Friday, April 24, 2020

Media war against Muslims: How TV channels fuel Islamophobia that is affecting, endangering lives of Muslims in India

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Imagine, it's the month of fasting that is all set to begin and the things Muslims are most worried about.

'30 days, 3 lakh mosques, anything at even one place, real, exaggerated or cooked up and the madmen on TV can give a twist, almost hold each Muslim accountable for an incident in which a Muslim has been accused, and make every person in India, believe that it is 'they' who are responsible.

World is not perfect, one or two mistakes bound to happen. But when there are dozens of attacks on doctors but one incident where a Muslim gets in conflict with health workers, is run 24/7 and shown as 'Muslims attack...', with a focus on religious identity while the others are either ignored or generalized with headlines like 'Villagers attack' or 'People attack' in brief in paper, what's the result?

It seems that giving religious twist is the sole agenda now. If there is a case of minor girls' rape, the ticker merely says it but if a man killed an animal [real news] and he is Muslim, then his name is instantly flashed and its lead story, also in headline in print.

It is sometimes deliberate, due to existing biases, growing indoctrination, because of newsroom composition (fewer Muslims) and also because of the prevailing trend. When dozen-odd channels scream nonstop, papers too carry it on front pages and put everyone of you responsible for someone's act, make you guilty, unlike other scenario when person alone responsible for his act

It is this sort of coverage, this extreme bigotry and communalism that leads to persecution. One man has brush with law and is booked under NSA, others merely booked under bailable section 323 of IPC. And every such incident used to fuel Islamophobia even in the times of Coronavirus.

This is the way the entire community is 'otherised', made a target of hate and social discrimination. In rural areas or small towns with fewer Muslim population it becomes even more difficult. There are 'boycott' calls on social media, Muslims vendors or sellers told to leave in different cities like Mumbai, Mahoba and Delhi, and even handcarts selling vegetables recently get Saffron flags attached for identification, and a lot more.

The affects are devastating. Imagine, a young man, Dilshad, who had not even tested positive, but was ridiculed (just because he was associated with Tablighi Jamat), so much that he committed suicide. Financial dependence, emotional issues, not everyone can bear it. Case of Muslim Gujjars, people not buying milk..

The recent incident of 35 Muslims belonging to six families converting to Hinduism, in Jind in Haryana, should be seen as a manifestation of this entire 'hate industry' that demonises Muslims, makes it difficult for small communities living in far-flung areas to survive.

It is a complete industry that has been created, the infrastructure where even the mainstream TV channels and papers now playing role of Rwanda Radio, then imagine what the others do, those websites and the parties' IT cell.

The strategy is to create such pressure, demonize so much, that the community is perpetually under psychological pressure, always defensive, even guilty for things you have no connection, and under scrutiny for any incident remotely connected to a Muslim.

Sickness has reached a stage that even video of a vendor using a bottle to wash his hand, is given a twist and false claims are made that he was sprinkling urine (sic), and shared on social media, the community constantly bears the brunt of this demonizing campaign.

A day or two later officers clear the air or fact-check websites debunk the video and reject the false claims, but by then the fake news reaches millions. And it keeps happening on a daily basis. You keep explaining but there is a limit to it.

And, when this is consumed by viewers along side mainstream TV channels, newspapers' propaganda, it goes to a scale that is almost impossible to fight. It's time to understand the enormity of this fake news industry and its Islamophobia. Tackle it before it's too late.

READ: World must Wake up, Indian media involved in Nazi-style propaganda against Muslims

READ: Hate spread through TV channels: Is media's right-wing shift irreversible?

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Idea of Justice, Equality and Opportunity: Seven illustrations that help children understand the world, power structure and society

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

How to teach the 'idea of justice', to children.  How to make them understand realities of the world.

And, make them learn the ills of 'system'--things like exploitation, oppression, need for diversity and equal opportunity, at a young age.

This is what I learnt from these comics in my childhood. These writers were brilliant, they taught you all--equality, compassion, need for justice, without using tough terms in these comics.

Just see these six-seven panels that I have selected from an old comic. In the story, that is pure fiction and entertainment, ideas of justice and equality were incorporated, and this goes on to the level that it inspires the reader.

If you read properly, you will understand the story. The change that came up after freedom--everyone is an equal. There is liberty, talent has the opportunity to come forward, people share knowledge, are inclusive, want to give equal opportunities to all irrespective of their past, financial or social status.

