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?