A PAPER PRESENTED BY RASHEED ABUBAKAR, PUBLISHER OF MUSLIM NEWS NIGERIA AND AUTHOR OF MEDIA NARRATIVES OF MUSLIMS IN NIGERIA: FACTS AND FALLACIES, ON CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN THE MEDIA AND ISLAM IN NIGERIA AT THE 2019 POSTGRADUATE AND PHD STUDENTS’ COLLOQUIUM WITH THE THEME: COMMUNICATION AND MEDIA RESEARCHES IN MUSLIM SOCIETIES HELD ON SUNDAY, 22ND OF SEPTEMBER 2019 AT THE BAYERO UNIVERSITY, KANO, KANO STATE
Few days ago, my attention was drawn to a TVC News report on a Muslim media platform. A news ticker I considered derogatory crawled across the bottom of the TV screen. The headline read: “West African Leaders Pledge $1bn Support to Fight Islamist Threat” – Sunday, 15 September, 2019.
I was uncomfortable with the use of the word ‘Islamist’ in the headline. To me, it was a misnomer, such as other media tags like, ‘Islamic terror’ or ‘Islamic fundamentalist’, even though they are subjective terms open to debates.
In this context, the TVC News was wrong to have used the terminology ‘Islamist’ in the headline. Hence, I decided to search for the story and I discovered that one out of virtually all the local and International media that reported the same news used ‘…to fight armed groups’,¹ and ‘to tackle terrorism’ ².
This triggered discussions on the platform and almost everyone repudiated TVC for using the misleading headline. Some called the Editor on duty ‘a bigot’, others said the station had finally joined the league of Islamophobia media outfits.
Some critics especially in the western-owned media houses however, do not believe Islamophobia exists. They opine that Islamophobia is a figment of the imagination of those making the allegations, with the sole aim of shutting down or at least redirecting the debate to what Melanie Phillips called “legitimate criticism of Islam and the Muslims.”³
However, Islamophobia is real and we shall in the course of this presentation, discuss how media reportage has fuelled the increasing incidences of hate crimes committed against Muslims especially in the Western axes of European countries and the US.
This paper will also address what the majority of Muslims believe to be bias, double-standard and unfair treatment4 against them and their religion, especially in the Nigerian media, which is unarguably a product of what has come to be generally referred to as ‘media evangelism’ by the white missionaries who imposed on us the infamous three (3) Cs; Colonization, Christianization and Civilisation.
We will then take a brief historiography through the evolution of the media industry in Nigeria and how it has been championed by the church or a particular geopolitical region and ethnic nationality, to set the agenda and profiling of other tribes or religious persuasions, without the presence of devout Muslims in the media arena.
If I may ask, do you know the most profiled or criminalised regions that have dominated the news far more than ever before, especially since the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari? We shall not only reveal it with relevant examples. We shall also see the consequences of our negligence and media apathy in the reportage of issues that affect Islam and the Muslims in Nigeria as a major case study and the world at large.
It is equally important to state here, for many of the issues, the way forward have been addressed in two of my books. First of which is Hijab and the Nigerian Press, and the second, Media Narratives of Muslims in Nigeria: Facts and Fallacies. At the end of this paper, I suggested steps to be taken to combat Islamophobia and bias reportage of Islam and the Muslim in the media.
Key Terms: Media, Islam, Muslims, Hypocrisy, Islamophobia, Media Biases, Double standard
Roles of the Media in the Society
Before we proceed, we need to establish the role and enormous power of influence, the media wields in the society. Media, irrespective of their types – print, broadcast, online etc., have so many great roles to play in the society. For the sake of this presentation, we shall highlight just a few:
1. Information, i.e. to give or impart facts to the society;
2. Education, to teach or enlighten the people;
3. Entertainment, to delight or provide relaxation;
4. Political Socialization i.e. mobilization and participation in political dispositions which we saw play out on social media, particularly on Twitter, during the last general elections.
If these are the roles the media play, one might be tempted to ask why emphasis is laid on the media as an information and communication tool.
