By Sheikh Hussain Yee
April 4, 2015
Inept journalism and hostile anti-Islamic fabrications in the guise of “reporting” have undermined Islam’s message of peace and compromised the work being done by peaceful scholars of Islam everywhere. FMT and all media are urged to thoroughly check their sources before going to print. The public too should be more discerning in accepting and believing what is written in the press. Not everything published in the press is gospel truth.
As a speaker who frequently travels the global lecture circuit to speak on Islam’s message of peace, and to bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims for a better understanding of Islam, I am greatly disheartened and saddened by the skewed misreporting in the article, “Jews were behind 9/11 attack, implies M’sian preacher” written by FMT Reporters and dated March 30, 2015. Your inept journalism has undermined the message and compromised the work being done by peaceful scholars of Islam everywhere.
First of all, this article was based on an article in The Australian, which itself featured fabricated “news” and thinly-disguised character assassination. It was a clear attempt at directing the focus away from the peaceful and noble objectives of the 2nd Australian Islamic Peace Conference (AIPC), a Melbourne interfaith conference on peace while inviting controversy with its preacher-has-invited-controversy-in-the-past headline.
The AIPC which was held on 29th March, 2015 at the prestigious Melbourne Convention Centre is organised by the Islamic Research and Educational Academy (IREA) based in Australia. It carried the theme ‘Muhammad (PBUH) – The Mercy’, to showcase his exemplary manners in all aspects of his life. My lectures always carry a universal message: that Islam promotes the fundamental values of compassion, seeking knowledge and promoting peace, despite the contrary actions of many people who profess to be Muslims. Do not confuse the religion with the practitioners. You can see what I actually spoke on here during a short 30-minute feedback session as one of AIPC’s guests of honour.
Secondly, you ran this article together with a controversial montage which was sure to incite public anger. This montage superimposed my photograph against an image of the Twin Towers. Again, this had nothing to do with the AIPC and its objectives to promote peace and understanding, or my presence there as guest of honour.
FMT’s pick-up of the misreporting in The Australian – without first checking the sources – is regrettable and tantamount to irresponsible and unethical journalism. Checks should have been made before publishing articles based on malicious anti-Islamic journalism in the Australian press. While Australia might condone racial and religious hatred and bigotry reporting, the anti-Islamic agenda should not be entertained in a multi-racial society that is predominantly Muslim, which could upset the delicate balance of races and religions and create discord.
As a responsible media that aims to be a thought leader, FMT should not be endorsing bigotry reporting, the anti-Islamic agenda and trumped up “news” in a multi-racial, multi-faith society that is 60% Muslim. Your actions can disrupt the fragile balance of race and religion and fan conflict – as can be seen from the rude and insensitive comments being hurled about in the comments section on this article. Although I understand the media thrives on free speech, there is a fine line between honest, neutral reporting and mischievous, narrow-minded vitriol. FMT can choose to clothe the truth in neutral words that call for positive change, instead of provoking unnecessary hatred and resentment. Open-minded readers are urged to read between the lines and understand the anti-Islamic agenda of mainstream Australian media, which creates an adverse climate for Muslims in Australia, including Malaysian Muslims.
Despite the efforts of hostile parties like The Australian wanting to derail the cause of Islam and promoting peace among people of different faiths, I am pleased to note that the AIPC conference was a success. This was the first Muslim platform in Australia where speakers of other faiths (including Jews and Christians) were invited and given the opportunity to address hundreds and thousands of Muslims in order to enhance the message of peace and understanding amongst people of all faiths. AIPC – through the influential work of IREA in interfaith and multi-faith communities – was able to host the respected Jewish scholar from Temple Beth Israel, Cantor Michel Laloum. I had the honour of speaking with him at the conference, where he shared a platform with IREA President, Waseem Razvi, in addressing the multifaith session on the subject of ‘Peace according to Moses (PBUH)’ and ‘Peace according to Mohammed (PBUH)’ respectively. Cantor Laloum’s presence at the AIPC and his readiness to accept IREA’s invitation reflects his willingness in working with IREA to break down barriers and forge bonds with the Muslims of Australia.
Here in Malaysia, this hiccup will not prevent me and Pertubuhan Al-Khaadem (the charitable and outreach NGO which I head) from persisting in our mission to promote peace and wellbeing for all people, regardless of race and religion. Al-Khaadem runs a regular Islamic outreach programme including a free-service Saturday Class geared towards those new to the Islamic faith as well as those interested to know more about Islam according to the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet. The programme combines lectures and discussions, and creates a platform for the public to discuss misconceptions and dispel misunderstandings of the religion. All are welcome; please don’t knock us until you have made the effort to get to know us and find out more about our work.
Finally, I would like to reiterate this key message on behalf of myself, my host IREA, as well as others who have been slandered in the media. The Australian media, in this case The Australian, fabricated details pertaining to the event. For example, The Australian alleged that the AIPC featured children sermonising against Catholics and that a child impersonated Islamic orator Zakir Naik – these are blatant lies. This is how certain Australian newspapers manipulate and deceive – through their bigotry reporting. Therefore, I urge you, FMT, and all other media, do carry out checks before foolishly publishing a controversial article and inciting a tsunami of hatred, when the underlying truth was actually simple and innocuous. You might not sell as many papers (or get as many page views), but you will be upholding a high standard of ethical journalism.
Sheikh Hussain Yee is Founder and President, Pertubuhan Al-Khaadem
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