Republic of Indonesia
UNIVERSITAS ISLAM NEGERI (UIN) SYARIF HIDAYATULLAH
Seminar on Media & Islam--- Problems & Solutions
Friday 3 Safar 1435 AH ( 6 December 2013 AD)
An Islamic Perspective on Media & Society
Dr. Osman Abuzaid Osman
Before three years, hundred years passed since the arrival (The centenary anniversary) of the arrival of one my compatriots, His Eminence late Sheikh Ahmad Sorkati, on the soil of the Republic of Indonesia. Scholar Sorkati commenced his first stage of his travelling on foot from his remote quiet small village situated at the Northern Region of the Republic of Sudan to the eastern sea port of Sawakin lying on the red Sea coast, from which he headed for Holy Makkah where he neighbored the Holy Masjid (Haram) in Holy city for almost fifteen years, and qualified himself with the fortunate reception of good religious education and sound general knowledge and adequate portion of Islamic history. Then he immigrated to the strikingly beautiful city of Jakarta with a view to contributing effectively in the activities of the Movement for guidance, reformation, education, Dawah social construction in the vast and scattered Islands of Indonesia the rest of his life.
I sincerely cherish the hope that I will be able to follow the footprint of the said late great , pious Sheikh as I was fortunate enough to come to Jakarta twice last year and this one to participate in the 2nd International Islamic Conference on Islamic Media which was organized last year by the Muslim World League in conjunction with the Ministry of Religious Affairs in the Republic of Indonesia. This year I am coming to participate at the deliberations of 3rd Conference.
It might have been a great opportunity to me to meet you at Ashareef Hedatullah State University. First of all, I am extremely glad to extend my profound gratitude to H.E. Prof. Dr. Ezi Amardi, Dean of Postgraduate Studies College, to his dedicated staff for their kind invitation to me and to the Sudanese Community in Jakarta for facilitating the organization of this Symposium.
It is obvious that you have purposely selected the theme (Media & Islam—Problems & Solutions) as an appropriate title for this Symposium; and it is anticipated that you tackle the relation between Media and Islam from the only angle of problems and challenges ; and this attitude is acceptable from a methodology point of view as it seems that you follow in your action the method adopted by the illustrious Prophet Companion, Huzaifa (May Allah be pleased with him) who said," People used to ask the Holy Prophet about the good deeds but I used to ask him about the bad deeds or evil , fearing that I might commit them". You are course aware that we may consider media development at this age from the opportunities angle alone or from the challenges angle alone. This exactly what we have done when we were in Indonesia two years back during the holding of the 2nd International Conference of Islamic Media on " Impact of New Media & Communication Technology on Islamic Media: Opportunities & Challenges". In fact we listened impressively to the inaugural eloquent speech delivered by H.E. Dr. Podeuono , Vice President of the Republic, in which he emphasized the many positive aspects of the new media, the topmost of which were the empowerment of civil society, expansion of freedom of expression, including freedom of giving advice and directing constructive criticism to governments. Let me repeat exactly (verbatim) what His Excellency said as it is significant (( As you be aware , Indonesians are avid users of social networking media. Indonesians now form the world's second largest users of Facebook and Twitter after the United States of America. Through Facebook status and chats, pithy tweets and blogs, more and more of our citizens now play increasingly active roles in fighting corruption, pushing for law enforcement, bureaucratic reforms, safeguarding the process of democracy and general elections as well as ensuring good governance. With new media, we are unmistakably moving towards the open government,
Social networking media can anywhere promote online business, enhance fund raising for the poor, and bring together donors of rare blood-types and so on. From the perspective of religions, social networking media provide room for the establishment of new religious authorities. The flip side is that it may create fragmentation in religious authority. Islamic scholars, thinkers and Muslim parents need to pay attention to the possible negative impacts of social networking media, especially on our youth and children, the hopes of future generations)) .
The essence of the challenge we are confronting today due to the development of mass media is represented in the promotion and improvement of individual capabilities and social environment so as to achieve the good reaction with the information technology and knowledge community. Furthermore, the changes that are taking place in media technology world are expected to consequently lead to negative results on the aspects of culture, thoughts and persuasions, and which will be reflected on the type of life and daily practice of each individual.
You may notice that , at a consider sector of our youth today, that their tastes in art have turned to foreign singing and music. Even at supporting football teams, we find that our youth occupy themselves with the performance of the players of the European football teams. However, the most significant aspect is the one that has reflection on their conduct , cultural view and the value and norms they believe in. Furthermore, there are certain dangers that can reach the level of society security threads such as the spread of drugs and alcohol, sexual promiscuity and dissemination of the thought of the terrorist groups and those who uphold the principle of charging people with disbelief.
