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‘Why poor representation of Muslims in the media persists’

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Sheikh Abdur Rahman Ahmad

The National Missioner of Ansar-ud-deen Society of Nigeria, Sheikh Abdur Rahman Ahmad, has said the late venture of Muslims into mass communication has greatly affected their representation.

Sheikh Ahmad, while addressing no fewer than 400 participants at a Webinar, organized by Rawshield Media, in commemoration of Muslim News Nigeria’s second anniversary spoke extensively on the impact of the media on the society.

He noted that it, in fact, served a dominant role in fighting colonialism and agitating for self-rule in the country.

The veteran broadcaster chronicled the history of Nigeria media and Islamic news reporting, asserting that the British colonialists had a significant impact on the profession in the country.

According to him, the ‘Iwe Iroyin Yoruba’, which was a precursor in the Nigerian media profession, was largely a missionary venture targeted at informing, educating, entertaining, and more importantly, proselytizing the readers.

He said, though early Nigerian Muslims later developed interest in the media with the publication of Islamic magazine, the conventional media, particularly newspaper, had been well established and dominated by the non-Muslims.

“I could recall that it was the activities of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) that led to the establishment of Islamic media in Nigeria,” he said, adding that, “The A Zone (Northern) published ‘The Radiance‘, while the B Zone (Southern) published ‘Al-‘Ilm‘.”

Ahmad described the publications of the students’ body as the flagship of Islamic Journalism in Nigeria, influenced by foreign Islamic magazine like Al-Yakeen International, a quasi-tabloid dedicated to the propagation of Islam.

“However, we didn’t pay attention to news for agenda setting or development journalism. The publications did not really conform to the standards of the profession because they focused only on Islamic propagation.

“There was therefore no dedicated Islamic newspaper because we knew news from a perspective other than Islam. That continues to impact upon us and we were and still are misrepresented in all the arms of the media, especially newspapers,” he noted.

Ahmad hailed the early Nigerian Muslims who shaped Islamic media, among them, were the late Alhaji Ismail Babatunde Ajose, one of the pioneers of journalism in Nigeria, who died in August 2018, at the age of 82.

He said: “Alhaji Jose was among the pioneers of journalism in Nigeria. His faith was dear to him and he and other Muslim journalists tried their best. He was a Muslim and a journalist who trained many people including Mr. Bola of the then Daily Times (DT), from whom I got exposed to practical journalism in the late 60s and early 70s.”

The religious scholar stated that there was a problem of Muslim proprietorship in the media, not until when late MKO Abiola came and founded Concord Newspaper in 1980 and by the end of 1983, it had become the most read conventional newspaper in Nigeria.

“For long, Muslims didn’t have a voice. We didn’t have a representation. In terms of proprietorship, we weren’t there until the late MKO Abiola established Concord Newspaper. The newspaper though not an Islamic newspaper, it was established by a Muslim. As a result, we had some of our brothers – including Alhaji Femi Abbas and Bro Liad Tella, who represented Muslims in the media and they tried to project Islam, albeit indirectly, through their writings.

On the way forward, Sheikh Ahmad said training young Muslims, funding and readership are some of the factors that could help in sustaining Islamic Newspapers in the country after years of failed attempts.

Sheikh Ahmad also urged influential Muslim personalities to fund Islamic media initiatives and outfits, including Muslim News, which has been reporting Islam for two consecutive years.

He said Muslims need more hands in the media, who should be trained and offered proper mentorship, while advising that Muslims should support nascent Islamic media organisations with both funding and readership.

The publisher, Alhaji Yemisi-Coker (who was also among the panelists at the Webinar) tried his best (may Allah reward him), but it later fell.

“We also had ‘The Bloom’, where I worked with a couple of Muslim brothers who just left school then and were looking for where to practice. We also did all we could, but I must admit, it failed. This was because we were limited by the in-house editorial policies. We didn’t have that editorial control. We were largely hampered, and this is the case with many Nigerian media organisations where Muslims are hindered from showing their religious bias.”

A Journalism lecturer at the Lagos State University (LASU), Dr. Ganiyat Tijani-Adenle called on journalism teachers to contribute to the growth of Islamic media in Nigeria.

The former reporter with Voice of Nigeria (VON) said their contribution will assist all future journalists regardless of their faith to respect values of objectivity, balance and fairness.

According to her, Journalism teachers can also help the students to become role models and find their feet in the industry. More importantly, we also need to guide them back to Allah and alert them of their responsibilities to Islam.


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