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Muslims and Media Images—News versus Views

Muslims and Media Images—News versus Views

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That Muslims and Islam suffer from a bad press is a widely
accepted fact. But the reasons advanced for this are varied, and
often conflicting. For many people, including in the non-Muslim
media, Islam and its adherents stand as fundamentally opposed to
what they consider as their cherished values. This owes not simply
to prejudice and misunderstandings about Islam, as many Muslims
would argue. The historical and present conditions of Muslim
societies world-wide, particularly continuing religious intolerance
and gross violations of human rights in the name of Islam, have
played no small role in sustaining sternly negative attitudes
towards Islam and Muslims. These attitudes are reflected in, and
further reinforced by, large sections of the non-Muslim media.
On the other hand, many Muslims believe that much of the non-
Muslim media is impelled by what they regard as a ‘conspiracy’
against Islam and Muslims. The undeniable fact that both in India
and elsewhere, particularly in the West, much of the press is
blatantly Islamophobic lends some weight to their argument.
The unenviable media image of Islam and those who claim to
follow it is thus a result of a combination of a variety of factors. It
cannot be pinned down to a single cause, contrary to what many
Muslims and their detractors would simplistically argue. There is a
bit of truth in the arguments of both, but these explanations are
partial and do not tell the whole story.
That Muslims and Islam suffer from a bad press is a widely
accepted fact. But the reasons advanced for this are varied, and
often conflicting. For many people, including in the non-Muslim
media, Islam and its adherents stand as fundamentally opposed to
what they consider as their cherished values. This owes not simply
to prejudice and misunderstandings about Islam, as many Muslims
would argue. The historical and present conditions of Muslim
societies world-wide, particularly continuing religious intolerance
and gross violations of human rights in the name of Islam, have
played no small role in sustaining sternly negative attitudes
towards Islam and Muslims. These attitudes are reflected in, and
further reinforced by, large sections of the non-Muslim media.
On the other hand, many Muslims believe that much of the non-
Muslim media is impelled by what they regard as a ‘conspiracy’
against Islam and Muslims. The undeniable fact that both in India
and elsewhere, particularly in the West, much of the press is
blatantly Islamophobic lends some weight to their argument.
The unenviable media image of Islam and those who claim to
follow it is thus a result of a combination of a variety of factors. It
cannot be pinned down to a single cause, contrary to what many
Muslims and their detractors would simplistically argue. There is a
bit of truth in the arguments of both, but these explanations are
partial and do not tell the whole story.

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Published by: Waliullah Ahmed Laskar on Apr 24, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/11/2014

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Book Review
 
Name of the Book:
 Muslims and Media Images—News versusViews
 
Edited by: Ather Farouqui
 
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
 
Year: 2009
 
Pages: 340
 
ISBN: 019569495-3
 
Price: Rs. 695
 
Reviewed by: Yoginder Sikand
 
That Muslims and Islam suffer from a bad press is a widelyaccepted fact. But the reasons advanced for this are varied, andoften conflicting. For many people, including in the non-Muslimmedia, Islam and its adherents stand as fundamentally opposed towhat they consider as their cherished values. This owes not simplyto prejudice and misunderstandings about Islam, as many Muslimswould argue. The historical and present conditions of Muslimsocieties world-wide, particularly continuing religious intoleranceand gross violations of human rights in the name of Islam, haveplayed no small role in sustaining sternly negative attitudestowards Islam and Muslims. These attitudes are reflected in, andfurther reinforced by, large sections of the non-Muslim media.On the other hand, many Muslims believe that much of the non-Muslim media is impelled by what they regard as a ‘conspiracy’against Islam and Muslims. The undeniable fact that both in Indiaand elsewhere, particularly in the West, much of the press isblatantly Islamophobic lends some weight to their argument.
 
 The unenviable media image of Islam and those who claim tofollow it is thus a result of a combination of a variety of factors. Itcannot be pinned down to a single cause, contrary to what manyMuslims and their detractors would simplistically argue. There is abit of truth in the arguments of both, but these explanations arepartial and do not tell the whole story.
 
This book attempts to explore the projection of Muslims and Islamin the media while also seeking to account for the ways in whichthese images are created and sustained. Many of the contributors tothis book are non-Muslim journalists and academics, some of themleading names in their respective fields. They provide valuableclues as to how key non-Muslim media professionals look atMuslim-related issues. Several other contributors to the volume areof Muslim background and possess an intimate knowledge of theIndian Muslim press. They offer readers a critical insider’sperspective that is often lacking in discussions about Islam,Muslims and the media.
 
 Muslims and Media Images: Where Things Go Wrong’
is the titleof the opening essay by Vinod Mehta, editor-in-chief of the NewDelhi-based
Outlook 
magazine. He claims, somewhattendentiously, that the principal cause for the negative image of Muslims in the non-Muslim Indian media is what he considers tobe the Muslims’ own lack of understanding of the nature of themedia. In turn, he says, this is related to what he claims is theabsence of any ‘forward movement in general amongst Muslims[…] especially in north India, towards social transformation andmodernization.’ (p.26).Mehta appears to argue that the bad press that Muslims enjoy islargely of their own making—a partial and limited claim that caneasily be challenged. It is true that much of the blame for the slow
 
pace of what Mehta calls ‘modernization’ among large sections of the north Indian Muslims rests on their shoulders—particularly of those who claim to be their leaders. However, Mehta misses outanother undeniable fact—that the opportunities for such‘modernization’ for many Indian Muslims are severely limited, oreven denied, by pervasive discrimination at the hands of organs of the state and by the mounting challenge of Hindutva fascist groupswho, as many have convincingly argued, seek to consign theMuslims of India to the status of the new ‘untouchables’.Mehta’s advocacy of ‘modernization’ as the key to improving theMuslim media image is well-taken, although, lamentably, he doesnot explain what he exactly means by the term. ‘Modernization’ isa value-loaded concept, and can mean different things to differentpeople. The dominant form of ‘modernity’ is, of course, thatrepresented by the Western capitalist model, based onindividualism, consumerism—indeed hedonism—and the totalprivatization, if not outright denial, of religion. While many of those who identify themselves as Muslims might buy into thislogic, numerous others would stoutly refuse to do so, based ontheir own understanding of Islam that forcefully challenges the‘moneytheism’ of capitalism—a useful and provocative termcoined by the noted Malaysian public intellectual ChandraMuzaffar.The point, thus, is not, as Mehta seems to suggest, an allegedrefusal on the part of most Muslims to ‘modernize’. Rather, it is aquestion of what sort of ‘modernization’ Mehta advocates—andthis is something that he conveniently leaves undefined.It is, of course, undeniable that much is wrong with Muslimsociety, including in the ways in which many Muslims understandtheir religion (particularly in relation to women and people of otherfaiths). All this is in urgent need of reform, as many Muslims willthemselves admit. But blindly following the Western liberal modelis no solution at all—contrary to what ardent advocates of 

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