AIMPLB’s suggestion to Muslim scholars and clerics to avoid participating in discussions on news channels received a mixed response.
Tabinah Anjoum | TwoCircles.net
NEW DELHI- Earlier this week, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) appealed to Islamic scholars and clerics to refrain from appearing in arguments and debates on TV channels whose sole intention is to mock and insult Islam and Muslims. The statement came amid widespread protests from the Muslim community across the country, demanding the arrest of Nupur Sharma, spokesperson for the now-suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for his derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad during a a televised debate.
The AIMPLB said that by participating in these televised debates, the Muslim leaders were unable to render any service to the community and to Islam and that instead they indirectly insulted and mocked the both religion and the Muslim community.
“To acquire a certain legitimacy, these television channels need Muslim faces in their debates. Due to their obliviousness, our Islamic scholars (Ulema) and intellectuals become the victims of such agendas. If we boycott these programs and channels, not only will it negatively affect their TRP, but they will also fail to achieve the desired outcome through these debates,” the statement read.
The statement received a mixed response from intellectuals in the Muslim community. While most supported the statement, some disagreed with the AIMPLB.
“The Muslim personal council is not the representative of the entire Muslim community and is no one to decide whether to go on TV or not,” Hilal Ahmed, associate professor at CSDS New Delhi told TwoCircles .net.
“In TV talk shows, when you appear on behalf of Muslims, you get some kind of recognition. There are many Muslim men and women who wish to attend these shows even after knowing that they will be treated like punching bags. It won’t stop these people from going to TV channels,” Ahmed said.
Hilal said it is a reality that people will not stop attending these debates “unless they realize the damage they are causing by defaming their community by participating in TV shows that spread hate”.
While the BJP was forced to take action against two of its leaders following outrage and a diplomatic row with Gulf countries, no action has been taken against the channel’s authorities who allowed the disputed discussion to take place.
Famous journalist Shahid Siddiqui has stopped attending televised debates for the past four years.
“I stopped going to these televised debates because they misinform the public and taking part in the debates gives them credibility. The anchors are biased and they just want to take the seats regardless of who is talking,” Siddiqui said.
“These TV shows only contribute to hatred and misinformation,” added Siddiqui, a former Rajya Sabha member of Uttar Pradesh and editor of Nai Duniya, an Urdu-language weekly published in New Delhi.
Navaid Hamid, chairman of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat echoes Siddiqui’s views. “In the dire circumstances we live in today, silence is more important. Non-serious people who don’t know about the subject go to these shows for financial and PR interests or to get famous,” he said.
“The panelists don’t understand the issues and not the politics, but they want to represent Muslims. What we see in the debates is an interesting trend of how they fill five seats with a certain ideology and give the sixth seat to a Muslim, who himself becomes a minority voice in the debate and is not heard but insulted,” added Navaid, who claims to have boycotted televised debates since 2017.
This is not the first time that Indian media have been accused of Islamophobia. During the coverage of the coronavirus, sections of the media in India have been accused of airing shows that appear to blame Muslims for the spread of the virus. In April 2021, a government spokesperson attributed the spike in coronavirus cases to an event organized by Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic missionary organization, which was attended by preachers from other Muslim countries. Soon hashtags like #CoronaJihad appeared on television screens.
Supreme Court lawyer Shahrukh Alam, in an interview with Scroll, Explain how TV news anchors contribute to structural violence against Muslims but are not prosecuted. He said the anchors tell people that Muslims are invaders and predators. “It has consequences on a daily basis. This damage is not recognized by criminal law,” he noted.
In a separate moment, Zee News presenter Sudhir Chaudhary, known for his inflammatory speeches on TV shows, on April 10 openly blamed Indian Muslims for the coronavirus pandemic. On the same day, the India Today network conducted what it called an investigation, titled “Madrasa Hotspots”, accusing New Delhi’s Islamic schools of misleading the government about the number of children in their care and lambasted them for not following social distancing norms. .
The Islamophobic content of these television programs broadcast by part of the Indian media has been condemned around the world. The The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has blasted Indian media for its coverage of the coronavirus and expressed “its rejection of the targeting of Muslims anywhere”.
Tabeenah Anjum is a Rajasthan-based journalist who reports on politics, gender, human rights and issues affecting marginalized communities. She tweets at @tabeenahanjum