The media is an important pillar and a mirror of the society. That’s why they are called THE FOURTH ESTATE OF THE REALM, after the three other “ESTATES” – the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature, because they provide and facilitate effective information to the people on which evaluation of government activities are based. Rasheed Abubakar (2015) said the media is a watchdog, that checks and uncovers corruption and wrongdoings of the other three estates.⁵
The information the people get from the media are utilized in the evaluation of government. It is because of this important role that the Nigerian Constitution guarantees freedom of expression of the press. The media has not just the right but the obligation to hold the government accountable. Thus, chapter 4, Section 39, 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) says:
(1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions, and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions:
Provided that no person, other than the Government of the Federation or of a State or any other person or body authorised by the President on the fulfillment of conditions laid down by an Act of the National Assembly, shall own, establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting station for, any purpose whatsoever.⁶
How powerful is the Media?
The power and reach of the media is without doubt, extensive and massive. This is discernable from its apparent influence over the formation of views, molding of opinions and influencing of thought. It is a useful tool for agenda setting and determining a road map for those in government. Above all, it is a powerful orientation instrument as well as of propaganda and blackmail.
The inestimable power of the media made a former President of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson declare that: if he were given an option to choose between a Government without the Press or the Press without a Government, he would not hesitate to choose the later, as quoted by Abubakar (2015, p.92).⁷
Most important people in the world cannot do without the media. In fact, it is often believed that nobody or ideology can neither fight the media nor do without the media. That’s why Napoleon Bonaparte, the greatest French Army Officer, who conquered Constantinople, once said in his famous quote, on the power of the media, “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets “. (Abubakar (2015, p.3)⁸
On the Iraqi war and media propaganda, the United States and United Kingdom used the media (BBC, CNN, New York Times and The Economist, etc.) to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003. They made the world believe that, without the war, Iraq posed an immediate, grave and eternal threat to the world.
Despite the fact that some world leaders refused to believe the former US president George W. Bush’s claims that the late Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein was in possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), he went to war, killed many innocent people and brought an end to Saddam Hussein’s reign and then, his life. Unfortunately, it became very clear, ten years after the war, that Saddam Hussein never had WMDs and that it was merely bare faced propaganda.
Till date, no evidence has been shown to reveal that there were weapons. Have they found the weapons? Where are the weapons?
Truly, Islam also shares this view about the media being a powerful instrument of social mobilization. We shall talk about it later in this discourse but no matter the strength accrued to the media, all power belongs to Allah. The media is the creation of man. Both the man and his creation (media) are creations of Allah, the Master of all Creatures.
What Media is Known for?
In journalism texts, there are certain features that the media are known for. These qualities drive journalism practice. In an ideal society, these are what media do, irrespective of their ownership’s interest.
1. Objectivity: This is an attempt to present all sides of a controversial issue, according to Adisa (2003, p.26).⁹ Journalists are expected to be impartial and report a situation as it is, without the interference of their personal opinion, especially when writing a straight News story.
2. Fairness: Media at all times must show respect for the dignity, privacy, rights and well-being of all parties in the course of gathering and presenting News. Fairness is about honesty. It also means that a journalist should strive for accuracy and truth in reporting, and not slant a story to an angle that allows a reader draw his subjective conclusion.
3. Balance: This is important in the media. Stories must be balanced in the sense of attempting, by every means, to present all sides of a story.
4. Impartiality: The Media should not take sides on an issue where there is a dispute. Impartiality also includes presenting all sides of an argument fairly and equally.
That is why journalists are expected to refrain from making pejorative reference to a persons ethnic group, religion, sex or any physical or mental illness or weakness.
All these, among others are contained in the code of ethics for Nigerian journalists.10 These are what journalists are required to do in the cause of discharging their jobs.
Islam versus Western Secular ‘Christian’ Power
The rivalry between Islam and Christianity has been an age-long rivalry. It all began centuries ago when Islam dominated and ruled the civilised world. The fearless armies of Islam, who were never fearful before an enemy force even ten times their number, conquered “great empires, the Roman and Persian. Then, moved to the borders of China and the Indian subcontinent, across Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Europe”¹¹ before it collapsed in 1924 under the Ottoman Empire and gave rise to another power, the western Christian/secular power.
Hence, the space the western Christian power is occupying at the moment does not belong to her. It was previously an Islamic space. So, any opportunity for Islamic resurgence is viewed with suspicion. They have studied the history of Islam and they are aware of the potency of the resurgence of Islamic power that is highly likely to take over what originally belonged to them. When that would come, they are not certain. That is why they are guarding their power base jealously and doing everything possible to suppress the Islamic reawakening through different means, one of which is the media power.
The Media War
When the western missionaries landed in the former Niger Area in 1841 before the eventual amalgamation of 1914 into what is today known as Nigeria, they came with three Cs – Colonialisation, Civilisation and Christianisation. They established churches and schools which they used to convert many Nigerians especially Muslims who were interested in Western education.
Interestingly, as early as 1859, they had floated a vernacular newspaper in Egba, an area in Ogun State, Southwest Nigeria, to preach the values of Christianity and domination of Islam, which was seen as a sleeping lion that might awaken from a deep slumber.
Also, Tella (2013) citing Abati (2000)¹² revealed that; “Henry Townsend, a British missionary, founded “Iwe Irohin Yoruba”, a Christian weekly bulletin designed to inform, enlighten and educate returnees of the slave trade era from Europe and America who came back to Nigeria via Sierra Leone to settle in Egba land and the indigenous converts into Christian religion.
According to Abubakar (2017, p.69)¹³ the principals of the Nigerian press before and after amalgamation of 1914 were Christians, except The Comet (1933-1944), which was published by Duse Muhammed Ali, an Egyptian born African nationalist who settled in Lagos.
All these newspapers, including Anglo African (1863-1865), Lagos Times and Gold Coast Advertisers (1880-1883), Eagle and Lagos Critic (1883), The Mirror (1887-1888), The Weekly Record (1891-1930) among others had something in common – hatred for Islam.
They used the instrumentality of the media to frantically smear the image of Islam, calling it a religion spread by the sword. While that was ongoing, they continued to use their schools to compel Muslims who wanted to seek western education to accept Christianity against their wish. Hence, a lot of Muslims lost their faith and till date, became Christians.
The misrepresentation of Islam continued even after independence, especially from privately owned newspapers and magazines. Apart from the late Moshood Abiola (MKO)’s The Concord which dominated the print media between 1985 and 1994, newspapers like The Punch, The Guardian, Vanguards, Newswatch and TELL News Magazine, among others have been seen by Muslims as part of an Islamophobic press, considering their reportage of contemporary issues affecting Islam and the Muslims in Nigeria.
Even as at then, The Concord Newspaper was dominated by Christians. Tella said, “Only three of the 14 top managers were Muslims”. He also mentioned another newspaper that represented Islam, The Guardian , owned by the late Alhaji Arisekola Alao, who was then the Aare Musulumi of Yoruba land and the Deputy President General (South) of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA).
He added that despite the newspaper’s effort towards representing Islam, only 4 of the nine top executives were Muslims and only 40 percent of the reporters were Muslims.
Tella (2018) observed that, as at 2017, there were 237 local, regional and national newspapers circulating in Nigeria out of which 37 were national newspapers¹ and only three English language newspapers had any link whatsoever with Muslims. Only two have Islamic inclination, the Triumph and the Daily Trust, The Nation owned by Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu had nothing, content wise that reflects Islam.
The Nation, founded in July 2006, is run by Christians. For almost 18 years, the newspaper had a Christian Editor, Gbenga Omotoso, who is now the Commissioner for Information in Lagos State. When the newspaper owners wanted to get a replacement, it was another Christian, Mr. Adeniyi Adeshina who was picked in August 2019 to continue the christianisation of the newspaper from where his predecessor stopped.
The 34 other nationally or regionally circulated newspapers are owned and managed by Christian politicians, businessmen and technocrats – some of whom are evangelists, deacons and pastors.
Apart from Daily Trust and The Nation, other top newspapers, which will form the focus of this presentation, are The Punch (founded by late Wole Aboderin,), The Guardian (Alex Ibru, late), Thisday (Nduka Obaigbena), The Sun (Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu), The Vanguard (Prince Sam Amuka Pemu), Leadership Newspaper (Abraham Nda-Isaiah), among others.
The Nigerian media today, just like the media in the UK and USA, are no longer serving the societal interests through transparency and accountability. Rather, they serve the narrow interests of their principals. Majority of them have disposed the ethical values of truthfulness, accuracy, fairness and balance central to media social responsibility. They have created more problems than solutions to societal dilemmas.
