Democracy is a numbers game. How many votes do you have; how much money can you donate for a political candidate or cause; how many members do you have in your organization–how many subscribers does your newspaper have? These calculations are all a part of the numbers game. Your strength in a democracy is directly proportional to your numbers–the larger the number, the stronger you are. Small numbers, fragmentated, and poor communities all are weak and subject to abuse in a democracy.
If you have ever done a fundraiser for a political candidate, you are familiar with the process. In your letter of invitation or in talking to your political invitee you need to address his two prime concerns: how much money you will raise for him, and the voting strength of your group. Many of us have not yet grasped this basic fundamental principle of democracy, the numbers game.
But this is also true in many other aspects of social or community projects. Let me demonstrate how our community has not grasped the point.
I met a person, the other day, who said that he would like to see The Muslim Observer double the present number of news pages, provide more MMNS reporting from different parts of the world, more advertisers, plus a few other improvements. I asked him whether he read TMO regularly, and he said he did. My next question, of course, was â€œAre you a subscriber?â€ â€œNo,â€ he said, â€œI pick it up every week from the Masjid.â€ I donâ€™t think he noticed the smirk on my face. I asked him, â€œHow do you expect the newspaper to grow unless you do your part?â€ He appeared puzzled and responded â€œBy taking more advertisements.â€ I said, â€œDo you think the advertisers want to know how many subscribers we have?â€ And I continued. â€œThe number of subscriptions indicates the seriousness of the reading community. Your numbers are the prime consideration of everyone with which a newspaper interacts–law makers, think tanks, academicians, public pollsters and others.â€
Why do The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Times, Readers’ Digest, National Geographic, and other similar venerable publications offer a huge discount on subscriptions? Do they make enough money to survive on subscriptions? Subscriptions hardly cover their distribution costs. They offer such huge discounts because the larger the subscription base, the stronger is the publication and its supporting community.
How does the community benefit? It benefits by building public opinion on issues important to them. And building public opinion on issues all out of proportion to the small cost of subscribing.
For our numbers game to be effective, it has to be organized, its resources channeled and its members educated on issues. That process is the process of building public opinion.
Without these factors, no matter how much we shout at the top of our lungs that we are 7-8 million Muslims, growing into Americaâ€™s most populous and affluent religious minority, we will remain ineffective. We will continue to dole out millions of dollars following man-made catastrophes to help Muslims around the world rather than acting to prevent the same catastrophes. All this is preventable if we become proactive. Politicians would love to grab our dollars, will give us their ears in exchange for our votes; but until we have an organized, solid and developed base they will hesitate to act in our favor.
We live in a country where the worldâ€™s decision is made. The Muslim world is looking up to us to change the present policies that are clearly not in the best interests either of the world or of America herself.
How can we do this, when we are still in the process of sending our first Muslim Congressman to Washington? In fact, what is the community infrastructure that is there to help propel Muslim and pro-Muslim politicians? What inroads have we made socially by way of making social institutions beneficial to humankind that would demand respect from other communities? Where is our economic clout? Where do we stand in the corporate world? Where is our communityâ€™s strong media voice, communicating with the mainstream media? Who is defining us? Where is our own voice that will effectively define us rather than letting someone else do it?
But we can accomplish these goals and more if each one of us will shoulder his responsibility–and a part of that responsiblity is to support your communityâ€™s newspaper. Therefore, subscribe today–your small contribution makes a big difference. Let us shrug off our apathy and participate by involving ourselves in any media, print, radio or TV that we think is representing the community well.