“Jihad Generation” - hot product & media commodity

by Adem Carroll, Hot Coals

I am at the supermarket check out. The magazine cover has a child’s face; yes it is a small child carrying a machine gun. The title; “the New Jihadis.” Next to it at least two other magazines with cover stories about Militant Islam. I feel very tired suddenly. Who is a better promoter of Jihad, the Taliban or the Tabloid media?

I have never watched “24” but understand that it is a sort of entertainment vehicle for the War on Terror, reinforcing the idea that Muslims are the enemy and suggesting that any reaction—even torture—may be necessary.

Apparently many Muslim Americans watch the TV show as well, but even these adrenaline junkies have joined in the outcry against the show in recent days. It is important to bring this new concern to other faith communities as well, as they also should not be comfortable with sensationalist and violent past-times that promote confrontation. Through such interfaith advocacy, morality is a sleeping giant that should be woken to face the monster of mainstream media.

This is not to say free discussion of security issues is a danger, or that religious people should work to silence debate. But our voices must be heard to ensure fair and accurate information is shared, instead of merely propaganda. We are being demonized.

Recently two television programs have brought focus on some of the foolish –and hateful—things that some imams say. The more sensational of the two programs, “Undercover Mosque” was broadcast on Britain’s Channel 4 and also is spreading through Youtube on the internet. The part of the program I have viewed is troubling, if not surprising, both as a witch-hunt of UK Muslims and as a reminder of how substandard some Muslim leaders are.

Making a comment on the television website, I noticed a wide variety of other comments and perceptions, quite a few of them more sensible than the program itself. Some criticized all groups with an insular and reactionary view of the world; bigotry takes many forms. Some mentioned praying at the mosques in question and never hearing such hate speech. Apparently it was not really a fair and balanced program.

Another writer asked the Channel: “Please explain to me exactly what your agenda is? When someone goes undercover that in itself implies you are looking for mischief either one that is genuine or if not taken out of context and presented as such. You must realize the repercussions of your actions result in a paranoid society which turns and attacks the vulnerable.”

And yet, fellow Muslims, it is our challenge to deal with false and extreme views. There is much to be angry about but our faith must keep us just and righteous. It is apparent that some of the British Muslim leaders have been two-faced, sweet in public but bitter and nasty in private views.

But we should also note those political and social groups that are overly sweet, offering assurances of peace and love like so much candy. They jump shamelessly to gain access to the UK government and denounce other Muslims.

Those who “brown-nose” and kiss the hands and other extremities of the powerful are not really “moderate.” Some of the so-called “Sufi Muslim Councils” in the UK (and USA too) who claim to be the moderate Muslims seem to me only hollow shells in a shell game of power and access. However, we should be careful– some of their followers do mean well, and feel alienated from the Muslim establishment. There needs to be firm but loving dialogue with these groups.

Because it is true—too often we Muslims politely ignore views that are unbalanced. What can we do? Here is one small thing. While I know we are asked to remain listening to sermons no matter what is said, we may, outside of Friday prayers, wish to register disapproval by quietly taking a bathroom break when hateful or foolish things are said. In my opinion, this is the nonviolent way to send a message, politely. It takes courage but not so much! Vote with your feet!

I am also urging media and government officials not to equate Wahhabi influence with militant extremism. It is not the same. However, it is true that some of these people are very intolerant and rigid in their views and almost impossible to work with. On an individual basis therefore we must find out who is able to be a team player and work together to build a strong and diverse Muslim community. If conflicts arise in your mosque or student organization, seek mediation, keep records, and pray for success.

Insha’Allah voting with your feet will not take you away from the Muslim family and community. But this happens quite often, and leaders need to take this challenge more seriously. They need both to educate their own communities and to educate the media. Unfortunately those who most energetically do this are al muhajiroun and other extreme voices.

CNN Reporter Christine Amanpour writes, “Extremists and radicals are very adept at playing the media’s game. Even though they are a minority, a small number of them can gather on a corner, hold a protest or demonstration and get a massive amount of media attention and air time. That’s because today’s mostly tabloid media culture in the UK has sensationalized the “Muslim issue” and focuses only on the extremists, rarely finding the facts, context and texture beneath the surface.”

That said, the pop-up for Amanpour’s new program “The War Within”, shows a Muslim woman’s eyes staring mysteriously from a niqab; clearly a threat, and appropriately lensed through a dark fog. This is the fog of war. Journalists, as well as Muslims, need to be careful not to be played.

We are balanced at a moment which can go towards wider war—even with Iran—or back to a base of relative peace and problem solving. Let us remember that 2 million Iraqis have already fled the country and 1.7 million are displaced with Iraq.

And what are we fighting to protect? It is the Capitalist machine? Or Progress? Let us admit to ourselves that 60 percent of American married partners have both partners working full time, up from 36 percent in 1970, with the average couple now working at least 82 hours. Yes, Americans consume an average 275 pounds of meat per person, up from 238 pounds 20 years ago. But the world’s average is 87 pounds.

What is this American lifestyle based on increasing labor, blood and theft? What is this American media that seeks to comfort us as we plunge into disaster? And what are these false alternatives and hollow promises we hear in our own mosques and DVDs? Time to wake up– but how?

Adem Carroll is an activist in the Muslim community in NYC.

article originally published at http://hotcoals.org/?p=119.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey