Books and Documents

Islam and the Media

Today, Urdu and the writers and journalists that use it as a language of communication are reaping like never before the fruits of canny politicians’ new-found "love" for them. Newspaper and magazine anniversaries, book launches, mushairas, felicitation of authors—virtually every Urdu function these days is bankrolled by the political brigade. The mantra among Urdu writers is: if you want to hold an event but don’t have the wherewithal, don’t worry. Call a politician. ...

And of course minority politics has to play a role in politicians’ increasing patronage to Urdu papers. "Minority politics has turned Urdu into Musalman," observes poet-lyricist Nida Fazli. "The Maharashtra government has shifted the Urdu Academy from the cultural department to the minority department as if to confirm the ludicrous myth that Urdu belongs to Muslims alone. They have forgotten Urdu’s tall Hindu writers like Premchand, Ratan Nath Sarshar and Dayashankar Naseem. Fazli adds that if any language belongs exclusively to Muslims, it is Arabic, not Urdu, because the Quran was revealed in Arabic while Urdu is a product of India’s Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (composite culture). -- Mohammed Wajihuddin | TNN


The thirst of the vicious cabals in the media and religio-political parties were not quenched by Taseer’s blood. Now they are out to get a centre-right politician, a rather devout Muslim: the former prime minister of Pakistan and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Mian Nawaz Sharif is the object of their latest venomous barrage. His fault is to have candidly given a roadmap for peace between Pakistan and India at the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) seminar in Lahore last week. Dunya TV anchor Meher Bokhari, Jamaat-e-Islami’s Siraj-ul-Haq and the charlatan Zaid Hamid then ganged up to verbally lynch Nawaz Sharif. This vitriol by the media, mullahs and the military stooges was a sordid game of snakes-and-ladders: just when a politician is about get past the security state paradigm, the snakes bite him down all the way to square one. Allegations ranging from being a sell out to India and betraying Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal’s vision to violating the oath to uphold this vision were hurled at Nawaz Sharif. -- Dr Mohammad Taqi


The troops may be disaffected Libyans but the operation is under the control and direction of NATO commanders and western commando units who serve as “advisors.” “The cumulative effect [of NATO’s coordinated air and ground operation] not only destroyed Libya’s military infrastructure but also greatly diminished Colonel Gaddafi’s commanders to control forces, leaving even committed fighting units unable to move, resupply or coordinate operations,“ reports the New York Times in a celebratory article on August 22. If that were the real motivation of the NATO powers, they could start the bombing of Saudi Arabia right away. There are no elections in Saudi Arabia. The monarchy does not even allow women to drive cars. By law, women must be fully covered in public or they will go to prison. Protests are rare in Saudi Arabia because any dissent is met with imprisonment, torture and execution. -- Brian Becker


WHAT else this week but loud applause for Nawaz Sharif for so courageously advocating peace with India at a recently held seminar ‘Building bridges in the subcontinent’ in Lahore? And utter condemnation for a private TV channel’s vitriolic host and her hate-filled red-capped guest who is known to be a propagandist of the Deep State, for their shrill and nasty attacks upon the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) that arranged the seminar, generally, and Mr Sharif particularly, merely because he held out the hand of friendship to India? It was a speech that should have been made by a man who as prime minister had the Indian prime minister, Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, come to Lahore and give a friendly and conciliatory speech at Minar-i-Pakistan, no less, calling for peace and amity between India and Pakistan. -- Kamran Shafi


Of all the journalists on Urdu television, Najam Sethi can see farthest. He edits what is to my mind the best weekly newspaper in South Asia, and brings analysis and clarity of uncommon quality to his audience. His partner, young Muneeb Farooq, is thoughtful and likeable, and will likely get a bigger role (than just questioning Sethi) in time. Geo was wise to ship him along when they lured Sethi from his Dunya TV perch. The absence of English news television hurts Pakistan. Urdu does not make for unemotional debate, and Pakistan has skewered languages like Gujarati that have a vocabulary of compromise.--Aakar Patel