In Nigeria, the consequence of unethical conduct of media institutions is felt more by the Muslim community as it has consistently suffered what Azeez, T. (2018) described as over-reportage, sensationalisation, hateful stereotyping and spotlighting of depressing news about Muslims. According to Azeez (2018), the other side of the coin is under-reportage, gate-keeping and agenda setting against Muslims’ predicaments as well as media black-out on the merits, successes and strides of Muslims in the commonwealth.
Islamophobia has been defined and explained differently by media scholars since its use as a term escalated in the 20th century. Despite the differences in the varying definitions, there are important areas of convergence on key terms such as “fear, hatred, prejudice, profiling, stereotyping and irrational hostility and discrimination against the Muslims on the basis of their religion – Islam”.¹⁴
Islamophobia can also be likened with racism, which is “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that ones own race is superior”. It is quite possible for black Muslims living in Europe to suffer both Islamophobia and racist attacks for being Muslims and at the same time for being blacks.
Evidently, there are increasing cases of Islamophobia attacks across the world, many of which were caused by the spate of terrorist attacks carried out by extremists who hide under the name of Islam and of course, media stereotypes of criminalizing Muslims and making them look bad.
The recent and very devastating Islamophobia attack on the Muslims was the 2019 terror attack on the Christchurch Mosque in New Zealand by a white supremacist, where 50 worshippers were killed, and 50 others were injured.¹⁵ While attacks by white supremacists, right wing terrorists and Christian fanatics are not blamed on Christianity, attacks carried out by extremists in the name of Islam gained prominence in the media with Muslims being labeled with the identity of terrorists.
Apart from the western Christian media, some Nigerian media tag terrorist group like Boko Haram Jihadists or Islamists, thereby forcing their audience to be misguided youths represent about the generality of Muslims.
How Issues of Islam Have Been Covered
Hypocrisy Case Study 1: “Here’s What Terrorists Look Like”!
The British newspaper, The Sun of December 12, 2016 published three images on the front cover with a screaming headline: “Here’s what terrorists look like.”
The images carried the labels: The White Widow (left); Osama Bin Laden (middle); and Jihadi John (right) in that order. The interpretation, according to Abubakar, R. (2018) is clear, once you wear a Hijab, you adorn a turban or keep a beard, then you are a terrorist, especially if you also (claim to) profess the Islamic belief.
This headline was purely hate speech and it increased the rise of Islamophobia attacks in the UK, US and the entire mainland/continental Europe. Those who put on Hijab, wear turban or beard are subjected to attacks because of media stereotypes of this nature. In fact, the UK national police have recorded growing hate crime against Muslims but many of them are grossly underreported in the media, because of their bias and hypocrisy.
But when a white terrorist, Benton Tarrant massacred 50 innocent Muslims, injured another 50 at two different mosques in New Zealand, the media didn’t go hard on him. He was described as “angelic boy, who grew into an evil far-right mass killer” according to Daily Mirror of Saturday, March 16, 2019.
“Angelic boy”…? Is that a befitting adjective for a man who just killed 50 people? Why not terrorists? To the western media, he was not a terrorist because he is a white and not an Arabian. He isn’t a Muslim but Christian. He didn’t put on a turban, neither did he grow beard. And he didn’t voice out the takburaat while commiting his heinous crime . That’s one of the examples of the media double standard.
Hypocrisy Case Study 2: Double Standard
Another pathetic instance of media bias against the Nigerian Muslims is the fuelling of the herdsmen/farmers clashes (Abubakar, 2018). To justify this assertion, the chronicle of how major Nigerian newspapers covered the killing of seven travellers in Gboko, Benue State on the 31st of January, 2018 becomes imperative.
According to Abubakar (2018, p.42), “ unfortunately but not surprisingly, the identities of the victims (Fulani) and the perpetrators (Tiv hoodlums) were conspicuously missing in the cover headlines of most of the top Nigerian newspapers that published the unfortunate incident.”