Social networking means have become a dominant feature of today's society. Once I have wrote describing people occupation with these means and said," When it is time for the meal at our modern houses, you can watch the members of the family taking their meal separately. You can see the 15-year- old boy holding tenaciously to the stick that moves the board of visual plays while rapidly inaugurating a morsel between an electronic flash and the other. Besides him sits the 20-year-old girl deeply and firmly cradling her laptop (computer ) on her lap navigating other worlds and sites that interest her most. Her little 4-year –old sister requests you to read for her the story of the girl (Barbi) that ornamented herself to go out with her friend to attend a birth day party after receiving a gift from him which was a small dog. You can also spot a small boy who holding his mobile (cell phone ) and his hands never cease to play with it".
The remaining members of the family are at the living room. Despite the fact that they sit together, we find that they never speak to each other , because they are attached to the TV screen. Gone by were the days of laying down the table or stretching on ground a rough, tiny- weaved leave –made and easily folded carpet that used to gather around it at least twice a day the members of the family at an intimate meeting to take their meal together. Totally disappeared the chatting days we used to spend under the very bright light of the moon. To no return at all, have gone the fascinatingly attractive imaginative stories of grandmothers which used to fill our soul as well as our mind with due warmth and emotion, such as the Arabic stories of the brave robust intelligent hero Hassan and his terribly beautiful sister, Fatima , which we have replaced now by the images of (Mario), the hero of visual plays video which transmit a an astonishingly unique message that read " Kill your adversary, other he will kill you. You are alone in this world and depend upon no one except yourself" .
Our old world vanishes, whether we accept without hesitation this fact or not ; and that our homes have actually become quite similar to hotels and that our roads lose their natural significance and have changed into mere sites for parking cars in symmetric rows. This world, whose main strings ?? are linked to optic fibers networks makes us near neighbors with people living on sites that are far from us thousand miles away whereas the nearby neighbor is unknown to us and that we do not even speak to him.
Do our homes, streets and other thing we possess change alone or does even man himself change in terms of his thinking, perception and culture?
The latest health theories, that I have been following since a few days, discuss that if a child remains for long hours in front of the TV, this will lead to the sluggishness of his ability to accept the others and to be in harmony with them. Other scientific theories indicate that children mind commence to develop at the pre- kindergarten stage, at which begins the instigation of mind for assimilation of information. Furthermore, experts underlines the significance of this stage . especially in relation to the development the child's social abilities and comprehension of ethics principles. If he lacks such matters, his thinking will be confined only to himself and not to others. Our children spend most part of this stage of age in exppsture to foreign cartoon films and entertainment films.
No society is devoid of such impacts which are attributed to the cultural dominance, imposition of advanced countries for their media control with a view to serving their interests and those of their regimes. We are politically exposed to a type of neo-colonization. After we saw the colonizing countries exited the colonized ones from the main gate, we see them coming to us from the window via highly indispensable sophisticated equipment which is represented in the mobiles (cell phones) and "remote control "systems.
The cultural challenge in international conflicts in term of new fashions, stylish hair cuts and novel food types may seem less dangerous when compared with the suspicions and ridiculing of religions and creeds which have now become common practice, as well as the alarming widespread wave of atheism and abandoning of people of the religions they brought up according to it .
In fact, it is a single battle, and that the cultural and ideological infiltration is seen as nothing but a preliminary effort for the direct military invasion. Furthermore, the world has been exposed from time to time rapid and sudden fluctuations that are similar to cyclones that cover the whole parts of the world with a single rate, because the means that carry them are the same ; from birds influenza to swine influenza , to the international financial crisis etc.
Burhan Ghulyoun says, " The western culture grow and prosper at the expense of the marginalized cultures that attempt to address this situation by becoming part of the movement of new history, and not to remain isolated from greater changes similar to incidence of Arabic culture when it interacted with the western civilization at the beginning and consequent surrender to inability and imitation of the conqueror colonizer in his motto, attire, customs and other conditions".
Certain people explain this situation by saying," Under the framework of the mew media means , the cultural relations are no longer founded on hegemony and subjugation; and the vivid example is that UNESCO gives good tiding of promotion of " cultural Dignity" in its project of cultural convergence. They may further think that the technological development in media is a neutral one which embodies no conspiracy for vacuuming the cultural currents of their contents and elements but it does not only intend to promote and complement these elements , but to preserve them as well, provided that such elements are healthy and safe "
Furthermore, it may be said that under these new media means the competition field is no longer confined only to advanced communities but it expands to comprise all communities which can now be able to play the game the super power and may even overcome them if they better use effectively these equipment in this world.