Data is rarely communicated by Pakistan’s kaalumnigar and tajziyakar. They write to express anguish, with little reference to facts. Breasts are beaten daily over drone attacks without acknowledging Major General Ghayur Mehmood’s numbers-led briefing that most of those killed are terrorists. Suicide bombings are referred to once in newspapers, for the event, and then passed over.There is little attempt to connect the dots of the thousands of attacks and to come to the understanding the rest of the world has arrived at about Pakistan. It is a parallel universe in which the Pakistani is kept warm and insulated from the uncomfortable world of facts. The Urdu writer’s problem is that the world is clearly wrong and Pakistan alone is right, but for some reason the world is unable to grasp this.--Aakar Patel

The myth of “Islamic terrorism” — diligently nurtured by the mainstream Jewish-controlled journalists in the US and Europe and their misguided cousins in the Indian media — has been busted by a report prepared by the European Police Organization (Europol). From 2007 to 2010, the data shows, Muslim radicals were only responsible for six strikes in the continent, while separatists and extreme right-wing groups like neo-Nazis carried out a shocking 1,326 terror acts, mostly in France and Spain. To the utter chagrin of Hindutva leaders in India, he provided the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad websites as references for more information — making one wonder if there is the slightest difference in the opinions, goals, thoughts and stances of Breivik and the Hindu radicals.-- Syed Tauseef Ausaf

This disregard for a fundamental tenet of good journalism pains me deeply. I am a Syrian national and have been a correspondent of Al Arabiya for the past two decades. These have been decades of turmoil in my part of the world. I have therefore, perforce, spent most of this time covering wars and insurgencies. In all this time I have never knowingly violated the cardinal rule of good journalism, which is to verify my information before airing it – check and countercheck it and do my best not to mislead viewers. To me, therefore, it is all the more distressing to see these principles being treated so casually by so many of my long-time colleagues. Today, my country is threatened with turmoil and destruction at a time when it is the last beacon of secularism and modernity in the Arab world. -- Waiel Awwad

Aziz Burney’s ‘defeat’ does not augur well for the Urdu media. It has vindicated the charge that Urdu media has a paranoid psyche and hallucinates the ghost of conspiracy in every affair and does not have faith in the government, the security agencies and the army. Indeed, even a casual reading of practically any Urdu newspaper creates the impression that Indian Muslims are in a state of Jihad against their own country. Rashtriya Sahara had ostensibly emerged as a strong voice of the minorities as it had seemingly carried extensive research and investigations into stories of the victims of terrorism, riots and social oppression of every kind. However, in its defence and praise of Karkare and his two colleagues who were killed during the Mumbai attacks, the daily went much beyond journalistic boundaries and, in the usual way the Urdu Press functions, wrote something it could not back with solid evidence and proof, also without bothering if it was damaging national interest. -- New Age Islam Edit Desk

‘..The Pakistani media had made a hue and cry, smelling a conspiracy to malign a Pakistani artist and in doing so they crossed all the limits of diplomacy and decency competing with each other in their show of love of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. But not long ago, a popular English newspaper of Pakistan had come out with ‘a startling investigative report’ that said that Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was an agent of the Indian Intelligence agency RAW. In one of its many ‘special reports’ the newspaper churns out regularly, it carries a report with the headline, ‘RAW wants to hire Rahat for projects striking at Two Nations theory’. -- Dr Irfan Waheed, NewAgeIslam.com

Prior to the Internet, terrorists had to depend on conventional TV or print channels to reach their intended audience. This had some inherent difficulties. Firstly, it limited the theatre of operations to areas where the media could reach fast independently. But this meant that the security forces could also get there just as fast. Secondly, media would play the story the way they wanted it, which sometimes meant censoring the more horrific footages and also painting the terrorists in criminal brushstrokes rather than the ideological positioning terrorists craved. Another problem with the conventional media was that they could be state-controlled or at the very least influenced. In some notable cases, the media had even cooperated with the government by withholding information or feeding misinformation to confuse the terrorists. -- Raghu Raman


You may lionise him as an ardent ‘defender of the faith’ or detest him as a pugnacious demagogue, but Zakir Naik is one person you just cannot be indifferent to. Based in Mumbai, this doctor-turned-‘Islamic’ missionary-to-the-world-at-large presides over a vast media empire, centred on his Peace TV channel that is avidly watched by literally millions of viewers across the world. Naik’s forte lies in his practised ability to readily denounce other religions and to thereby, at least in the eyes of his awe-struck admirers, prove the superiority of (his own brand of) Islam.