Headline, Online: Bandits kill, burn seven travellers to ashes – The Punch
Headline, Cover: Seven killed in Gboko, Governor Ortom imposes curfew – The Punch
Sadly, Daily Trust, which many believe to be flying the Northern agenda also disappointed many of its esteemed readers as it also flaunted on its headline, “Curfew in Gboko as police confirm 7 killed,” committing the same mischief of hiding the identities of both the Fulani victims and the Tiv killers.
“Curfew in Gboko as police confirm 7 killed”
To add salt to the injury, The Cable online newspaper identified the victims ‘herdsmen’ in its headline, as seen below:
Ortom imposes curfew as 7 ‘herdsmen’ are burnt alive in Benue – The Cable
The lack of fairness and objectivity in the task of newsgathering and news reporting became apparent when a similar killing attributed to Fulani herdsmen happened in Taraba on Saturday, 3rd of February, 2018 and received prominence and ample mentions in major national dailies.
Herdsmen kill four in Taraba village after Governor’s alarm – The Punch
Other examples can be found in my books. One will begin to ask, where is the fairness that the media should be known for?
Hypocrisy Case Study 3: Propaganda
On Monday, April 30, 2018, Nigerian print media blew issues out of proportion in their online/print versions the “Stop Killing Christians” statement attributed to President Trump while hosting the visiting President Buhari in the White House.
I cited different newspapers in the book but here, The Guardian and The Punch as case studies.
Killings of Christians in Nigeria must stop – Trump – The Punch
Killing of Christians is unacceptable, says Trump – The Guardian
Surprisingly, barely 24 hours after President Trump made the statement in the US and it graced the covers of many newspapers, two explosions rocked Mubi, Adamawa in the Northeast Nigeria. The attacks claimed the lives of no fewer than 60 people, though numbers of reported casualties varied.
Unfortunately, virtually all the print media (The Punch, The Nation, Tribune, Thisday, New Telegraph etc.) that reported the attacks failed to indicate in their headlines that the first bombing attack took place in a MOSQUE and of course, all the victims were Muslims, even if there were non-Muslims among the victims of the second blast, since it happened in the market.
The question is, why did these newspapers hide the “killings of Muslims in the mosque” in their headlines, barely a day after they dedicated their headlines to the “killings of Christians” as claimed by President Trump? It may interest you my dear audience that Trump did not just say the killings of Christians in Nigeria must stop; he also said that the killing of Muslims must stop as well.
A footage of his statement later surfaced online where he encouraged that “all levels of government in Nigeria; local, district and national must work together to stop the killings of Muslims and Christians.” But the media removed the ‘Muslims’ part, and focused only on the Christians, since they control the media.
Hypocrisy Case Study 4: Double-standard
There is no picture of Aisha Alabi, that’s why I used picture of Hijab protests held by MSSN Lagos to illustrate her struggle for the Hijab in Lagos. Unavailability of her pictures online was not a surprise because her story did not attract media mention. The few that later used it did not publish it with pictures.
Who is she? Aisha Alabi, then, a 14year old, was flogged 42 strokes of the cane by the then Principal of Kadara Junior School, Lagos, Mrs. Ukpaka, because she wore Hijab on uniform.
The incident happened on February 5, 2013 and the media crew of MSSN got the details of the incident and syndicated it to media houses for publication or, independent investigation. Surprisingly, it took almost a month before the story could be published by The Punch, with the headline.
Headline: Outrage as Principal flogs pupil for wearing Hijab – The Punch
That was the end of the reportage. There was no follow up. The teacher, who admitted to flogging the student was not sacked or jailed by her employers, the Lagos state government. There was no hashtag #JusticeforAishaAlabi on social media because the victim was a Muslim and the oppressor, a Christian.
The media went criminally silent but suddenly came back to life when one Yunusa Dahiru Yellow allegedly abducted a girl, Ese-Oruru, in 2016. The campaign was championed by The Punch with the launch of #FreeEse on social media and inciting headline, PUNCH LAUNCHES FREE ESE CAMPAIGN: Kano man steals,
forcefully marries 14-yr-old Bayelsa girl
What looked like a case of elopement between two lovers (Yunusa and Ese) was later turned to religious (Muslim against Christian) and ethnic (North against South) conflicts by the Islamophobic media, with the blame heaped on Islam, the Shari’ah Commission and the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II.
