Tuesday 5 November 2013

Who Represents me in the Media?

The idea of representation is pivotal for many foreign and political affairs for both the media and the Politian’s in the west. The western obsession with representation has created many overnight ‘voices’ for communities that did not have a voice before.

There are numerous examples include Joanna Lumley, who represented the Gurkha in there long struggle for justice. The Catholic Church is also a great example, an infamous succession of representatives, traceable to Jesus and St Peter himself. African American’s where represented by Martin Luther King in the fight for equal rights. We also had Ghandi for the Indian independence.  

It is almost as if its human instinct to think about particular people in history in order for us to make sense of key events that have taken place. It helps us distinguish between the good and the bad, the right and the wrong.  Furthermore, generally speaking when people usually think of fascist they immediately think of Hitler. If a person was to think about a terrorist then we would think about Osama Bin Laden.
Over the years that Islamic fundamentalism has taken hold of many of the trans-national and national discussions. It is almost natural for the media to want to look for representatives of ‘Islamists’ in order to talk on behalf of the many Islamists in the world. Hence GMTV giving a platform to Anjem Choudary, Tommy Robinson former leader of EDL was also given a platform by various documentaries and interviews to allow a conflicting prospective.

This seems to be a positive thing, as at first glance it can be argued that people have a point of view and they are represented. However, my concern is the fact that the media quite often sets out to argue extremist views with a representatives with conflicting yet equally as extreme ideas. For instance, I am a Muslim but I see myself as a progressive and liberal Muslim. Therefore, it is obvious that Anjem Choudary or Bin Laden would not be the face that will represents me in the media.

Funnily enough snippets of the EDL mission statement quite accurately represent my political views. Statements like “the denigration and oppression of women, the molestation of young children, the committing of so-called honour killings, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and continued support for those responsible for terrorist atrocities.” The mission statement further adds “It should ensure that they can openly criticise Islamic orthodoxy, challenge Islamic leaders without fear of retribution, receive full equality before the law (including equal rights for Muslim women), and leave Islam if they see fit, without fear of censure.” The EDL’s official mission statement does seem quite feasible and acceptable but in practise needless to say the EDL is a fascist, Islamophobic movement. The EDL has one Muslim member Abdul Rafiq which is clearly unrepresentative of the Muslim community who are also for the same values that the EDL have. The reason why there is only one Muslim in the organisation is self-explanatory.

This leads me to look for Muslims in Britain who are neither extremist nor islamophobic to represent my views in the media.

Here are some of the people that have had media appearances that should really represent my views yet they do quite the opposite and in fact cause a potential threat to the whole idea of a progressive Muslim.
The Quillam foundation is “the world’s first counter-extremism think tank set up to address the unique challenges of citizenship, identity, and belonging in a globalised world. Quilliam claims it is independent and stands for “religious freedom, equality, human rights and democracy.” Seems at first glance like an organisation that is a voice for many Muslims like myself that require representation. Then why is it so controversial? It is worth adding that the organisation itself was formed by ex-Extremists. However, this argument may be defeated by saying that it is not right to defame a person for previous actions. Yet further research shows that Quilliam received £700,000 from the government to achieve its objective. Therefore it would be quite reasonable to ask how taxpayers money is used to tackle terrorism.

The answer is a 65 page secret list of ‘Alleged extremist sympathisers’. This document was leaked to the media and being likened to the Stasi Manual. The list included organisations such as the Muslim Safety Forum, Islamic Human Rights Commission, Muslim Association of Britain, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies even Salma Yaqoob former candidate for the Respect Party. The list also goes as far as branding Palestinian freedom fighters as terrorists which is obviously highly sensitive especially for an organisation which should understand the reasons and motivations for Palestinian people to fight. The organisation has been quite rightly been accused of McCarthyistic behaviour.

When It comes to the taboo issue of the veil, my personal idea is that it is not something that people should wear. However, there are many people who do not like bright coloured hair or any other form of identification due to personal choice yet the mantra of this state is that ‘people should be free to wear what they want’. If a women is forced to wear the veil by her husband or family then that is a different issue.  Going back to the example of bright coloured hair  if a person is forced to colour there hair brightly it does not mean that Live XXL should be banned- the very idea seems outrageous. Then why is it even considered when it comes to the veil? Because it’s a cultural idea being forced on women? Many clubs do not allow women to go in without a dress on as it is deemed culturally unacceptable to go to a club with jeans on does that mean all night clubs should be shut?

Yes it leads to the question of whether it should be allowed in schools and hospitals. It is worth adding that the number of people who work in public services that wear a veil is very few and the people who refuse to remove it when required is virtually non-existent hence this discussion in the media and government is superfluous. But my two cents worth is it’s not a matter of human rights in the work place it is about outlining the conflict between the essential requirements at a work place and a person’s personal dress choice. Some wouldn’t trust a lawyer with tattoos all over their faces some wouldn’t trust a lawyer with their face covered therefore we all need to adhere to some cultural norms. But going back to the Media and who represents my views?