As power structure changes, the 'Old Order' and its proponents are unhappy.

They talk about 'taxes', irked over funding of public education and health, that why 'poor and non-elite' get treated as equals.

They're still powerful but feel 'insecure'. It happens in all societies.

There is a rise in insecurity when the poor or a new class emerges. We see it around us, even in our times. This phenomenon is always there, a group that resents any change and prefers 'traditional system'.

The 'Old Order' strikes back, wants a return to the past. 'Why should ordinary, common folk need education.

See the lines, 'Our power had gone, our land gone....we elite lose and our land is being distributed to poor'.

"If you get access to education, who will work for us, who will work on our fields".

It wants to bring 'old order' again, the 'Golden era', the 'imagined past'. And, here comes they who want their share in the loot. They are 'allies' now because they sense the opportunity to once again wrest control over resources, lord over poor.

Time for the loot!

There is resistance. The 'Old Order' fails to capture power.

Those who joined hands with the inclusive, just state, are pardoned.

'They wanted to stop wheel of change'. Now that's small part.

All these 6-7 panels would together form barely ONE page of the 30 page comic but more powerful than text books. No jargons like communism, socialism or talk of inclusive steps, diversity and equal opportunities, but this is understood.

This is a Flash Gordon comic. It was published in the eighties.

Though it was originally written in USA, they were published in India by a special arrangement with Indrajal Comics.

The artwork was improved, the comics here were better as quality was enhanced, comics were colorized.

This is just an example how certain writers tried to imbibe humane values. Personally, I am always fascinated by these writers.

They belonged to certain societies that may have been capitalist but the stories had such characters that egged on the reader to take STAND, always.

Stand against injustice, Stand against Oppression. And, stand against capitalist loot too. Quite interesting. Isn't it!


Flash Gordon was originally drawn by Alex Raymond. Flash and his companion Dale Arden, along with scientist Dr Hans Zarkov fight the evil Ming, in Mongo. Prince Barin leads the revolution and the power is snatched from the elite, it is now in the hands of the common people.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Majority Vs Minority: How majoritarian tendencies change societies, affect perceptions, damage nations

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Is the world, all about 'majority' and the majoritarian privilege--majority deciding what's good for itself and the country and minority accepting a second class status despite laws and all rights on paper?

It is a strange phenomenon but it is clearly at work in our supposedly 'modern' societies, and in democratic countries as well.

Laws are there but the people who have the power to use or misuse laws are also humans [majority or minority] and prone to social changes, perceptions, tendencies and biases.
In many democratic societies, despite equality and law, a 'minority' is always seen as the 'other'.
If one person or an organisation belonging to a minority community, makes a mistake, then it is not seen as an individual mistake, rather, it puts all the people belonging to the community in the dock.

It happens so easily because media that has the power to create perception, and it too has similar majoritarian tendencies, is able to whip up such sentiments. Street thug level louts sitting in the studios, who shout and scream against the minority, are responsible for it.

They paint all with same brush! Else, an incident is just an incident, and ignored. The rot in the society when one group tries to dominate the others, completely. We see it more in some countries, less in some other but this is a harsh reality.

Majoritarian feeling of 'entitlement', expecting surrender of 'other'. In some countries, it is to a lesser extent, while in others that have crumbling systems, it goes to the extreme level. If polity, executive and judiciary fail, then the situation deteriorates even faster.

A slip and you'll be hauled over coals. There is another aspect. Majority never wants to own up any mistake, it can never be wrong. It doesn't need to explain itself. Minority must ensure they're all sages, good and clean at all times, helping, one mistake and the media-politicians-society is ready to pounce upon them.

The minority doesn't understand why it happens to it. On the other hand, the majority despite holding key positions and all the power, looks at minority population, as if the latter are 'troublemakers'. Of course, politics and media play an important role in creating this perception.

While organised groups may persecute or lynch minority, the majority would still feel that the minority is too dominant and creates problems, even if these problems are a figment of imagination or a result of false propaganda.

One negative incident in which a person belonging to minority is found involved and everyone among the minority is expected to condemn and appear as 'apology personified'. This pressure is created.

No one should force, put onus on me to condemn or laud a particular incident or statement. I must have the liberty to speak the day I feel like. That should be my decision, totally. No one should ever  expect something from me or judge me for what any individual does!