Most non-Muslims who have seen Naik blabber on television, instinctively find him repulsive, or so I would hope and imagine. But Naik’s share of critics is now rapidly expanding to include not just non-Muslims and sensible, liberal, progressive-minded Muslims who are disgusted with his obnoxious tactics and what they regard as his warped and supremacist interpretation of their faith, but, curiously enough, a growing number of influential mullahs or ‘Islamic’ clerics as well. Their grouse against him, apparent from their statements and writings, is not his vituperative attacks on other faiths that so embarrasses Naik’s liberal Muslim critics. Rather, it has almost everything to do with the challenge that Naik poses to their claims of being the sole arbiters of ‘Islamic authenticity’.

Last month, the Mumbai-based monthly Eastern Crescent carried a cover story that summed up, fairly neatly, the arguments of a growing number of mullahs against Naik. The magazine is one of its kind, the mouthpiece of an influential section of Deobandi mullahs. It is probably the only English language periodical that is almost entirely mullah-run. Its editor, all its senior staff and almost all its writers are madrassa-trained mullahs, all of them graduates of the Darul Uloom, Deoband, the largest and probably most influential madrassa in the world. Its founder and chief patron, the Assamese millionaire and politician Badruddin Ajmal Qasmi, is a graduate of the Deoband madrassa and a member of its central governing council--- Yoginder Sikand

A National Day of the holy warrior Mumtaz Ghazi was celebrated at the call of Almi Tanzeem Ahle Sunnat and other religious organisations. The scholars of Islam from all over the country shed light on importance and significance of the Blasphemy Laws. The Cetral Amir of Markaz Ahle Sunnat Peer Mohammad Afzal Qadri and other scholars said that the blasphemer deserved to be killed (wajibul qatl) irrespective of whether he was a Muslim or non-Muslim. The governor was killed because of his irresponsible statements, he said. On the occasion, the Almi Ahle Sunnat announced that Mumtaz Qadri will be conferred the Gazi-e-Islam Award and they will fight his case. Moreover, they will build his memorial in the Namoos-e-Risalat Campus. The Central Ameer of Jamat Ahle Sunnat Pakistan Syed Mazhar Sayeed Kazmi, Central General Secretary Allama Syed Reyaz Hussain Shah, Mufti Md Iqbal Chishti, Pir Md Safdar Shah Geelani, Allama Shah Turabul Haq Qadri and Nawaz Kharal expressed their deep concern over the news of torture on Mumtaz Qadri.” -- New Age Islam Edit Desk

NEW DELHI: Today marked the launch of a new Urdu daily Jadeed Mail from Delhi. Under the editorship of seasoned journalist Zafar Agha, it is expected to fill a gap in the Delhi Urdu media, that of a forward-looking newspaper, seeking to guide the Muslims on lines of modernity. It is not just its name and the presence of a well-informed journalist as editor that gives us this hope. This newspaper is the translation of a dream into reality seen by philanthropist Haji Abdur Razzaq Marhoom whose son Mr. Abdul Malik will be running the show with the recent sudden death of his father. Haji Saheb is well-known in Haldawani, U. P.  for running colleges and now a major madrasa that not only gives its students religious education but also arms them to face the world with a variety of vocational training, so that they do not become dependent on mosques and other madrasas for their upkeep as is the case with the products of other madrasas. 

What also gives hope is that Mr. Zafar Agha has begun his innings as editor-in-chief with a front page editorial asking Muslim parents in Delhi to get their kids admitted into schools, even government-run schools, if they can’t afford to pay for the private ones. He started his write-up beautifully explaining the meaning and significance in Islam of the first word revealed to Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) Iqra (meaning: Read). He bemoans the fact that despite Islam’s overwhelming stress on education, Muslims constitute the most uneducated section of the country. -- New Age Islam Edit Desk

The responsibility to perpetuate the truth falls squarely on each one of us, indeed, we have to maintain a balance and build cohesive societies. We cannot let nations, societies and communities come apart over divisive issues, whether we are Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs or others, we cannot let the statistically insignificant few to represent us, neither our silence should be construed as an endorsement of the views of the few.