Let us assume for the sake of argument that the new mass media is a force in the interest of all and serves to equally secure knowledge to all so that no one can be able to monopoly knowledge for himself. This indicates that we can all complement each other by free interaction and exchange of information and knowledge in order to enjoy the fruits of collective intelligence.
Irrespective of the great aura of glory that surrounds the contemporary technological advancement, announcing its capabilities in improving the world dialogue and communication among people, we conspicuously remark the impact of interactive nature of these means. Additionally, we find that this nature gives the opportunity for the assimilation of the cultural and social diversity at a type of the collective meaning industry and consequent similarity of thinking methods. In fact, there is a noticeable change that largely affects the way of thinking and work in the fields of management, education, law, politics and even military activity. Furthermore, the world seeks to stereotype thoughts towards religion, customs and traditions.
Let quote an interesting example for this matter. The traditional marriage formulas started to shake up at urban societies in India , as the family of the would-be wife used to seek the hand of the "would-be husband' in marriage for their daughter and pay dowry to him. Today, it has become common practice that introduction between males and females takes place via the internet. The girl has now become more independent economically because of the quality education she has received and the attractive job opportunities she has enjoined. This gives her the chance to share with the male young youth in adapting their expected married life in the manner that happens anywhere in the world.
Many examples can be quoted in this regard. These include the prevalent spirit that is deeply rooted in our local culture in most Muslim countries and tends to occupy itself with problems that are not created from our own nature but from the problems that are imposed on society with the unavoidable drive of the dominant international culture. Likewise, groups may face disturbing obstacles in building their independent thought that can effectively solve such problems that are due to the unfortunate and acute dichotomy in the cultural values between those who want genuine solutions and those who want to follow suit of the west in politics, economy and thinking techniques.
Is there truth for what we say regarding such acute and political dichotomy we unfortunately witness inside our countries and in many neighboring ones ( countries)?
Thus, the media and knowledge means, which are in fact a force for promoting abilities and social advancement, may take the reverse function and become a means for destruction, exploitation and control.
This is in nutshell is diagnosing of the problems and challenges that may face our Muslim community; and what are the practical and viable solutions?
The recommendations adopted by the 3rd International Conference for Islamic Media emphasized very significant aspects ; and that they are suitable to serve as a ROAD MAP for guided media work and I am very glad to quote briefly from them the following:
-To observe the mutual relations between media and society, consider mass media as partner institutions in society and work in complementarity with other institutions and have a joined responsibility which requires the coordination and integration of efforts.
- To reject simulation and imitation for media practice models at non-Islamic regimes as such models are considered unsuitable for neither the environments nor the countries that witness political change or suffer from internal or regional disputes; and call for the application of the peace press model which is considered appropriate for Muslim communities that witness religious, ethnic or political conflicts or at which happened tremendous changes as a result of the political movement at recent period.
-To elevate the role of religious, social and vocational values in media performance so as to contribute in the enhancement of the culture of dialogue and Shura as well as establishment of political movement founded on transparency and disclosure of facts as well as standing to corruption and excessiveness, and exploitation of influence and power.
-To reaffirm the significance and promotion of Dawah institutions that continuously need improvement regarding content, style and reproduction of their materials; and require the organization of periodical meetings for meetings for those in charge at the level of countries, continents and world so as to achieve effective communication among them with a view to exchanging thoughts, experiments and experiences.
- Highlight the social role of the various mass media which is represented in projecting the social schemes that are undertaken by civil society organizations; and encourage individuals in Muslim countries and communities to give greater attention to social schemes.
-To disseminate media education and awakening among society members; approve the teaching of media education subject or course at schools and universities and develop it according to study stage and age bracket, establish centers and support institutions for the provision of required training and assistance to the pioneering project as the media education is considered to have substantial contribution to the formation education of a generation that observe its values and is aware of the problems of electronic media, especially in regards to security question, privacy and informatics crimes.
-To draw the attention to the numerous great challenges which the Muslim communities confront in media; and the Conference recommends the individuals of Muslim minorities to give due attention to their role in media so that they can have their influence in the countries in which they and communicate with their respective citizens for the presentation of the principles of the Islamic religion which was revealed by Allah Almighty for all mankind.
- To call upon the Islamic organizations to encourage communication among their members , promote the spirit of introduction and dialogue via utilization of the opportunities of (interlocking) and interaction, exchange of information via social networking , particularly among Muslim youth who are closely, practically and effectively linked to these networks.
These practical and viable solutions have been presented in fact as a result of impregnation of thoughts among media students, specialists, experts and officials who met in the city of Jakarta to ponder over the problems of communication and media; and who called for further media cooperation and for the exchange of programs, experiences and studies as well as conduct of joint symposiums and establishment of training centers as well as increase rendering financial support to these activities in a manner that serves media march in the Muslim world.