Inviting and encouraging our Muslim youth to intellectually and passionately write about social issues topics affecting Muslims and Islam is vital for their upbringing.
Muslim Council of Hong Kong’s Youth Club held a writing competition for age of 18-21 years old on the topic of Islam and Media, highlighting on pros and drawbacks of this combo while how to tackle the challenges.
Here is the winning piece:
Islam in Media: Truth or a hoax? – Abdul Manaf Fathima Saaliha
It is an undeniable fact that the media plays a consequential role in today’s world. It has the mind boggling ability to twist your viewpoint of something or someone in the snap of a finger.
This could change things for the better or worse, regardless of the truth of the matter, and more often than not, it is the latter that happens when it comes to the faith of Islam.
We are all aware of how the media, especially news funded by politically conservative or white supremacist groups play an imminent role in portraying this religion of peace as the religion of war and hatred.
With an apparent ease they infest the minds of an overwhelming majority of the population, which rarely verifies the legitimacy of news, especially if the news provider is popular or has been a national favourite.
This acts as a catalyst for the Islamophobia that markedly skyrocketed after 9/11, putting Muslims, especially those who seem like easy targets such as hijabis and even Sikhs (often mistaken for being Muslim due to their turban), in an elevated risk for violent racially-motivated crimes.
A recent example of such an incident, widely assumed to be a direct outcome of constant political hatred against Muslims, was a premeditated truck attack which killed four out of a family of five in Canada, considered one of the less racist countries in the West.
The religion of the perpetrator was never mentioned, highlighting the hypocrisy of the media when it comes to Islam.
This goes out to show that the Islamophobic rhetoric in public has very real and fatal consequences on Muslims, and cannot or should not be ignored or taken lightly.
The media, however can act as a riveting tool to undo the undeserved stigma around it with smart and well thought out actions. There are two broad ways how this can be done.
Counteracting actions for the aforementioned misinformation crisis include publishing religious sermons and infographic content, where Islam would be shown in a purer form, with its extremely logical core values and its principles presented to a wide audience, in all its glory.
Muslim social media influencers and other public figures can use their platform to spread awareness about the religion, catering to those who are misinformed about it and don’t know the basics or the essence of the religion and making their voice louder.
For a better and fairer representation of its followers in traditional news, Muslim owned news outlets like Al Jazeera must be more widely available to provide more objective means to learn about Islam for those who are keen about its facts.
The primary and most efficient reformations must be initiated at popular sources of information such as television broadcasts and the internet.
Just like how the media has reached far and wide in spreading misinformation, it can also be used to spread the word of Islam, and a means to dispel the myths and stereotypes that surround it.
The upside of using media in matters of Islam in the correct way is that, it being one of the largest sources of information for people worldwide, it can reach almost every corner of the world, with more speed and efficiency than the most passionate preachers, who are limited by manpower and reach.
Second, we must dispel the myths and lies that have already made their way into the global population. Governments should proselytize news literacy and professional journalism in their societies.
The news industry must deliver journalism that builds public trust and correct fake news and disinformation without legitimizing them.
Organizations should take incentive to finance tools that ascertain fake news, reduce financial incentives for those who profit from disinformation, and improve online accountability. Educational institutions should make informing people about news literacy a high priority.
Finally, individuals should follow a miscellany of news sources, and be skeptical of what they read and watch. Organizations and news outlets blatantly spreading misinformation and fake news need to be legally held accountable as they are breaching their professional duties as well as the rights of their consumers.
As of now, the truth is that the media is largely an agenda-setting insidious weapon for selfish politicians, who benefit from dividing and conquering the Ummah and gaining more political allies.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is unjustly labelled a warload, hate-mongering, and immoral man by many, whilst the truth of his beautiful, perfect character remains akin to a mystery to many non Muslims.
They push the idea that it is synonymous with terrorism, violence, extremism and backwardness, which “others” or socially alienates Muslims as outsiders and being less than human.
One example of the media spreading completely baseless news based on their own assumptions is this one incident in 2017.
“On July 22nd, a man planted a bomb in an Oslo government building that killed eight people. A few hours after the explosion, he shot and killed another 68 people.
By midday, pundits were speculating as to who had perpetrated the greatest massacre in Norwegian history since World War II.
Numerous mainstream media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic, speculated about an Al Qaeda connection and a “jihadist” motivation behind the attacks.
But by the next morning it was clear that the attacker was not a Muslim, but rather a self-described Christian conservative.” – Center for American Progress
When this fact was discovered, suddenly the perpetrator’s faith wasn’t mentioned anymore and it was just an act of terrorism.
However, the response would have been drastically different and according to current trends, would have gained 357% more media traction according to a research conducted by the University of Alabama (2018), had the perpetrator been a Muslim.
With fake news and misinformation that is rampant in today’s digitalized world, hatred can spread like wildfire which is apparent from the general opinion about Islam and Muslims in the non Muslim world.
What we can gather from this is that, with the ever spreading misinformation and fake news, it’s harder for Muslims more than ever to be free from prejudice.
We, as Muslims bear the responsibility to speak up when we can, make our voices heard and be careful ourselves when navigating the depths of the web and media.
Although this may seem disheartening since no other religious sect has to apologize for unfair propaganda against it, our advantage in numbers and in knowing the truth should be used as motivators to help create a more Muslim-friendly world for both the coming generations and our own futures.