Malik Mumtaz Qadri shot the very person he was to guard; Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer. The governor was faulted by him for speaking out against the blasphemy laws, a few men have welcomed this killing and have hailed Qadri as a “Hero” for defending the honor of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and showered him with rose petals, a cultural symbol of honor.

An appeal was circulated seeking justice for blasphemy-accused Asia Bibi of Pakistan, of the thousands on my list, three wrote, "Do you know what are you are going to lose — both the worlds perhaps?" Another one writes, "Islamically, insults and abuses against the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) count as acts of war and rebellion against a justly created Islamic entity. The Qur'an commands terrible punishment for such acts of war. "Finally, the third one writes, "Salman Taseer was a shame on Islam".

Islam forbids killing anyone, unless it is in self-defense and it is indeed a morbid sin to commit suicide. This statement breeds an enormous confusion among a few Muslims and non-Muslims, they want to know what to believe, what the radicals are doing in the name of Islam or the ones who say they are misrepresenting it.

There is an old saying, “evil thrives in the world unchecked because good people do nothing about it” and the purpose of writing this article is to invoke the goodness in people to speak up--- Mike Ghouse

Today the Indian Urdu newspapers made Digvijay Singh’s phone records and its political implications, the forthcoming assembly elections in UP and the maneuverings of the political parties to woo Muslim votes and the political crisis in Pakistan following the withdrawal of support by MQM subjects of their editorials. It was shocking that the assassination of the governor of Punjab in Pakistan Salman Taseer by a fanatic defender of the anti-Islamic blasphemy laws was completely ignored by the Urdu press in India. Clearly, introspection of any kind is far from the minds of Urdu journalists. -- New Age Islam Edit Desk

The media in Pakistan is fast turning into a self-serving (rather than public-serving) industry — an industry that glorifies itself, is self-righteous and, most discomforting of all, has a huge persecution complex. -- Talha Jalal


The media have been criticized for giving Terry Jones and his Koran-burning scheme publicity. But the Web has changed the media landscape. Ignoring the event wasn't an option, media experts say.

But can a pastor, no matter how inconsequential, burn the sacred scriptures of another faith without notice in today’s interconnected world? The Associated Press, at least, appeared to take the criticism to heart. Before the event was called off, AP had announced that it was not going to distribute images or audio that specifically showed Korans being burned. But the pre-Internet days of a single news outlet guiding media coverage are gone, says Kevin Lerner of Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y, who has studied the history of journalism. Journalism is in a new, democratized era of information-gathering, he says. If a single religious “crackpot” anywhere in the depths of America’s backwoods decides to burn a Koran, and even one person is there with a cellphone to upload the image, then it enters the larger flow of content that travels everywhere, he notes. -- Gloria Goodale

Alongside Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, Tunisia is, under the undivided power of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, right up there on the hit list of most repressive countries with respect to freedom of expression.

When the Tunisian journalist Tawfik Ben Brik was freed after six months in jail for criticising the presidential "elections", we discovered that the appeal hearing of his colleague Fahem Boukadous was postponed until June 22nd due to continued hospital treatment.

Boukadous had been sentenced to four years in prison for his coverage of violent labour demonstrations in the Gafsa mining region for a satellite broadcaster. In his case, the regime did not even think it necessary to fake a trial using every trick in the book, as they were wont to do for Ben Brik and the human rights activist Zouhaïer Makhlouf, victim of a proper beating at the hands of Tunis police officers on April 24th. -- Hamid Skif

A team of prolific writers re-launched the Viewpoint on May 21, 2010, as an e-zine with the purpose of building and strengthening progressive forces, not merely in Pakistan, but in the region. Their ideology is the same: they are opposed to militarism, fundamentalism, or imperialism. According to the editor of the Viewpoint, Adnan Farooq, the re-launch signifies a re-emergence of left ideas in Pakistan. It is an attempt to build a space for alternative voices, dissidents, radicals, feminists, democratic socialists, environmentalists, trade unionists, nationalists, minorities and all those who are ignored in mainstream media. In his words, the motivation behind the re-launch "is an attempt to say: struggle goes on!" He is extremely humbled to be a part of this venture and, according to him, this is too big a legacy for the present team to justifiably claim as its own, especially at such an early stage. They are trying their best to uphold the journalistic traditions of late Mazhar Ali Khan. -- Minahil Zafar


Islamabad - In a landmark development in Pakistan’s expansive media landscape, over 50 FM radio stations across the country have established a formal community of peace and pledged to use the airwaves to promote peace, development and social empowerment in local communities.

