Apart from veteran journalist and author Abu Umar Al-Faruq, who taught me to be a true ambassador of Islam and humanity in journalism, there are three other personalities who did not only greatly influence me with their writings, but also inflamed my passion and love for media advocacy.
One of them is Alhaji Liad Tella, who I eventually had the opportunity of meeting after a long time at the recently held MMPN annual symposium, where he presented a paper on “Hajj Operation and Media Responsibility”. Read the full article about the event in my Friday column in the Daily Independent newspaper.
I will write about the two other great Muslim writers whenever I have the opportunity to interact with them like I did with Alhaji Tella.
Alhaji Tella is currently a Senior Research Fellow in the Mass Communication Department of the University of Ilorin.
I was filled with joy when he endorsed my books on “Islam and the Media series 1 & 2″ and promised to assist me when I commence work on the 3rd series, titled “Reporting Islam: A Guide for Journalists in a Globalized World.”
Oh… Before I forget, MMPN stands for Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria and interestingly, Alhaji Tella is a founding member.
He recalled: When I joined the Daily Times in 1978 as a Youth Corper, I met very few Muslims as practicing journalists in spite of the fact that media legend Alhaji Ismail Babatunde Jose was the Chief Executive of the company for more than two decades. Only Alhaji Bola Adedoja was a frontal person on the issues of Islam. Tunji Oseni, the Editor of The Sunday Times, was a low key Muslim.
Lade Bonuola (Ladbone) and the Editor of the Daily Times Tony Momoh had both embraced The Grail Message and were no longer practicing Islam.
Pa Mark Alabi was not easily identified as a Muslim but he was a committed Islamist. Chief Tola Adeniyi of the “Abbasaid” fame was the most frontal Muslim and pivot of Islam in the media. He severally espoused Islam in his column and quoted verses of the Glorious Qur’an profusely and stylistically, using the best of prose and literary renditions that stood him out among his peers as a famous columnist and commentator on public affairs.
He continued: My generation at the Times group of newspapers witnessed the arrival of committed Muslim graduates into the Journalism arena in the South West. They included Doyin Mahmoud, Najeem Jimoh and Mohammed Aruna from Auchi. I was the only one in the newsroom. Others were on the sub-desk.
When I joined The Punch on the 1st of January 1982, only Labake Adebiyi, Segun Obilana and I were Muslims among the top editorial staff. Others were all Christians.
In 1984, Najim Jimoh and Yisa Kareem came in after serious efforts. Najeem Kazeem joined as a reporter while Semiu Babatunde came in for a one-year industrial attachment. He later became a full staff. The minimal presence of Muslims pervades the media till today. Tribute must be paid to ace Islamic columnists like late Pa Olatunde “Facing the Kaabah” and Femi Abbas “Islam.”
Wait! Alhaji Tella already mentioned the two other names in his narration. It’s now left for you to guess if you can’t wait for me to formally write about their contributions to Islam and the media in Nigeria.
Personally, I think nothing has really changed 35 years down the line. It’s still the same old story of media misrepresentation of Islam and Muslims. And going by the sterling efforts put together by Alhaji Tella’s generation, I didn’t expect we (Muslims) should be where we are today.
Evidently, we still have few practicing Muslim journalists in the media. Out of these few, some don’t want to be known as Muslims. They often say, “job separate, religion separate”.
Unfortunately, pathetic situations like these cut across different professions, not only journalism or mass communication. We have Muslims by name everywhere, not in creed and practice. Some even complicate matters for serious Muslims who reflect Islam in their work.
The mind-boggling question is: What kind of Muslim are you in your office or class/lecture room?
– Rasheed Abubakar is a journalist and the author of “Hijab and the Nigerian Press”. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org