Simple, isn't it. But no. Not in real life. The harsh reality is that even in democracies, it is the rule of those who are more in population--religion, language or a bigger community. The impact is more or less in different places, varies from country to country.

When you control all and despite being a majority get persecution complex, then it's even more laughable. Solution: To improve it--ensure rule of law in real sense, rein in your extremist groups, de-link religion from lot of things around, treat people in more just, similar manner.

PHOTO: Mr Anugrah Lohiya, Pexels

Friday, April 03, 2020

How to fight fake news, media misinformation, hate speech and communal propaganda: Islamophobia in India and Indian Media

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

The level of hate, misinformation and fake news has reached such an alarming stage that it has left a large section of society, stunned.

Many people have the standard reply that it is better not to watch TV news or avoid reading papers, but dissociating or boycott doesn't lead to any solution, as the propaganda is reaching masses and will continue to affect you (us).

Besides, the sad aspect is that people who suffer because of it, have almost given up without a fight. I will give some hints in this post. The level hasn't gone up suddenly, it has reached here, in almost two decades, and unfortunately, there is no seriousness to tackle it.

Long long ago, media houses would be wary of publishing anything sensationalist, particularly, about a community, as they felt there would be reaction. But the situation changed over a period and they realised there was never any reaction, even if they came out with a 'fake fatwa' story or blamed any Muslim institution without any reason.

Neither these institutions sent defamation notices despite clear evidence and being on strong wicket, nor there were court cases or complaints to commissions. From 2006-2008 onwards, situation worsened but still people didn't wake up.

By 2012-14, Zee and Times Now were turning vicious. Yet, no steps were taken. Steadily in another five-six years, the situation has reached this level. While people like Pratik Sinha came up with Alt News, and other fact-checkers came up to debunk propaganda, [at least, with limited resources, they are giving a fight] what has been the community response?

The institutions---Deoband to Nadwa, the Khanqahs from Ajmer to Bareilly, they were all targeted. But none even takes it seriously. Imagine, an institution is termed 'terror factory' and in this case, it has to take it up not others because it has been defamed, still, there is no action.

So if either a BJP leader terms Deoband 'Aatankwad ki Gangotri' or a paper writes about a seminary and equates madarsas as breeding grounds of extremists or publishes false baseless stories like unfurling a flag of another country on campus, that hurt communal harmony and lead to hate, there is still no response.

Can't you do the most basic and simple task--some people joining hands to form a 'Media Monitor' at state or city level and ensure that any false news or one-sided story, gets the rebuttal and a proper statement is released, demanding apology, and the statement should be sent to all other media houses, apart from putting it up on social media.

It will take some time but this needs to be done diligently. And, it doesn't need funds to do it. This is just one of the most basic and proper ways (among the many ways). In Europe-USA, organisations record media disinformation, hate speeches, Islamophobia though Muslims form a minuscule population. Unfortunately, in India, there is not even a will to do it.

You may not believe but just a sustained effort over a period--six months, one year, will change it at least in your state. Those who monitor gain upper hand but it needs a bit of seriousness, discipline and at least 15-30 minutes effort daily or a weekly standard procedure--writing letters, issuing statements, phone calls, things you learn as you work.

Besides, if a paper is publishing reports that incite passions or headlines are inflammatory, you need to act as a citizen and must write letter to officials urging them to take action against paper or channel for disrupting harmony. But again, more important is releasing this letter in public, press and social media.

Besides, there is no understand of how media functions--people feel that less viewership or boycott of works though they don't even know that news print cost is so high that papers now prefer lesser circulation & if you don't watch it doesn't mean hate is not being spread--the videos of the TV channel debates and news go to FB, Twitter and WhatsApp, and from there they are shared.

Those who have an interest and take up the task, get recognition as well as satisfaction. These are the most basic things, any community or group is expected to do. But even this work--documentation, recording instances of discrimination and media monitoring is just missing among us.

Remember, there are ways, and a sustained fight can change situation but there is no willingness, interest or vision. And a mindset that refuses to believe that things can be changed if you do it in a planned way.

Also, read these articles published on this site earlier:

READ: India's media's right-wing, Islamophobic shift, is it irreversible?

READ: World must wake up how TV channels spreading Nazi-level propaganda in India

READ: How Twitter gives free run to online hate peddlers in India