Express Tribune Report Perpetuates Islamophobia

Express Tribune Screen Grab

Every media group picks up stories from other media groups. Today, Express Tribune picked up a report from Australia about a group of Muslim students who did not participate in singing the Australian national anthem during a school fair. The headline of the article says the students “walked out” during their country’s national anthem. However, the reality is that the school invited Shia students to leave the room before the singing began out of respect for Murrham. The school principal explained this perfectly.

“During the month of Muharram, Shias do not take part in joyous events, such as listening to music or singing, as it was a period of mourning. Muharram is a Shia cultural observation marking the death of Imam Hussain. This year it falls between Tuesday October 13 and Thursday November 12,” Principal Irving said.

“Prior to last week’s years 2-6 assembly, in respect of this religious observance, students were given the opportunity to leave the hall before music was played. The students then rejoined the assembly at the conclusion of the music,” the principal added.

Despite the reality, Express Tribune published a sensational headline along with a photo of school children with their backs turned which gives the impression that Muslim students showed disrespect for their country rather than the reality which is that the school was showing respect for the Muslim students.

It is clear from the report that some non-Muslims are very upset because they incorrectly believe that the students were turning their backs on their country and saying that the national anthem is against their culture. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth and the entire incident is due to ignorance of the facts. As a respected media group in a Muslim country, Express Tribune should know better than to feed Islamophobic ignorance and  by repeating the incorrect view that the students “walked out” and “turned their backs” on their country. Instead, Express Tribune could have used the story to report about how a secular country like Australia is showing respect for Muslims. This would not only correct the false impressions that are being spread but it would also serve as a model for our own schools about respect for religious minorities does not mean disrespect for the nation.

Pakistan’s Image Problem

An important article in Dawn has been, unfortunately, overshadowed by the Raymond Davis drama of the last two days. Perhaps the article was only slightly premature in that regard. Actually, now should be the perfect time to examine closely the author’s observations about Pakistan’s image problem.

The predictable establishment reaction to these results might be a defensive one — questioning the validity of the methodology and results and the diversity of the countries selected to be surveyed, pointing to the rising tide of Islamophobia in the West and the ‘bias’ of the western media which shapes it. Or it may be a foolishly patriotic one by claiming we don’t care what the world thinks of us and simply ignoring the results as irrelevant.

Both of these reactions would be self-defeating, because obviously it does matter to a country living on international handouts (or any country tied into a global economic system) what the world thinks of it. And let’s not forget that Pakistan has pretences of being a leading geo-strategic player.

But there is another response to these dismaying results that may be as problematic and which one fears will be promoted by those out to make a quick buck and those with little vision or imagination. And that is the PR blitz. You can almost sense that public relations agencies will be licking their chops at potential contracts and whispering into the ears of bureaucrats and politicians that the way out of this perceptual negativity is to counter it with positive images of the country.

This is the marketing mindset that believes that what is wrong with Pakistan is basically bad press and the corrective to it is promoting the ‘soft image’ of the country, the sufic roots of our heritage, the brilliant natural beauty or what have you.

Here’s a reality check for our potential spin doctors: marketing is an adjunct to a product, not the other way round. And the product we have on our hands currently is this: a lack of bearings, a fondness for rhetoric over logical analysis, cultural paranoia, an absence of a coherent vision for the future, a prioritisation of elite interests over what is better for the country as a whole, crumbling state institutions, bureaucratic inertia, a stunning lack of capacity to implement any plans that are actually made, a violent assault on the state that daily demoralises its citizens, an economy in hock and a stubborn unwillingness to reverse failing courses of action such as a jihadist foreign policy.

Adeel said on Wednesday that the Raymond Davis case is closed, it is time to focus our attention on the tasks at hand: Addressing the education crisis, building on the recent economic good news to improve further growth and opportunity, strengthening the democratic process and uniting to secure the country against the menace of militancy.

How to respond to Quran burning idiots

I hope you had a beautiful Eid. For the most part, I did. The only thing that threatened to sully it was this idiot in America who was organizing a burning of Quran. But I was not going to let him have the satisfaction of ruining this most special day for me and my family. I wouldn’t let him have the satisfaction of anything of the sort. In fact, if he would have been here, I would have invited him to eat with us.

Wait, what? That’s right. I would have invited him to eat with us. Sounds strange? It shouldn’t. If I ignore him, he will only carry on with his media stunt (because that’s all it really is, isn’t it). If I yell and scream at him, I am just feed the monster. But if I open my home and invite him in; if I embrace him and hold him close, then what choice does he have but to stop his madness?

Think about Surah 41:34

The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo! he, between whom and thee there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend.

Hating is easy. It is the work of the devil himself. What else do we see that brings such death and destruction into the world? This man in American – I will not call him cleric or pastor or any other holy title, for he is only a man – this man is doing the work of the devil. He is trying to sow hatred so that the devil can reap death. We do not need any more hatred. What we need is love and forgiveness.

Think about Surah 3:133-134

And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord; and a Garden, the extensiveness of which is (as) the heavens and the earth, it is prepared for those who guard (against evil). Those who spend (benevolently) in ease as well as in straightness, and those who restrain (their) anger and pardon men; and Allah loves the Muhsineen (doers of good (to others).

I did laugh a bit when I read today that Daily Times called this man a ‘Taliban of a different faith’. Anyone who will burn Holy Quran or bomb a mosque or slaughter Christians in Gojra or children in Palestine or Jews in New York City…all of these are of the same faith. The faith of hatred and death. And this is against the word of Allah and the teachings of the Prophet (SAW).

The responsibility is for us to guard ourselves and ensure that we do not become one of this evil faith, that we keep to the word of Allah in principle and not only in our symbols. The Daily Times issues a warning that we would all be well to heed:

Last but not least, let us look within ourselves. Muslims the world over, including Pakistan, have been denying and abusing the rights of people from other faiths. Whether it was the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban or the murderous rampage against minorities in Pakistan where churches, temples and houses of worship have been targeted, we have all acted like the pastor at some time in our history. Point to ponder.

Point to ponder, indeed.