of Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan have decided to set up an English TV channel
in order to remove misgivings about Islam and project the correct religious
values, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced in a two-part Tweet this week.
Erdogan, PM Mahatir [sic] and myself had a meeting today [Wednesday] in which
we decided our 3 countries would jointly start an English language channel
dedicated to confronting the challenges posed by Islamophobia and setting the
record straight on our great religion — Islam.
which bring people together against the Muslims would be corrected; issue of
blasphemy would be properly contextualised; series and films would be produced
on Muslim history to educate/inform our own people & the world; Muslims
would be given a dedicated media presence.”
As a media
professional, the news gave me great joy as a new channel, which would
obviously be well-funded, will generate jobs for journalists and exciting
careers and creative opportunities for many others associated with the media,
particularly Pakistanis given their language and professional skills.
leaders move forward with their project they will have to keep a couple of
important points in mind. The first and foremost challenge is that such a
channel runs the risk of ‘preaching to the converted’ ie Muslims, mostly
expats, who live in the Anglophone West.
It would be
a professional challenge to have the content inform as well as entertain
because given the media choices available in more open societies the channel
could easily be seen as a mouthpiece of a handful of Muslim countries directed
at their own expats.
our own societies and moving them in the direction of tolerance for diverse
opinions would go a long way in establishing the bona fides of the channel.
One way of
safeguarding against such an eventuality is to build in, within the channel
schedule, a platform for debate where a diversity of voices would not only
discuss misperceptions about Islam in the West but also openly talk of ills
within Muslim societies and the need for reform.
introspection is imperative if the proposed channel is to have any impact
whatsoever amongst the desired audience in the West. For example, look at the
record of the three main movers of this idea where media freedom is concerned.
We are not
talking of outright dictatorships or monarchies; we are discussing countries
that have an electoral process and elected governments, admittedly with varying
degrees of credibility of that process and the governments that are formed as a
up our own societies and moving them in the direction of being tolerant of
diverse opinions and especially criticism of those directly or indirectly in
power would go a long way in establishing the bona fides of the channel and the
countries/governments backing it. Pluralism and the rights of women are an
absolute prerequisite here.
channel by itself would be most inadequate to remove the misgivings about our
faith as most of these are based on how we are seen to practise it. Take the
example of the misuse of the blasphemy law which has brought infamy to our
country and society. Just this week, the Supreme Court acquitted Wajih-ul-Hasan
who was sentenced to death in 2002, citing serious flaws in the prosecution
case and the investigation into the matter which formed the basis of Mr Hasan’s
On the one
hand, one can celebrate the fact that justice was finally dispensed — but it
would be heartless not to see that an innocent man spent 18 years in prison.
Who will compensate him for losing his freedom and life for a staggeringly long
period of nearly two decades?
This is not
all. As a leader eloquently argued in this newspaper a charge of blasphemy, let
alone, a conviction by a court of law is tantamount to pinning a target on the
accused’s back. There have been instances of those acquitted later being hunted
the accused. A high court judge who acquitted the accused was murdered. Even
their lawyers have not been spared. University professor Junaid Hafeez has been
in prison for six years. Rashid Rehman, the Multan-based human rights lawyer,
who took up the case, was warned in open court not to take up the brief. The
brave man did not relent. He was shot dead in his office in 2014. Nobody has
been arrested or faced justice for that murder as far as I know. Since the
professor was charged, some half a dozen presiding judges have come and gone
but Junaid Hafeez remains in prison.
We would do
well to remind ourselves that we can have any number of channels but the impact
will be insignificant unless such gross miscarriage of justice does not stop in
proposed channel to really serve the purpose of removing misgivings about Islam
and contextualising what the faith says about matters that are often
misunderstood there is a dire need for this ostensible voice of the Muslim
world to be objective and open.
rights, freedom of expression are universal principles, and if my own belief is
anything to go by, tolerance is one of the founding principles of our faith.
The channel will have to represent these and be critical where these values are
shaking with anger when I saw the photo in social media of a notice displayed
in the lobby of a block of seemingly upmarket Karachi flats warning owners ‘not
to rent their flats to any non-
the residents’ association would refuse to provide any services to them.
personal friends, both educated professionals belonging to minority faiths,
confirmed they personally experienced this apartheid when they were attempting
to rent apartments in Karachi. I cite this example merely to illustrate the
size of the challenge. Will the leaders take note?
Abbas Nasir is a former editor of Dawn.
Headline: Must-haves for Islamic channel
Source: The Dawn, Pakistan