Media marginalization of Muslims in India
By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
There are sentiments in some quarters within India that the Indian media is not necessarily fair to Muslim issues and to the sensitivities of its largest minority. The 160 million plus minority, the largest in India, is not necessarily alone in such thoughts.
Such feelings often held privately were publicly aired by India Press Council Chairman and a former judge in the Indian Supreme Court, Markanedya Katju, who criticized the media for “demonizing” Muslims through “irresponsible journalism”. To drive home his point, he added that “whenever a bomb blast occurs or such incident takes place, within an hour or so many TV channels start showing that an email or SMS has come from the Indian Mujahideen, JeM or Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami, or some Muslim name, claiming responsibility.” Such news items are rarely verified before they are quickly broadcast and later retractions are far too little to undo the damage done.
Others are countering that Indian Muslims must shed the syndrome of victimhood and persecution and take charge of matters effectively. They should not view the media suspiciously but be part of the process. This would eventually ensure a balance in reporting with minimal bias.
Danish Ahmed Khan, an Indian who operates the website IndianMuslimObserver.com has recognized that a significant part of the problem lies in the meager representation of Muslim journalists in mainstream media. To this end he has come up with an idea of encouraging more Muslims to enter journalism.
He writes: “Considering the fact that media has an important role to play in connecting communities, strengthening peace and communal harmony and working for the larger cause and benefit of humankind, IndianMuslimObserver.com was launched in March 2009 as India’s first online Muslim newspaper. The purpose of the news portal is to bring out the positive side of the story of Muslims and tell the world that they are a peace-loving, progressive community equally contributing to the growth of individuals and the nation. While highlighting all that affects Indian Muslims and the Indian diaspora worldwide, the Indian Muslim Observer also regularly publishes all that concerns Muslims in different parts of the world.
“The prime objective of launching Indian Muslim Observer is to fight prejudices and stereotypes that have been thrust upon Indian Muslims by the mainstream media. The issue of the inappropriate and negative portrayal of Muslims is a matter of grave concern in India. This is because of the lack of adequate Muslim-operated and run media outlets – print, TV and online. As things stand today, the mainstream media has grossly failed to honestly address the issues confronting Indian Muslims, and has rather left no stone unturned in portraying the community in a poor light or simply ignoring the issues that should have been highlighted.
“Considering the fact that Muslims in the country cannot afford to sit on the sidelines, continue to be on the fringes of social and national life and risk their future growth, the Indian Muslim Observer has evolved into an important alternative media platform for information dissemination in a completely objective manner and for presenting the Muslim side of the story in a proper perspective.
“The Indian Muslim Observer acknowledges the need to make the best use of its platform to train aspiring Muslim youths seeking a career in journalism and mass communication, appropriately equip them with relevant knowledge while keeping sight of Islamic ethos so that they are exposed to a situation where being a Muslim can help them to build a good image of the community and effectively counter the baseless, malicious news which is being propagated or specifically written to tarnish the image of the community.” Read more in the Saudi Gazette.