By Dr. AS Nakadar
I am saddened to hear of the closing of the weekly newspaper Mirror International.
In the last few years we have seen the coming and going of The Minaret newspaper published from NY, Minaret magazine published from Los Angeles, The Muslim, Mirror International, and probably a few others of which we are unaware.
As a publisher of a newspaper I should be happy to see the closing of a competitor. But the fact dictates otherwise. If our focus is to serve the community and to fill the media void, the presence of other newspapers should be treated as a help rather than competition. The presence of more newspapers will strengthen us not only by presenting diverse views but also by equipping the community with a platform to respond to local and national crises. Such local or national newspaper would be in a position to maintain a better communication with other local and national mainstream media in responding to constant bombardment of stereotyping and disinformation.
The closing of the print edition of Mirror International means our community has not grasped the depth of need for a Muslim media. While most of the weekly newspapers and magazines that I know of are struggling, the dream of a daily newspaper will continue to elude us. We talk of having a strong Muslim media, but how can we have it if we are not prepared to do our part? This is in spite of the fact that we are aware of the present mediaâ€™s role in disseminating the controlled and spun news that creates waves not only nationally but also globally, and with devastating effect.
When we hear spun and grossly biased news we might feel mute outrage and may complain without effect, we lament, but no one thinks about doing anything except perhaps sometimes sending a letter to an editor, or an op-ed, or by venting our frustration to ourselves in social gatherings about the media failing in its duties. But we fail to think and support the solution that is our own media that provides an alternative voice, views and news. We need to understand that we are in need of news and analysis, which handles issues from different angles and different perspectives on national and international matters.
Take an example of Iraq. How has the media played its role as a cheerleader creating public opinion against Iraq. The mainstream media became a mouth-piece of war-mongers, quoting only those sound bites of officials and opinion makers that were consistent with the policy of invasion. The media never tried to verify the presence of WMD in Iraq (Weapons of Mass Destruction) from independent sources, and ultimately played the role of a WMD (Weapon of Mass Deception).
According to Public Televisionâ€™s Bill Moyers, of the 414 Iraq stories broadcast on NBC, ABC, and CBS nightly news in the six months before the war, almost all could be traced back to sources in the White House, Pentagon or State Department. He sadly noted, â€œSo many of the advocates and apologists for the war are still flourishing in the media.â€
How do we respond to the brainwashing of our community and especially of our youth, when they constantly hear Muslim- and Islam-bashing? How do we fight the creation of Islamophobia? And we all know that the current mainstream media is a primary culprit in creating these perceptions.
It has become common to hear the name of Muslim or Islam with an adjective or with a prefix in a derogatory way. The terminology moderate Muslims, conservative Muslims, liberal Muslims, good Muslims, bad Muslims, Islamicist, Islamic fundamentalists, Jehadiâ€™s, and the word terrorism that has become synonym with Muslims and their religion Islam.
How do we protect our Masajids, religious or parochial schools and other institutions against the constant verbal and print onslaught? We need our own media, strong enough to provide us a protective shield against these creators of misperceptions of verbal and print onslaught. We need our own media that would communicate with the mainstream media, educating them on our issues. In our experience, over 75% of the cases of the stereotyping and derogatory remarks are due to media ignorance. And we have been successful in our short existence, as a news media, in removing some of the misunderstandings by developing a media to media communication.
We need a media institution. For such an institution to be viable it must stand on its own feet rather than run on charity. It must find its revenue from advertisements or from subscriptions. I have no doubt our community is financially well off to pay a mere yearly subscription that may vary from $50-$75/year for most of our publications.
Setting aside a yearly subscription of $200-$250 for subscriptions to various publications will take our community quite far.
Think how much money it will save us on relief and rehabilitation for man-made catastrophes? Be it for Palestine, Iraq, Bosnia or other countries. We need a media that will create a public opinion in our favor that will reach to think-tanks, lawmakers, and executives of this country, the decision makers and the academicians. To develop such a media institution we have a long way to go but we must saw the seeds now. As the adage says, â€œA thousand mile journey begins with a single step.â€
Let us all take that single step together by subscribing to our news media. And that means laying a strong foundation for a media institution. The return is enormous, especially to our next generation, compared to the paltry sum we pay for subscriptions.
I want to congratulate all those periodicals and weeklies that tried to build a media institution, although some have stopped publication and others are struggling to survive.
In the present scenario, many employees are not paid well or give voluntary services for the sake of the community. I salute you all for your sacrifices and salute those who attempted to establish a media institution but failed. You toiled day and night to keep the communityâ€™s head high. You havenâ€™t failed, failure lies somewhere else. You are our heroes. Your efforts will not go in vain.
I foresee days ahead when Muslims will subscribe freely to build a strong Muslim media, which is a must for our survival and to develop a thriving community.