OPEN LETTER – A Message to the Mass-Media, from a Muslim

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SHAFAQNA – There’s no doubt that there is something extremely terrible happening in our modern day world. Something that has incited immense fear, bigotry, hatred, and intolerance in the hearts and minds of millions of  people around the globe. Something that has been on the rise since 9/11, or maybe since the ‘war on terror’ by the US, who knows -more than a decade has passed and too much has occurred since then, it’s difficult to tell.  Oh wait, an odd observation has suddenly overcome me, perhaps this state of turmoil that we find ourselves in is a result of the news media’s decision to strap the word ‘terrorism’ to Islam.  I mean, as a terrorist, ops!- I mean, as a Muslim, I can’t help but wonder.  No, no. I’m not  suggesting that the media is the source of terrorism in today’s world, I’m  simply pointing out that the word ‘Islam’ has been dangerously  intertwined with the word ‘terrorism’; and this is critical issue that urgently needs to be addressed. Because in truth, it is Muslims who are being terrorized as a result of this.

 The word ‘terrorist’ is indeed a very taxing one, but it is not a new word, and it existed long before the media spotlight turned to Islam and the Middle East. In fact, it is a word that is derived from the French word ‘terrorisme’, and originally referred specifically to state terrorism during the ‘reign of terror’ (a period of violence after the onset of the French revolution). Islam, on the other hand, is an Abrahamic religion, and the word ‘Islam’ is derived from the Arabic word ‘salaam’ which means peace, and also means submission to the one and only God; Allah. Interestingly, this also isn’t new, as the message of Islam is believed to be the same message of all monolithic prophets including Noah,  Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Now that these two terms have been clarified, where is the correlation between Islam and terrorism? The answer is plain to see; nonexistent. However, the minute we attach the word ‘terrorism’ to ‘Islam’, is the minute that the violence, chaos, and instability in the Middle East and around the globe is swiftly explained. You see, it’s easier to use the ‘Muslim-Terrorist’ justification than it is to investigate and explore  complex  political  issues. Funnily enough, it’s even easier for ‘ISIS’ to proudly claim the responsibility for any attack without even being associated with it. What a ludicrous scenario.

This leads us to the topic of media, and discourse.  We all know that integrity and ethics are standards that differentiate good news from bad news, and we all know that when it comes to discourse; realties can be constructed. Discourse affects and alters perspectives, that’s exactly why it is so powerful. For example, there’s a clear distinction between referring to certain aggressors as ‘mentally ill’ and to others as ‘terrorists’ based on their ethnicity or religion. This is not only exploitative, but also clearly unfair. To all news media outlets who pride their selves on integrity and ethics, to all good news outlets, and to anyone talking about the news. I urge you to alter your discourse, I urge you to alter your language. I urge you for the sake of the 1.7 billion or so Muslims around the globe who are being afflicted by this divisive jargon. Let us use the power of discourse to combat real terrorism; be it terrorism carried out by states, by media hegemony, or by deviant individuals who hide behind the facade of good faith.

Finally, our enemy is one, that is; any brute, or group of brutes who violently corrupt and destroy human lives and humanity, by imposing their agenda on others for political aims. Currently, that’s one group that we all know well. But  let us not refer to them as the ‘Islamic State’, they have deviated very far  from Islam, let us use ‘Daesh’ when referring to them. Let’s also bring the value of truth, and credibility back to journalism. There is no denying that the political situation in the world is very complex and sensitive right now, let’s invest our time and energy into trying to understand it, rather than simply focusing on finding a newsworthy story out of it that sells based on its emotional appeal. Let us unite as one, and bring humanity back to this good earth.

I am a Muslim, and I shouldn’t have to announce that I’m not a terrorist. Just as you are human, and don’t have to constantly announce that you are not a tyrant. This division is unhealthy, let us combat injustice and oppression with the power of discourse, and the power of humanity.

Yours sincerely, 
An Australian Muslim 

By Alaa Al-Boarab, exclusively for Shafaqna

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