily political events. -- Maurice Abu Nader


During the months of public argument about how to deal with Saddam Hussein, I christened an imaginary association of pundits the I-Can’t-Believe-I’m-a-Hawk Club, made up of liberals for whom 9/11 had stirred a fresh willingness to employ American might. It was a large and estimable group of writers and affiliations, including, among others, Thomas Friedman of The Times; Fareed Zakaria, of Newsweek; George Packer and Jeffrey Goldberg of The New Yorker; Richard Cohen of The Washington Post; the blogger Andrew Sullivan; Paul Berman of Dissent; Christopher Hitchens of just about everywhere; and Kenneth Pollack, the former C.I.A. analyst whose book, “The Threatening Storm,” became the liberal manual on the Iraqi threat. The question is really two questions: Knowing what we know now, with the glorious advantage of hindsight, was it a mistake to invade and occupy Iraq? And knowing what we knew then, were we wrong to support the war? American impotence left by Ho Chi Minh and “Black Hawk Down.” We were, as Andrew Sullivan put it, “enamored of [our] own morality.”-- Bill Keller

Dialectic vs Dogma
Irfan Husain

In today’s Pakistan, it is becoming almost impossible to hold a rational discussion about any important subject. The level of polarisation is such that people now hold forth without bothering to understand the other point of view: more and more, we talk at each other instead of to each other. This is paralleled by a progressive dumbing down of the public discourse, the inevitable result of a failing educational system. More and more, watching political chat shows on one of our many TV channels is becoming a painful experience: the intolerance for other opinions, and the lack of common courtesy, are faithful indicators of Pakistan’s downward spiral. In this environment of loud sermonising and strident opinions that lack coherence and logic, is writing a regular column relevant at all? Perhaps not. But for entirely selfish reasons, I suppose I’ll continue until ill health or an editorial edict stops me. Writing forces me to read and think about current affairs, and imposes a certain discipline and structure on my day. I suspect this is especially important as one grows older, and is no longer bound by a nine-to-five routine. -- Irfan Husain


Less than a dozen corporations and six Hollywood Majors control global flow of informational and cultural products. Most of them based in the United States, dominate the world market From Soviet experience to current Iranian regime, one concludes that state-control of media is not desirable. It stifles freedom of expression, hence, incompatible with democratic ideals. Democracy and an informed public are concomitant. But this does not mean masses are more informed when media are privately control. Consider the events that took place in the Observer newsroom in autumn 2002: Ed Vulliamy, was informed by Mell Goodman, a former CIA analyst, that, in contradiction to everything the British and American governments had claimed, the CIA were reporting that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. Goodman was willing to go on the record as a named source. This was an incredibly important scoop at a time yet the Observer refused to run the story. Over the next four months, Vulliamy submitted seven versions of his article – his editors rejected them all (David and David 2009: 5). Simultaneously, on the other side of Atlantic, Phil Donahue, host of Donahue on MSNBC from 2002 to 2003, despite having the highest ratings of any show on MSNBC, had his programme cancelled on February 25, 2003. -- Farooq Sulehria

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