… But how come the pictures of the mammoth crowd that graced the burial of a prominent Nigerian Muslim scholar, Sheikh Mustapha Zugluul-Sunusi didn’t get a mention on the front covers of yesterday (Friday) and today’s dailies?
Sheikh Zugluul-Sunusi, a great historian and a linguist, was the proprietor of a foremost Islamic and Arabic institute, in Isolo, Lagos. The institute has not only produced great scholars, it has also churned out eminent professors and outstanding intellectuals across various fields of life.
The late scholar was arguably the greatest Muslim scholar in Southern Nigeria since the demise of his teacher, Sheikh Adam Al Ilory in Agege, Lagos and Sheikh Murtadho AbdulSalaam, the founder of the Mahdul Arabiyyah, Elekuro, another notable Islamic institute in Ibadan.
I was just wondering, what could have happened? Could it be that the Nigerian media weren’t aware that the Muslim community lost a gem? Let’s even assume the non-Muslims Editors were completely in the dark, what about the Muslim journalists in those media houses? Did they not suggest it as a cover picture? Could it have been a usual phenomenon of religious bias, a typical issue of Islamophobia or the recurring case of ‘it won’t sell the papers’, etc
Without doubt, many factors do inform newspapers’ choice of cover pictures, but personally, I believe this pictures, including the ones showing the wailing sympathisers are of human interest angle than The Guardian’s cover picture of “Guest speakers at the Conscience of Yoruba Race meeting on Restructuring” and The Sun’s “flooded road after the hours of rain in Lekki” among others.
While I expect constructive criticisms from my friends on this, particularly practitioners in the media profession, let it be established that this isn’t the first time, events of such magnitude would be downplayed by the mainstream media.
This ugly scenario that played out in September 2014 when Shaykh Mustapha Olayiwola Ajisafe died is still very fresh in our collective memory. Sheikh Ajisafe was the former Chief Imam of Osogbo Osun state as well the President General, League of Imams and Alfas in South-West, Edo and Delta states,
One would have expected the erudite scholar to receive a similar treatment the Nigerian media accorded Pastor T. O Obadare, the leader of the Christ Apostolic Church, who died in March 2013, less than a year before Shaykh Ajisafe passed on.
Interestingly the two respected religious leaders were from the same Osun state, yet, while one – a Pastor – enjoyed massive media prominence, the other – a Muslim leader was denied. If you doubt me, show the world front cover picture of Imam Ajisafe’s burial as reported by any of the top Nigerian newspapers.
Well, does it really matter if the late Mudir (proprietor) in Isolo grace the newspapers’ front cover when thousands of Muslim faithful have painted the social media RED with the pictures. Is not surprising to discover that the front pages of newspapers went blank even as live and recorded videos of the funeral held on Thursday at the popular Daru Da’wah Wal Irshad, Isolo, Lagos flooded the internet?
The Muslim community aren’t surprised anyway, it’s a known fact that the media globally are not fair when it comes to the reportage of Islam and the Muslims.
Hence, it’s high time the Nigerian Muslims started to blow their own trumpet through the establishment and massive investment in the media business. Professionally, Muslim journalists aren’t behind in the contemporary world. There are great Muslim guys in the media but the mind-boggling question is, if an individual like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu could own a big broadcast station like TVC and compliment it with one of the best newspapers such as The Nation, what is stopping big Muslim organisations from floating other Muslim-owned media for the Ummah? Where are the Muslim bourgeois, the stinkingly rich among us?
Till that time when Allah raises other philanthropists and Muslim-owned media enthusiasts such as the late MKO Abiola and Alhaji Arisekola Alao, the existing Muslim journalists, columnists and commentators in the mainstream media should be ambassadors of Islam and be ready to present the universality of her message to the world via beautiful news stories, well researched articles and critical rejoinders.
While I press on with my advocacy for Responsive and Responsible Journalism, no matter whose ox is gored, I sympathise with the family members, friends, students and the entire Muslim community over the passing on of our respected Sheikh Mustapha Zugluul-Sunusi.
May Allah forgive his shortcomings and grant him and other great Muslim Scholars (including my late father, Shaykh Abubakar Makanjuola) AL Janat Firdaous.
– Rasheed Abubakar is a journalist and the author of “Hijab and the Nigerian Press”. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org