It’s never too late.
A gripping image, a glaring photograph, a captivating headline, a catch phrase and a face airbrushed for the shot. These ingredients make up the news we see, hear, admire, and feel comfortable with as it presents the ‘truth’ for us. Alas, we have just become another statistic caught in a web of half-truths, deceitful values presented as garlands of virtue and facts presented with selective morality. However, news will be uncovered and the truth will be unveiled for it is never too late.
In the event of Miraj, the holy Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W) taken from sacred Makkah to blessed Masjid-ul-Aqsa in Jerusalem on the winged animal called the ‘Buraaq’ set the platform for breaking news. In the miraculous journey to Allah, the holy Prophet (S.A.W) saw heaven and hell; and was presented with the five noble compulsory prayers. Upon his (S.A.W) return, he conveyed his (S.A.W) experience to the people. It was Abu Bakr (R.A.) who said to the effect when the pagans mockingly asked him if he believed the ‘story’ of his friend, that if Muahmmed (S.A.W) said so and so then it must be the truth and that he must have experienced all he says for he never spoke a lie. Later, Muhammed (S.A.W) was put to the test by the pagans who had in the past visited Jerusalem to describe Masjid-ul-Aqsa, Allah presented him with a vivid image of the mosque so that he could describe it in the most finest of detail. The pagans left in a cloud of desert sand for all they heard, they could not contest it because it was the truth. This was news uncovered and the truth unveiled.
Projecting from the above realise how the facts were delivered and how the people were informed. The people were informed in such a way that sensationalism and dramatisation did not feature to alter perceptions or to entice people to believe. The breaking news of the Miraj created a storm of debate and this did not deter Muhammed (S.A.W) from keeping to the events as they happened. In fact, the events recorded in the authentic traditions of Muahmmed (S.A.W) provide us the opportunity to study those facts. The matter at hand is how the news remained so powerful and free of contamination. It is clear. Muhammed (S.A.W) practically demonstrated how one should present the news and how one should maintain the facts to remain as testimony of the event broadcasted. Therefore, we have to reflect on what we have become accustomed to on BBC, CNN, FOX NEWS, SKY NEWS, SABC, eTV etc.
Taking a cue from the book, Al-Jazeera: How Arab TV News challenged the World, by Hugh Miles, it becomes clear just how powerful truth really is. This riveting read makes you aware of how the greater Arab world and many countries whose lingua franca is Arabic deceived by their own people who control the news about world events became angry and distrustful of their leaders. Evidence points to how people in the Middle East are/were kept from the truth and how ceremonies of royal families are/were given undue importance sighting them as events that would bolster global Islamic unity are/were given priority time on Arab TV networks. Eventually, the people realised that the media-networks were “dumbing them down” i.e. is to say the media played a huge factor in making them stupid to the cause of world events. Suddenly, there was Al-Jazeera based in Qatar.
“Its Osama bin Laden’s network of choice. Saudi Arabia has accused it of ‘serving up poison on a sliver platter.’ When the Bush administration failed to shut it down, they decided to blow it up, and its correspondents have been killed. locked up in Guantanamo Bay, and tortured in Abu Ghraib.” All this because the truth surfaced from the ‘horse’s mouth’ and more because, it was for the first time that news became uncovered to a mass of people who were brainwashed to think otherwise and, who were to scared to confront the oligarchy of the Saudis found themselves on the edge of new knowledge. Can you believe their puzzled mindset now? It was like putting a salmon back into the water to swim upstream instinctively to its place of birth with more vigour to die it destined death planned by Allah – yet it races towards it and scientists are still confounded about this. This reflects the life of a true believer: he/she will instinctively race toward Allah seeing death as a goal to meet with Allah. Therefore, even in nature there is the expression of a sincere Muslim who prefers Allah command instinctively as his/her only goal.
The point made here is the destiny of us – Muslims. We are, by the very nature of our divine religion made to seek the truth. Therefore, news uncovered for us means how we are defining ourselves as Muslims in this age of information technology and media domination of our affairs. Ponder on this situation; Source: khaleejtimes.com, a Muslim woman in the US by the name of Amina Wadud requested that she be made the imam of congregational prayers. The imams of three mosque refused and the woman then went outside and made the salaah as the imam of more than 150 Muslims male & female standing side by side. She got maximum exposure to the world – thanks to CNN, BBC and the likes. What she used as a trump card was – GENDER EQUALITY! The question remains, just how many distortions of Islam bombarded the world of viewers – Millions and billions because we are all to an extent TV junkies. Imagine if we had our own media channel ready as others at the right time to give the right Islamic view.
The age of technology and media domination calls upon us to challenge it proactively. In effect, we need to revisit our media players: Al-Jazeera, Channel Islam International, Radio Islam and the likes and ask ourselves one important question: “Are they uncovering the news and unveiling the truth?” The answer: They are, but it cannot be measured because we, as an ummah, are still drowning in the abyss of institutional jealousy, nit picking on trivial issues and splitting the splinter groups hoping to unite the ummah. It’s strange but it’s true. To cite but just one example, have you not heard how independent Muslim schools internationally have become the fodder of malicious debate by Muslims rather than asserting support despite all is problems, when in general Muslim schools have contributed a positive moral regeneration internationally. The fact is we have the capacity to beat the major networks at their own game by our standards. The nagging question is: ‘Have we become our own worst enemies?”
