Let’s not play the Islamophobia card to silence our media – RT falsely accused

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SHAFAQNA – Earlier this week several media reports and social media posts floated the argument that RT had revealed its far-right tendency when one of its employees posted less than savoury comments on Islam – painting the faith with a brush of Wahhabism.

While I will not attempt to justify bigotry and prejudices – we absolutely ought to address such deviance, I don’t believe that witch-hunting is an appropriate response to such form of intellectual radicalism.

If we are completely honest, silencing others on account their views are offensive equates to another form of radicalism – only dressed in self-righteousness. Needless to say that this slope is slippery.

I would like to think that the very brilliant Jonathan Pie perfectly expressed that very point when he reacted to the election of President Donald Trump to the White House. (warning to sensitive ears: Mr Pie does go there …)

Forcing people into silence does not disappear negative sentiments, it only offers deniability. Shaming and labelling people under despicable adjectives does not solve anything either: it is dialogue rather, which we should promote.

I believe that people are entitled to their opinions … even the horrid ones, even those who label me, a Muslim, as a despised member of society for I choose to hold on to a faith which is perceived as foreign. If we cannot engage our detractors and dispel their prejudices how in the world do we intend to disappear hatred?

People often feel hate towards what they do not understand – shutting the door on their faces is counter-productive at best.

Another point I would like to make: Are we seriously surprised at the level of hate Muslims and Islam have generated in Western society when all we see coming out of the Islamic world is violence, bigotry, fanaticism and fork-hunting of religious minorities? However sad it may be, Islam and Muslims are tied to the abomination of Wahhabism.

It is up to us, Muslims, to change such dynamic.

Yes media have been instrumental in the demonization of Islam, but ultimately the solution to that ailment lies in our ability to prove the world different, to prove ourselves different.

The Islamic world has been permeated by fanaticism; an entire faith has been hijacked by the demons of Wahhabism and it will take more than grand-standing to turn that tide.

How can we blame non-Muslims for hating the very dogma we abhor ourselves and wish forever gone? Can we expect non-Muslims to differentiate in between the Islam spoken by the Prophet Muhammad, and the debilitating heresy spoken from Riyadh’s pulpits, when so many of us can’t?

The real enemy here is ignorance … so let’s not climb on our high horses and admonish our critic when we could engage them. I will grant you that some media would much rather play into the sensational, and in their arrogance, hope to prove a point … but those are actually irrelevant in the long run. Screaming hatred in the denunciation of hatred stands the definition of idiocy.

Another point I would like to make is that RT should never have been called into account. Why blame a media organization for the actions of an employee? Why generalise one man’s prejudices and claim they mirror the channel’s culture?

Could it be that Islamophobia here is being played a convenient moral outcry to shun Russia altogether? My question is rhetorical of course.

There is no doubt in my mind that RT is being YET AGAIN the target of an elaborated scheme to damage its image, and erode its standing as a fair and relevant news provider.

RT is not racist, it is not right-wing, and it never peddled any Islamophobic narrative. I would argue the contrary. I would argue that RT has been one of the few “mainstream” media (if you want to call it that) to tackle those issues no one would dare touch: war refugees, Wahhabism, imperialism, the humanitarian complex …

Don’t slam RT for bringing you reality – its mandate IS to deliver news after all, not gloss over it.

One last point: would you have rather RT had monitored its employees’ social media activities? Would you have rather RT had violated its employees’ private space and played Big Brother on the off-chance someone would write something inappropriate?

Have we all lost our mind? You can’t argue freedom of expression and in the same breath demand that an organization be held responsible for its employees’ thoughts.

Which is worst, unpalatable comments or calls for the institutionalisation of witch-hunting?

Should a man lose his job over stupid comments? I certainly hope not because it would not solve any of the underlying problems which led to such a misstep. Our need for moral validation has left us empty of compassion.

Everyone messes up … I would much rather face the bite of racist words than that of enacted racism. Enacted racism will happen if we continue to suppress that anger some segments of society feel.

I am sick and tired of the hypocrisy of those so-called journalists and activists who while decrying Islamophobia are quite comfortable bashing everyone else on account they disagree. Kettle … pot … black … you know how the story goes!

By Catherine Shakdam – Director of Programs for the Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies

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