Author: DR.ABDUL RUFF Colachal
Importance of media for shaping the policies of the State, on the one hand, and the public opinion, on the other hand, can neither be denied nor be disputed. But the world media are engaged in an anti-Islamic smear campaign globally. Negative role being played by media, both electronic and print, has caused enormous problems for Muslims all over the world, also in India where there are under constant threat from the Hindu dominated media, politicians and bureaucrats. While print media describe Muslims, both Arab and non-Arabs in filthy colors, electronic media, including in India, derive sadistic pleasures by degrading Muslims as terrible guys with beards and weapons and Hindus are projected as peace-minded people. Muslims have lost their legitimate right to have beard.
Anti-Islamic Global media
With a few dignified exceptions, global media units harp on anti-Islamism for quite some time now. Modern Muslims do attempt to coexist even with antagonistic communities. There is no denying that screen depictions play a significant role not only in reinforcing stereotypes but in creating them in the first place, particularly of Muslims as small ethnic groups in some countries. The problem with majority communities is that they just don’t appreciate Muslims being so close to them or share the fruits of development of the nation.
The electronic Media have strikingly immediate impact on the life patterns and the formation of mind-set of the people. In countries like India, firmly rooted in the cause of anti-Muslimism unleashed by the media, by both print and electronic, the politicians and bureaucrats cooperate with media magnets in the anti-Muslim campaign as if that is their legitimate right to do so. The pathetic Muslim community, badly shaken by this strategy, has been on the defensive even before the partition in 1947. With the arrival of the era of “terrorism” ably perpetuated by the US-led West to advance their collective national interest, luck seems to have blessed the majority community in India to ill-treat them more ruthlessly and deny them their legitimate rights.
Media strategy has harmed the genuine interests of Muslims world over. Muslims, particularly in USA, Britain and other western countries conscious of their rights, feel insecure anywhere and under perpetual threat. They also have to shoulder the brunt of the anti-Muslim hatred generated by the state-media combine. The most interesting part of this report shows that the media are biased against them. There is also a pervasive belief that stereotypes, reinforced repeatedly, in film and television are directly linked to their experiences of discrimination and religious hatred. Arabs and Muslims are portrayed on screen as terrorists, thieves and barbarians; violent, backward and religiously unhinged, be it in the big screen of Hollywood, Bollywood or the little screen of television. Quite extreme variety could be even more devastatingly damaging for the Muslims. But it looks as if it should not matter that films portray Arabs and Muslims as caricatures and most Muslims should just laugh and shrug it off.
Atrocities, being committed by the core global media against the defenseless Muslims in the era of so-called terrorism in one form or the other, ably aided and promoted by the ruling politico-bureaucratic apparatus, are so grave for the Muslims that they feel threatened by the entire society wherein they live. It seems that offence perpetuated by anti-Islamic forces in most of the countries continue as a routine matter without any hindrance whatsoever. By portraying Muslims as unwanted anti-socials and supporting the goals of US-led forces in Arab world, the global media have attempted to degrade the image of all Muslims and even undermine their spirit of co-existence in plural societies. This is indeed dangerous. Havoc being created for the very existence of Muslims by the print media requires no illustration, while the state-run radio corporations with their biased news reporting as well as discussions and talks target the Muslims, including the Arabs, create an image of Muslims as being “evils”.
Early years electronic media had not developed yet to slam Islam and Muslims and only the print media, the west oriented, did that very efficiently terrorize them, to discard and disown their cultural contributions. All these years since Independence, the print media, English as well vernaculars, have faithfully portrayed Muslims as evils and unwanted elements that need to be eliminated at all costs, secretly or, if that is not possible, openly. The majorities Hindus are projected as the “tolerant ones” and “sufferers” and badly hit people by the “onslaught” of the Muslims, whereas the truth suggests to the contrast. Of late, however, Indian media, under the prevailing circumstances, seem to have been caught between its ‘duty’ to go all out for shielding the majority and advancing the so-called national interest and the need to project India as the largest democracy, at the same time. The media that are used to paint the Muslim in India in dirty colors of their choice, find it extremely difficult now to change their anti-Muslim format.