Veteran columnist, Muhammad Haruna, wrote that he recorded no less than 70 pages of news, comments, interviews and editorials on the story within a period less than a month) as published in the country’s top seven newspapers The Punch, Thisday, The Nation, Sun, Daily Trust, Vanguard and The Guardian.
“Not even the marriage of a not-so-young Senator Ahmed Sani, former Governor of Zamfara state and the pioneer of penal Sharia in the country, to a young Egyptian girl in Abuja over five years got that level of vitriol.
Indeed, not even the globally condemned abduction of over 200 girls from Chibok, Borno State, over a year ago, allegedly by Boko Haram insurgents, attracted that quantity of newspaper coverage.
Another instance, exposing media double standard against Islam and the Muslims was the case of a student, Onyinye Nwakaeme, a 14-year-old, who was also flogged by Sunday Adeshina, received wider media coverage. In fact, it became a serious fight between the school and the girl’s family as reported below:
November 26, 2016: School, family at war over beating of SS3 student
And by November 28, 2016, the teacher was jailed. Here is the headline:
Secondary school teacher thrown into prison for flogging student till she bled in Lagos – Daily post
Secondary school teacher thrown into prison for flogging student till she bled in Lagos [PHOTO]
From all indications, based on some of the evidence provided in this paper, I posit that there are relatively no longer world class practicing journalists in Nigeria. What do I mean? you might ask, and in response I will say: what is the essence of a journalism practice when all the ethical standards are abandoned? This is not because we (Muslims) are victims. In fact, incidences of bias or hypocrisy by today’s media practitioners is not limited to acts against the interests of Islam or Muslims alone. Other demographics and sectors are also affected. We can decide to beam the search light into the reportage of other sectors. Leakages would definitely be found. We are holding the Nigerian journalists to the standard they swore to uphold. This is not journalism but propaganda. Let us examine the story of Hudhuda:
The Story of Hudhuda, The Journalist
Have you read or heard about Hudhuda? In fact, Hudhuda (a bird) was a better journalist. It practiced what we know today as public interest journalism, which many of our media lack today. It did not even take permission from Prophet Sulaiman, who was its master, before embarking on a fact finding mission.
Allah (SWT) narrates in surah Naml (Qur’an 27: 20-24): “And Sulaiman took attendance of the birds and said, “Why do I not see the Hudhuda (hoopoe) – or is he among the absent? I will surely punish him with a severe punishment or annihilate him, unless he brings me clear authorisation.”
But the hoopoe returned not long after and said to Sulaiman: “I have encompassed [in knowledge] that which you have not encompassed, and I have come to you from Sheba with certain news
Indeed, I found [there] a woman ruling them, and she has been given of all things, and she has a great throne. I found her and her people prostrating to the sun instead of Allah, and Satan has made their deeds pleasing to them and perverted / diverted them from [His] way, so they are not guided, [And] so they do not prostrate to Allah, who brings forth what is hidden within the heavens and the earth and knows what you conceal and what you declare.
Note: Read more from the surah
The Fight is Ours
The media is no doubt a powerful tool in spreading or curbing Islamophobia and creating Islamophobes. Just as it has been used greatly to fuel Islamophobia attacks against the Muslims, it can as well be used to combat the spate of stereotypes. It is high time we stopped complaining. We have what it takes to combat Islamophobia and biased reportage about Islam and the Muslims in the media but how do we go about it?…
There is the established need for the Muslim elites to establish and invest in the media, particularly print and electronic media, to help change anti-Islam narratives. This is one of the aims of setting up Muslim News Nigeria, the purpose of which it has served in the last one year. I will round off my presentation by presenting my blue print for the newspaper because we really need support, for us to expand the coverage to the North here, and other parts of the country.
It is not necessary we invest in an Islamic media organisation, it could be conventional mainstream media like Daily Trust, The Nation and still serve the interest of Islam and the Muslims by influencing the reportage. We should have many Muslim columnists writing about Islam or general issues in newspapers. This will be a plus for Islam.
For instance, I have been writing Friday weekly column for Daily Independent since 2017. We should have more volunteers, because in some cases, the management of the newspapers might not pay.
Monitoring the reportage of Islamic issues and Muslims in the media is another method of combating Islamophobia. This has proved to be very effective in countries like the U.S. and the United Kingdom, through the efforts of Muslim rights groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the US and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) in the UK.
