SHAFAQNA – Members of Sydney’s Muslim community have set up a $1 million television studio to counter the mainstream media’s treatment of Islam in Australia.
From its base in western Sydney, the One Path Network films and edits videos for its YouTube channel, including interviews with local sheikhs about Islamic teachings and current affairs.
“This is a time where there is a lot of pressure on the Muslim community,” the head of the network, Malaz Majanni, said.
“Unfortunately, you do find that with the mainstream media, sometimes we are misrepresented, lost in translation and here we are able to make sure that a clear message is sent out,” he said.
The network has provided its own take on major events including the Sydney siege.
“Our approach was to make sure that it’s clear that this act is not an Islamic act,” Mr Majanni said.
“This person (Man Haron Monis) was known to the authorities as a criminal and he had no connection whatsoever with [the Islamic State militant group]. He couldn’t even get the right flag.”
Some of the network’s coverage has diverged from the mainstream media’s approach.
Instead of focusing on the scores of Australians fighting for IS, the emphasis has been on the former Northern Territory Labor Party official Matthew Gardiner, who is fighting with the Kurds against IS.
“The approach was to make sure that there’s no particular targeting against the Muslim community, that the law is applicable to all Australians,” Mr Majanni said.
Studio guests have included the head of the Australian Federal Police counter-terrorism section and controversial political group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Mr Majanni said the studio was funded by community donations and staffed by a team of more than 20 volunteers.
A range of prominent Muslims including the grand mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, and Associate Professor Mohamad Abdalla from Griffith University have endorsed the project, appearing in a promotional video.
Supporters include a range of Muslim clerics from moderate to conservative.
Known as a dawah initiative, the studio aims to spread the word of Islam among Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Community relations at their lowest ebb
One recent video included a critique of the Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s views on Muslim leadership.
Last month, Mr Abbott said he wished more Muslim leaders would say Islam was a religion of peace and mean it.
Sheikh Wesam Charkawi from the Auburn Gallipoli mosque has appeared on the network’s current affairs program, Spotlight, where he said Mr Abbott’s words implied the community was duplicitous.
He told Lateline the latest comments have added to the mistrust already felt within the community.
“The Muslim community has lost trust and feels completely abandoned by the Government. I have never seen it at a point so low,” Sheikh Charkwai said.
“I haven’t seen it this bad before. These are the sentiments that are being conveyed on a daily basis.”
It is rare for sheikhs to do interviews with the mainstream media; however, they seem to prefer the platform of One Path Network.
Sheikh Omar El Banna from Granville’s Masjid Al Noor appeared on the network to denounce the burning alive of a Jordanian fighter pilot by IS.
“This organisation is committing atrocities. It is brutal,” Sheikh El Banna said.
He said the killing was not Islamic.
Asked why Sheikh El Banna would not appear on a mainstream channel if invited, One Path Network’s Malaz Majanni said his studio had provided a space where scholars would not be misrepresented.
“Why haven’t we seen a piece where a scholar’s come out on mainstream media speaking out about ISIS?” he said.