Revisit the Miraj. Contemplate on how the news was uncovered. Yes! Uncovered. It was not covered with any hint of sensationalisms, dramatisations, innuendos, satires, sarcasms, indoctrinations, half-truths, falsified statements and conspiracy clips – it was as it happened with no embedded journalists paid to give subjective reports for commercial gain. Nay! It was as it happened and Allah glorified the truth such that it has not lost it vitality since then to now. This was further enhanced by the fact that the Muslims supported and united with each other, concealing each others faults from the world and desired to be their brothers’ keepers. Covering the news today has become the art of deception of the truth therefore; history that our children will learn and are learning will be and is from the way media presents it through its ‘covering’ of the news. Can you imagine how history books have ‘covered’ the war in Iraq through the footage of the embedded journalists? How they have written about Muslims in all of this? Do you know how the books will explain and illustrate the meaning of “terrorist,” “Fundamentalist,” and “Separatist”! Think about the non-Muslims who were caught with their hands in the cookie jar in preparation for a coup d’état in 2004 in Equatorial Guinea financed by Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s son, are still called ‘MERCENARIES’! Turn the tables and ‘cover’ the same news as if the people concerned were Muslims. It will probably read, “Muslim fundamentalists with Al-Qaeda connections have amongst its entourage terrorists who have plotted to overthrow Equatorial Guinea in hope to form an Islamic state.” Believe it or not! That is news ‘coverage’ today.
Dealing with the problem directly, we need to have guts. Like Al-Jazeera’s maverick, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar he set up the Channel in Qatar to provide the truth of world events from an Arab perspective in a fashion that does not ‘cover up’ but which uncovers the news and unveils the truth. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt exclaimed about Al-Jazeera when he visited it unannounced, “All this trouble from a matchbox like this?” What this reflects is the power of truth when you show the truth for what it is. Hugh Miles cites through careful research that if it was not for Al-Jazeera’s coverage of Palestine, Sharon’s Aparthied Wall would not have received the condemnation it did and has and, the world would not have known the extent of Israeli brutality and segregation in occupied territories. Today, as Miles suggests there is greater awareness of the Middle East than ever before such that Israeli authorities are looking at Al-Jazeera as the can opener. When the Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, declared, ‘I think Israel has a problem with the way things have been shown [on] television. It shows a picture. It does not tell a story.’ …Many Israelis disagreed with Peres, regarding Al-Jazeera as an important new democratic Arab forum and an agent for change.
If these reactions were caused from a ‘matchbox’, what would a twin tower do? It would cause another earth shattering reality. Yes, this would happen provided we deal with the problem directly and begin an earnest effort in producing journalists in all its might amongst Muslim youth with the proper Islamic guidance. What impetus this will have is more than the mind can imagine. Again, reflect on the Miraj, the noble companions (R.A) who took that reality and reported it from one generation to the other with complete accuracy and sincerity secured our generation to learn the exact truth and we, in turn are doing the same thing with it however, in pockets of excellence. Imagine therefore, a situation where a select Muslim youth and ulema from our various ulooms become specialists in the field of media technology and media presentation, writing the news etc. We would have a dynamic global ummah that would thrive on the truth and inshallah, will live according to the hadith to the effect that the ummah is like one body, if one part is in pain it is as if the whole body is in pain. In effect, with a global effort of uncovering news and unveiling the truth by an entourage of Muslim trained media professionals, even those who have been indoctrinated to believe it to be a terrorist faith through the mass media we know on the tip of our tongues will see Islam for its pristine purity. The IMPACT magazine (UK publication) has shown gusto and prominence in this regard but we need more IMPACTS to have greater impact.
Take media study seriously be it as a career choice OR you as a couch potato. The following extract from the book is just what we need to know in conclusion to the article:
There are two distinct markets for Al-Jazeera in English. One is going to be American Americans – regular white Americans – an other is going to be Arab-Americans who don’t speak Arabic or are the children of immigrants. ‘I want to hear what is going on in my parents’ country but I want to hear it in English.’ Al-Jazeera has the market here in the US in the ten of thousands, mainly Arab Americans. My gut sense tells me it may hit MSNBC proportions, meaning a hundred thousand, or a hundred and fifty thousand – but understand that a hundred thousand with a point of view is a whole lot different to an amorphous mass of a hundred thousand viewers, because a hundred thousand with a point of view becomes cohesion. It becomes possibly a force. That is different.
The truth is veiled, the news is covered, and it all depends on you to read it, unveil the truth, and uncover the news – IT IS NEVER TO LATE. Therefore, ‘Read! In the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created – Created man out of a leech-like clot: Read And thy Lord is most Bountiful, – He who taught (The use of) the Pen, – taught man that which he knew not. Nay, but man transgresses all bounds.’ – Al-Quran. Juz 30. Sura Al-Alaq Ayat 1-5.
Miles, H. Al-Jazeera. How the Arab news challenged the world. Great Britain, Abacus.2005.