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative (HRAI) are also performing similar roles in Nigeria. We can learn more about their activities and learn how they operate and help combat hate speech.
Many of our young ones are very active on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram among other social media networking sites. They can be useful in combating Islamophobia in the cyber space if we set the agenda for them. A typical example is the Israeli Hasbara.
Introduction of a course on reporting Islam or Islamic journalism
To the Muslims in the academia, I would like to humbly recommend that this should considered; the introduction of a course with the title ‘Reporting Islam’ in their curriculum under ‘Specialised Reporting’, using Islamic standards as firmly established in the Qur’an and Hadith of the Prophet.
Evidently, countless number of verses from the Quran as well as traditions of Prophet Muhammad establishes the connection between the values of good journalism and the teachings of Islam.
For instance, Quranic injunctions that order the Muslim community to behave honestly (Q9:119; Q33:70), to be just and truthful (Q4: 135; Q16:90), neither to lie (Q77:15, 19, 24, 28, 34, 37, 39 ) nor spread mischief (Q4:148), to fact-check news and information (Q4:83; Q49:6), to help those who are weak (Q4:75) underscore the mission of Islamic journalism which is defined as “news with an important meaning.”
Not only must the news be interesting, honest and true, the facts must be credible and consistent with the dawah concept of “spreading peace and goodness while forbidding evil and wrongdoings” (Qur’an 3:104).
Glossary of Islamic terms for journalists reporting Islam
Many journalists want to report Islam without bias but they have little or no knowledge about it. The faculty can do a research or Commission students to do that.
Collaboration with like minds
There is also the need for Muslim journalists especially the Members of the Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria (MMPN) association, to come out of their shells, figuratively speaking, in a bid to counter Islamophobia in the media. They need to be ready to stand up in defense of Islam and mobilise unbiased colleagues of theirs to change the status quo and fight the scourge.
Despite hatred from many Nigerian propagandists who parade themselves as journalists, there are still, those who stand for objectivity, as seen in the case of Hijab assaults in Nigeria. Except the world unites against Islamophobia, the ripple effects of the phenomenon, which has kept throwing up extremists from both sides of the divide, may linger longer than expected and the entire universe will have to pay for the consequences of their collective negligence.
Thank you very much for listening and I wish you a fruitful deliberation.
1. West African Leaders Pledge $1bn to fight armed groups. (2019, September 15), Aljazeera English. Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com
2. West African leaders pledge $1 billion to tackle terrorism. (2019, September 9), France 24. Retrieved from france24.com
3. Melanie, P. (2018). Islamophobia is a Fiction to Shut Down Debates. The Times Newspaper. Retrieved from https://www.thetimes.co.uk
4. Safiyyah, A. (2015). Media Unfair to Islam, Says University Don. The Nation Newspaper, Retrieve from http://thenationonlineng.net
5. Abubakar, R. (2015). Muslims and the Threats of the Media (2nd ed.). Lagos: Salsabil Associates.
6. 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
9. Adisa, R. (2003). Newswriting and Reporting: A Step by Step Approach. Osun: Voice Publications.
10. Code of Ethics for Nigerian Journalists. (1998). Lagos: Nigerian Press Council.
11. AbdusSalaam, A. (2009). Lessons from our History. Lagos: Salsabil Associates.
12. Liad, T. (2018, January. 13). Hajj Operations and Media Responsibility. A speech delivered at the 2nd Annual Symposium of the Lagos State Chapter of Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria (MMPN), Lagos.
13. Abubakar, R. (2017). Hijab and the Nigerian Press. Lagos: Rawshield PR Company.
14. Abubakar, R. (2019, April 28). Anti-Islam Media Bias In Nigeria: Lessons From New Zealands The Press. Muslim News Nigeria, Retrieved from https://muslimnews.com.ng
15. Islamophobia. Accessed on 12th August, 2019 from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamophobia
16. Abubakar, R. (2018). Media narratives of Muslims in Nigeria: Facts and Fallacies. Lagos: Rawshied PR Company.
17. The Holy Qur’an:
Chapter 4: 135
Chapter 77:15, 19, 24, 28, 34, 37, 39
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