The main worry of the media magnets and their political bosses seems to be economic advancement of Muslims which they don’t wish for them. By re-projecting Muslims as humans now, the media indirectly try to make room for advancement of Muslims in the society. Because the governments by taking cue from the media suggestions would be compelled to pass necessary laws to uplift the Muslims as well. But the readers are well equipped to receive the supposedly change in mind of the journalistic justice. This is the real dilemma that media, like the bureaucracy and politicians, face today .Hence the reluctance on the part of the media to present facts as facts and turn away from fictional portrayal of Muslims as unwanted ones coming in the way of the majority sharing all resources by themselves, just as the war booty is being shared by the US-led forces in the Middle East.
Media, the fourth estate charged with the task of defending the genuine interests of minorities as well, plays enough mischief in India, in the society. They consider the Muslims are no-entity and therefore to be ignored and subjugated. No one needs a special course to understand the fact that US-led terror strategy has been very aptly utilized by India to target the Muslims in and outside the country. And Media are never tired of branding the Muslims as suspected terrorists and useless burden-some, problematic people. Media have converted the Hindu masses into behaving like a shield to cultivate ill-feelings towards fellow Muslims.
According to a report released by the Britain’s Islamic Human Rights Commission, entitled “The British Media and Muslim representation: The ideology of demonization”, the Muslims are consistently portrayed as violent, dangerous and threatening in Hollywood movies and that this reinforces prejudice against Muslims. From the silent films of the 1920s that showed Arabs as brigands and thieves to present day films that show Arabs as ruthless terrorists intent on world domination, Hollywood rarely portrays real Muslims or Arabs, while cinema elsewhere, including Bollywood in Mumbai, paints the Muslims in thick dirty colors.
Media successfully fueled the anti-Muslim tragedy and promoted the anti-Islamic propaganda. The ugly depictions of Muslims, where the Muslims are shown as villains and ugly guys, have caused tensions in the society that led to the slow annihilation of the Muslims. The media that are so used to paint the Muslim in India in dirty colors of their choice, now would find it extremely difficult to change their anti-Muslim format for fear of angry reaction from the special sections that fomented friction in the society, apart from the worry about a possible slash in daily circulation affecting the profits of the media magnets controlling politics in the country.
The crux of the issue is how to reset the mind-set of the readers who were made to believe as facts the fiction presented to them, even if the media want undertake that. Indian newspaper readers and media viewers were earlier told that Muslims are bad lots, terrorists and suspected fellows and that they shouldn’t be entertained in societies at all. Muslims, deprived of any dependable leadership and resources to face the challenge from the media, are used as mere vote bank. The majority might question the veracity and reliability of the “new” material if supplied to them as new facts about Muslims. To accept the Muslims as fellow travelers, after targeting them thus far for no fault of them, is difficult and the readers would be required to treat the Muslims as humans, which would indeed be a difficult proposition. That would mean that democracy is farce.
The news media in India since 1947, by and large, unwittingly go against the principles of good journalism when they have “assumed” their chief responsibility in assisting the rulers to advance the so-called national interest, but largely at the cost the fellow Muslims, the second largest majority in the country and indulge in offending and insulting them. It is not just the criticism of Muslims per-se. The fundamental objective of this type of anti-Muslim journalistic format is to serve the interests of the majorities and work against, particularly, the Muslims. This way they are hands in glows with the authorities in India determined to thwart the attempts of Muslims to get justice, social as well as economic.
India is hailed as a country where democracy flourishes on large scale. December 06, the date the Indian history would remember forever as on that date in 1992 democracy was finally assassinated in India with the destruction of Babri Mosque and follow-up torture of the Muslims all over the country, is fast approaching. Upon the destruction of the Mosque, the then ruling Congress government had pledged to reconstruct the mosque at the very site where it existed, but till date the construction has not even started. In order to suppress the Muslims who demand the reconstruction of the Mosque the Indian state has only terrorized them through various nefarious actions harmful to and undermining the Muslims.
The attitude that India is “our” country and “we” decide what to do with Muslims is not a good media-cum-state approach at all. Since the media play havoc in the perceptive domains of majority of Indian, a few lines would help these self proclaimed patriots” to understand the factual position. Muslims lead a pathetic and strained life as offered to them by the governments of India and states. The role of the Muslims in India’s independence, wherein many of them lost lives for the country’s sake as well as their positive contributions to country’s development are totally ignored by State as well as media. Instead, issues like Pakistan and terrorism are cleverly brought in to play a destructive role in the lives of Muslims. While focusing on Muslims in India, the media and politicians encouraged by the bureaucrats make it appear that Muslims are a burden and a lot of resources are spent on them unnecessarily. Wonderfully, even by keeping a Muslim as President, India keeps doing what the USA does to Muslims all over the world. Insulting and bashing the Muslims is routine event in the country, including New Delhi.