The establishment of The Radio Partnership for Peace, the first initiative of its kind across Asia, was announced in Islamabad over the weekend at the largest summit of FM radio stations in Pakistan’s history.

The Radio Partnership of Peace comprises 60 participating FM radio stations, 51 of which were represented by their senior management at the 19 June summit where they committed to promoting peace and harmony through constructive radio programming. And in coming months, the envisaged partnership will encompass all 130 FM stations currently on air in Pakistan. -- Saadia Khalid

Promoting media literacy
Manzoor Ali Memon

Stagecraft and dramatic elements such as conflict, tension and sound, etc., are manipulated by the anchors and producers in order to engage the viewers. The anchors, often intoxicated by the power of their medium, pass decrees and sweeping statements. As a result, with the passage of time talk shows may lose their charm for the viewers. It is relatively easy and cheap to conduct programmes with invited guests but quality requires investment, research, diversity, objectivity and plurality, which is often lacking. As a result of all these factors, such shows are becoming purposeless for the public at large. However, they may be serving the purpose of media owners and sponsors. -- Manzoor Ali Memon


The audio-taped conversation between Hamid Mir and a man purportedly linked to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), indicates that information Mir passed on to the TTP, and direct exhortations by Mir, could have led to the execution of Khalid Khawaja, a former Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) officer, allegedly killed by a group calling themselves the Asian Tigers, a little known TTP-linked outfit. The tape, which has Mir divulging ‘dirt’ on Khawaja, ostensibly to TTP militant Usman, who was to ‘cross examine’ Khawaja, was first posted by the ‘Let Us Build Pakistan’ blog, and subsequently picked up by other online publications. It is still unclear who made the tape, with online speculation suggesting that it could be the militants themselves, or intelligence agencies who released the recording. While Mir claims the tape is a fabrication, several sources, including the ISI and Khawaja’s son, Osama Khalid have confirmed that the voices on the tape belong to Mir and to Usman. Usman had spoken to the Khawaja family during negotiations for his release. -- Tushar Ranjan Mohanty

The Muslim leadership’s short-sighted campaign in the Shah Bano case was to change the Supreme Court judgement upholding a Muslim divorcee’s right to maintenance under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, through a legislative enactment [1] enabled the chauvinist Hindu leadership to convince common Hindus that in matters of faith the judgement of the court had no place. Accordingly, when the Supreme Court directed that the structure of the Babri Masjid should not be disturbed, as no available evidence indicated that a temple originally existed on its site, the Hindu leadership started arguing that the ruling of the court had little validity when the people believed that a temple actually existed there. This stand has not changed and has recently been emphasized by the VHP.

The style and objectives of the Muslim leadership in the Shah Bano and the Babri Masjid campaigns were ill-conceived, as arguably was Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League campaign to have a separate homeland for Muslims carved out of the Muslim majority areas of undivided India. It was sheer luck for Indian Muslims that those running the Shah Bano and the Babri Masjid campaigns lacked Jinnah’s mobilising skills. -- Ather Farouqui


There was a recently blogged article on this newspaper’s website that suggested a rivalry between agencies that spilled into the media, citing this as a cause for the leaked tape. This makes eminent sense, and again underlines the need for bringing these intelligence agencies under control. However, this will not happen by just issuing a notification placing the ISI under the interior ministry as Rehman Malik tried to do in the early days of this government.

The role our intelligence agencies — and especially the ISI — have played in Pakistan’s politics is a matter of public record. From rigged elections to the disappearance of scores of citizens, much has been laid at the doors of our spooks. Such is their reputation for unsavoury deeds that even when they have nothing to do with some incident, they are considered guilty. For precisely this reason, it is in their interest to be less secretive. -- Irfan Husain

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