Media Persecution of Islam: How do we respond?
BY: HAFIZ MOHAMMAD MUSHFIQUE UDDIN
Since the attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001, there has been an unprecedented rise in negative media coverage of Islam and Muslims. The reasons for this negativity are numerous and it would not be just to attempt to enumerate them in this short article. However, this hostility has created an atmosphere that makes being a Muslim in a predominantly non-Muslim country a difficult reality. What frustrates us as Muslims is that much of what is written is untrue or taken completely out of context – so what should the Muslim response be?
The first thing to note is that ‘media attacks’ on Islam are not a new phenomenon – they are as old as Islam itself.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) brought a message that sought to remove unjust oppression in society, but there were some who opposed the message of Islam as they were benefitting financially and politically from exploiting the masses.
They spent much time and effort in devising ways to keep people, especially traders who used to travel seasonally to Makkah, away from the Prophet (SAW). Allah (SWT) says:
“Thus have we placed leaders in every town, it’s wicked men, to plot (and burrow there in: but they only plot against their own souls, and they perceive it not.”
[Surat al-An’aam, 6:123]
One of their methods was to employ people whose sole purpose was to lie, defame and slander the Prophet (SAW) in order to keep people away. This is why Allah (SWT) revealed the following verse of the Qur’an:
“But there are, among men, those who purchase idle tales, without knowledge (or meaning), to mislead (men) from the Path of Allah and throw ridicule (on the Path): for such there will be a Humiliating Penalty.”
[Surat Luqman, 31:6]
The irony is that these tactics created a curiosity among people who then wanted to find out more about Islam and therefore went and visited the Messenger of Allah (SAW). Many of these individuals subsequently became Muslim having learned the truth. The history of Islam clearly shows that the plots and tactics of those who plotted for the downfall of Islam ultimately failed, and Allah (SWT) says:
“And they plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah.”
[Surat Aal ‘Imraan, 3:54]
There are clear parallels between those who were employed in Makkan society to defame Islam and some sections of the modern media. It would be unjust to state the entire British media is ‘Islamophobic’, to coin a contemporary word, as there are many journalists who genuinely seek and report that which they perceive to be the truth. However, we also need to acknowledge that there are people who, for whatever reason, have a deep-seated hatred of Islam and would do anything to see its destruction. This becomes clearly evident in those half-baked media reports and articles that attack Islam with lies and distortion, even though they know that what they are reporting is untrue.
Islam is constantly represented in the media as being a violent, backward, archaic and medieval religion that has no relevance to the 21st Century; a religion that is determined to remove all trace of non-Muslims (including their culture, ideals and lifestyle) from the face of the Earth. In short, Islam is portrayed as a threat to Western values, a clear and present danger.
As Muslims, when we read these articles and watch these ‘factual’ documentaries, there is no doubt that our blood pressure begins to rise and we feel a mixture of emotions including sadness, anger and frustration. But our responses should always be intellectual, not emotive; they should be governed by Islam, not our desires. Too often, we fall into the dangerous trap of venting our frustrations in a manner that is not Islamic. How many images have we all seen of Muslims burning flags and effigies? How many times have we seen Muslims react to criticisms and lies by insulting other people’s religions, cultures and way of life? Haven’t we ever read the verse in the Qur’an where Allah (SWT) says:
“Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance. Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did.”
[Surat al-An’aam, 6:108]
Our response to false accusations should be simple; we respond with truth and integrity. As Muslims, our allegiance is to truth and justice:
“O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well- acquainted with all that ye do.”
[Surat al-Nisaa, 4:135]
Where there are criticisms of us as Muslims, we must be ready to take an honest look at ourselves and see if we are at fault. We must also recognise the legitimacy of people to question Islam, within the boundaries of honesty and respect, after all we believe that Islam is the truth – we have nothing to hide.
Where there are lies being propagated, we respond with the truth. If we truly want non-Muslims to realise that Islam is not a threat, we must start living Islam and not showing everyone that Islam has so much to offer, there is no use in just talking about it. As the saying goes; ‘actions speak louder than words’.
The important thing to remember is that when we see negative press there must be a call to action, not reaction.
As Muslims in Britain, we have failed in our duty to nurture the development of scholars who are able to effectively communicate with, and relate to, the British public. We have not established effective Muslim media agencies that are able to propagate the true message of Islam. We have no united voice, and so others step in to ‘represent’ us. We must rectify the mistakes that we may have made, as a community and as individuals in society. We must realise that we all have a part to play.
Finally, as Muslims we should never become disheartened by the lies that are propagated. Islam does not need us to defend it; that will be done by Allah (SWT) –
“Let not their speech grieve thee: for all power and honour belong to Allah. It is He Who heareth and knoweth (all things).”
[Surat Yunus, 10:65]