Muslims and the Western media: giving credit where it’s due

The Western media has not been friendly to Muslims. This well-documented, discussed and understood.

The main problem, as I see it, was not so much that there was criticism of Islam and Muslims, but that — in the Western context — Muslims did not have an adequate platform on which to respond to such criticisms. However, to their credit, some in the “mainstream” English media are now giving voices to “mainstream” Muslims (this still appears, to me, to be a major problem in mainland Europe). And I think Muslims should recognise and welcome this change.

Perhaps the biggest and best experiment in mass blogging, The Guardian’s Comment is free, has given a voice to Muslims across the entire range of Islamic/ate viewpoints. This includes non-religious secularists; Islamists; reformists; representatives of major Muslim organisations; and even to the much-dreaded Hizb al-Tahrir (which is a major irony). Indeed, run through the list of contributors at the blog and see how many “Muslim names” appear.

And the very platfrom from which Ayaan Hirsi WhatsHerFaceName was recently denouncing Islam, On Faith (part of Washington Post), has devoted an entire section of their blog to mainstream figures such as Sh. Ali Gomaa, Sherman Jackson and Timothy Winter.

I should add that many Muslims do not hold back expressing their views on Western society, Christianity, etc. So why ask others to do the same when expressing their views on Islamic beliefs and practices? The danger in demanding voices critical of Islam are muffled by the law have been well explained by Austrolabers, and they have consequences for a Muslim’s own religious beliefs too:

It is quite conceivable, however, that some Christians may take offence to the aggressive style of, say, Ahmed Deedat and claim that his books and lectures vilify their faith (and therefore incite hatred against the Christian people). This is the unfortunate consequence of these sorts of laws [which prevent people from ‘offending’ others]: they are double-edged swords which might just as easily be wielded against Muslim leaders and clerics, as they are now being swung against Christian groups.


Given all this, it is only a matter of time before some Muslims find themselves in the courts answering charges of vilification against Christians, Jews, or any other religion because they have criticised or refuted these beliefs in such a fashion or in such a style as to cause offence amongst one or more adherents. It is also only a matter of time before Islamic books that criticise other faiths put the authors and sellers of such books in the crosshairs of the government. For this reason, amongst many, Muslims should think carefully about whether they support these laws.


7 Responses to “Muslims and the Western media: giving credit where it’s due”

  1. 1 Umm Zaid August 3, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    Salaam ‘Alaikum

    This must be more of an issue for Europe or Australia, b/c here (US), I’ve not heard of Muslims supporting laws that would curb a person’s freedom to say whatever they want about us and our religion. The main complaint here seems to be that lots of lies and errors are spread (and spread and spread) and that we do not get “equal time.” You know, that we’re not as often given the chance to put out *our* Islamic views. Meanwhile, Ayan Hirsi Ali isn’t just in “On Faith.” She’s in every public library, on the display shelves of B&N (where it is difficult to find a book on Islam authored by an actual Muslim), in myriad magazines and newspapers, and so on. Timothy Winter, Sheikh Ali and so forth? Well, they’re in “On Faith,” and pretty much nowhere else. I think our issue here is more with how these voices are marketed and such, not that they exist.

  2. 2 thabet August 3, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    waalaykum assalam

    I agree that things aren’t “perfect” and that Muslims do not have “equal time”. These are things for us to work to improve and for our societies to be truer to their principles of fairness and/or freedom.

    I was commenting on the improvement we have witnessed. I do not recall such a number of major Islamic figures being given *any sort* of platform, apart from the characteristic “mad mullah”.

    This is something we should welcome and acknowledge, whilst at the same time working to open doors and calling the media out when they make mistakes or engage in lying (see my post on a recent article in The Times).

  3. 3 Osama Saeed August 19, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    I’m not sure the news is that good outside the Guardian. To get an article about Islam or Muslims printed, you need to be slagging us off, and if you’re Muslim yourself, all the better.

  4. 4 Osama Saeed August 19, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    PS Is this your blog Thabet? If so, didn’t know you were doing solo efforts again.

  5. 5 thabet August 19, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    Salaam Osama

    I am not saying that there is some great change in media attitudes towards Muslims. There is still just outright lying wrt Muslims — it is not so much people disagreeing with Islamic practices and beliefs in opinion pieces, as people just making things up or ignoring facts that don’t conform to their agenda.

    But I would ask: what was there before the Gruan or WaPo’s OnFaith? Nothing. Both papers are hardly marginal players.

    I am acknowledging there has been a change, even if very small.

    Yes — this is my blog. I only occassionaly blog now.

  6. 6 dawood January 7, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    I remember back in 2005 when we had the “Cronulla Race Riots” here, my wife got a number of works published in mainstream media and was even quoted by the BBC in one instance. She criticised all sides for their bad behaviour and so on, but the Mozzies here only picked up on what she said that criticised their/her own community and proceeded to lambast her for even daring to put pen to paper. Such is the mindset many people have though, which is frustrating in and of itself.

  1. 1 Blogging the Qur’an « pixelisation Trackback on January 7, 2008 at 8:29 pm

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