Media hide the fact that every year many Muslims are rounded up on the eve of December-6 anniversary and not many from the detainees return home quite safe. Till date no one knows how many Muslims are in Jails for what crime! Hatred is generated even from those wealthy Indians, particularly those settled down comfortably abroad, mainly in the West, and are both proud of and obsessed with the so-called Indian democratic values and feel happy to see the Muslims in India are painted in dirty colors and portrayed as bad guys deserving death and severely, but they are perhaps unaware of the fact that this country is contempt with legal aspects of the retaining detainees without trails. Of those who have detained and tortured in Indian jails for over a decade, only few are released and some others are tried to punish.
Journalists from non-Islamic faiths are engaged by the media to churn out anti-Muslim stuff, as Christians and others do in the case of India. In fact the question of survival amongst Hindus, who own media, has forced even Muslim journalists to support the cause of Hindus by projecting the Muslims as a major problem. Media cannot afford to conveniently forget the fact Babri Mosque, pulled down during the Congress rule at the centre, and with its support, by the anti-Islamic terrorists and other state-sponsored forces led by the BJP and the UP state then ruled by the BJP, is a glaring example of how the Muslims and Islamic institutions are treated in India. With advent of US sponsored war on the so-called terrorism, India has been ably using the terrorism plank to deny what is legitimately due to Muslims. Like the USA and the West, India too describes and views the Muslims as suspected terrorists. All Muslims thus are potential terrorists, if not real or suspected ones.
Not at Cost of Muslims!
It is quite natural that the media, including Indian, have to survive first and expand further before defending minority rights of a given society, because their stay for journalistic activities depends heavily on the support it receives from the majority sections of society and the governments. So they have to be concerned mainly about sustaining their prolonged existence, leaving out the rest of the issues. Their attitude negates the very essence of journalistic duties and responsibilities. In the process of appeasing the majority and the government agenda media generally go against the interests of the minorities, and what in fact happens is the failure of news media to fulfill their fundamental duty as conscience keepers of the society. As a fashion, rather than duty, the media are seen determined to attack the Muslim minority in order to defend mainly the economic interests of the majority. In this process, journalistic ethics could fall a silent, pathetic victim, as it has happened in “pluralistic” India.
Media-hype may be necessary up to certain level, but when extended beyond that it might look absurd. Indian media believe that hype is most important in this business. Reporting of news and expressing of opinions, therefore, have got a lot to do with the molding the mind-set of the readers. Once set, the readers mind gets petrified and it is very difficult to alter it by offering the reality some what correctly, even if in a new method. For instance, by denouncing Iran and its leader, India cannot become closer to USA. What intrigues is the fact that the Indian news media do not think that protecting the interests of Muslims including their life and honor is also a major part of Indian national interest. On the contrary, the act of offending and injuring the Muslims, illegal as it is, is treated as an important sacred duty of the media. That is unfortunate.
A negative portrayal may not be offensive in itself. But the Muslims, as presented by the global media do not correlate in the media to real experience of being a Muslim. A film in which the baddies are a band of Muslim terrorists with dirty beards and ugly looks cannot be objected to just because it shows negative human straits. What can be objected to is that these are the only portrayals available to the global audience. What is missing is realism, the multidimensional depictions showing, sympathetically, the full variety of what it means to be an Arab and or a Muslim. Media, by and large, have lost the focus of reality. As a result, Muslims are not presented quite realistically and accurately today. There lies the essence of Western anti-Islamic ideology which global media quite faithfully reflects.
Thanks to the strenuous efforts by the world ruling circles and the global media mafia, the Muslims are now better known as the so-called “terrorists” and, even worse, the “suspected terrorists”, especially in India, Israel and US, the so-called emerging strategic partners. Given the existing anti-Islamic international environment it won’t be surprising if, sooner than later, the encyclopedias and school text books define Islam as the religion of terrorists and suspected terrorists and a forum that generate “terrorist outfits” and encourage “cross-border terrorism”, etc, and requiring children, even in Arab nations that promote US interests in Middle East, to learn by heart similar definitions. All Muslim nations, both Arab and non-Arabs, could then even be expected to teach their children the basics of anti-Islamism and western as well as non-Islamic ways of life.