Yasmin Alibhai Brown is a well-known Ugandan born journalist who has spoken about many issues concerning religion and her liberal stance does make her points of views seem viable to some non-Muslims. It seems re-affirming too many of us in Britain that there is a women who is almost representative of the liberal Muslim women in the media and she is conforming to ideas that are digestible for many British people.  
However, she dismisses the veil as “For those forced into shrouds, there is only night. They could be victims of abuse and miserable but we would never know.” She also adds “That all-covering gown, that headscarf, that face mask – all affirm and reinforce the belief that women are a hazard to men and society.” “Muslims wilfully create problems and build barriers, anti-racists and egalitarians have an absolute duty to engage with them critically and in good faith.” She also states that “Niqabs make us appear more alien, more dangerous and suspicious. If it is a provocation for Ku Klux Klan to cover up so they can’t be recognised, it is for Muslims too.”

If people were not aware of the fact that she was a muslim she would be dismissed or branded an islamophobe. Yet the fact that shes a Muslim almost makes her ideas acceptable for many. She argues that
her liberal stance means she is under attack by many Muslims of Britain. The language and personal beliefs of Yasmin are flawed and skewered. Her argument that Muslims are being subject to backwards ideologies that need changing because its simply diabolical and an orientalist idea. It is this very language and mantra that ‘these alien Muslims need to be taught how to live’ is the very reason many issues arise for the Muslim world. She seems to have forgotten the milestones that Islam has leaped across and ignored the vast diverse Muslim faith. The idea that veils should be questioned is correct dismissing the reason, culture, concept and evolution of such idea and simply dismissing it and likening it to the Ku Klux Klan is diabolical.

Saira Khan once a runner up for The Apprentice and now a Daily Mail writer who sees herself as a representative of Muslim voice is another figure who has propped up frequently when I have wondered who represents the many Muslims who are progressive in the media. She uses personal stories of how her mum goes swimming in ‘a normal swimming costume’ to justify her reason for the veil being banned in streets. Once again a person who has fallen for the white-supremacy idea of what ‘normal’ is and believes we should all conform. Her arguments are full of flaws which are arguably added to justify her reasons for banning the veil.

“Girls as young as four are wearing the hijab to school: that is not a freely made choice. It stops them taking part in education and reaching their potential, and the idea that tiny children need to protect their modesty is abhorrent.”

I didn’t wear a Hijab, for the obvious reason that I am a male, but how far does the idea that is isn’t ‘a freely made choice’ be an acceptable argument? I wasn’t free to not wear a uniform I wasn’t free to choose what school I went in fact I wasn’t even free to choose which colours glasses I wore when I was four? Does a parent’s decision for a child to wear something really be that tarnishing to a child when he/she is older? If so then how can you prevent anything from institutionalising a child? It is impossible for a person to grow up being completely neutral of any influences.

 The actions and statements made by both Yasmin and Saira are the same ideas that were used by the white British colonisers. A Gun in one hand and a Bible in the other has been used in the past to ‘civilise the world’. Now people like Saira a Kashmiri and Yasmin a Ugandan who’s roots are both subjected to this unfortunate colonial mantra of civilising the world. Are using the same justification to speak out against Muslim women wearing the veil. The only difference is they seem to have a manual for how to be ‘Civil and normal’ in one hand and the power of the media in the other. Neither represent the views of progressive Muslims and are tarnishing the work of many liberal Muslims who work hard to educate, liberate and understand existing social trends and question them.

The issue here is that when looking to the media to find representations of the majority of Muslims it is very difficult. We have the extremists on one end of the prospective and on the other side we have the Islamophobic and fascist movements. In the Utopian media/political world we would have a government funded organisation which seeks to wipe out terrorism instead of making McCarthyist stances. We would also have those Daily Mail and Newspapers alike who have Progressive Muslim writers who accept and understand the cultural reasons for some actions and seek to identify problems with this and criticize it in an effective manner instead of taking the ‘the civil way is the western way’ hence ignoring the past examples of the consequences of this western superior complex has caused.  It is worth stating that the ideas that are projected by Quillam, Saira Khan and Yasmin Alibhai Brown are potentially causing a backlash of many progressive Muslims and there mission to please the superior-west and appealing to the ‘ideal British person’ stereotype is harmful to the rest of us Muslims.

The argument i am making is not that there is not enough representation of Liberal and Progressive Muslims. It is also not an anti-western stance. My argument is that i agree that Quilliam, Saira Khan and Yasmin Alibhai Brown are trying to achieve, which is to raise awareness of the problems that Muslim's face need to be tackled. However the techniques, language and ideologies that motivate there argument adheres to the western notion of what is civil and this idea can cause more harm than good for many Muslims like myself. 

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