Besides the Guild of Muslim Professionals Convention held between 23rd and 26th December, 2017, perhaps one of the best things to have happened to Islam in Nigeria in recent times, particularly in the Southwestern part of the country, is the latest Conference of the Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria (#MMPN), Lagos State chapter.
The resounding success of the Annual Conference, tagged: Islam, Muslims and the Nigerian Media indicates that the journalists’ group, founded over two decades ago, has indeed come of age.
The Conference, held on Saturday, January 6, 2018, paraded an array of veterans and practicing journalists in the print, broadcast and online media. It also x-rayed a plethora of challenges bedevilling the reportage of Islam and Muslims in the Nigerian media, and proffered workable solutions.
Stereotyping: Any Silver Lining?
The Chairman of the occasion, Professor Lai Olurode, in his opening remarks, titled; “Any silver lining in Nigeria’s media machine?”, raised questions over the media’s continuous stereotyping and prejudice against Islam and Muslims, which he said has become more entrenched, direct and infectious since 9/11.
According to the former National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission in charge of Oyo, Ogun and Ekiti states, Muslims are being portrayed as untouchables whose trademark is an uncivilized religion. Prejudice and stereotyping remain enemies of global peaceful co-existence, and thus of civilization.
“Good news about Islam and Muslims are a rare commodity on the pages of the Nigerian print media, and the contents of its electronic counterparts. Negative news about Muslims, the underdogs, command sensational reportage. Local media, without questioning, parrot foreign media’s anti-Islamic news”, he said, shortly after the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, ably represented by his Commissioner for Home Affairs, Dr AbdulHakeem AbdulLateef declared the Conference open.
Without mincing words, Alhaji Liad Tella, the former Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the defunct Monitor Newspaper attributed the negative media reportage of Islam and Muslims to the Christianization and de-Islamisation of the media by the British colonialists.
Tella argued that Islam predated Christianity in Nigeria by over 600 years. He said there was no record of conflict between Muslims and the traditional religionists until the coming of Christianity, backed by the imperialist government and the missionaries.
He disclosed that the Christianization agenda, which has its own culture, ran counter to the existing predominant Islamic cultures deeply rooted in the North and the West, where many Arabic words were already adopted into the lingo of several tribes – such as the Nupes, Tivs, and Igalas, as well as in Yoruba towns like Ikirun, Saki, Ede, Iwo, Iseyin, and Lagos, among others.
The veteran journalist explained that Western education eventually replaced the already flourishing Islamic education in many parts of Nigeria, and conversion to Christianity was made a condition for school enrolment.
“Although some Muslims shunned Western education for the fear of losing their religion, majority of those who were enrolled then became Christians till date”, he stated.
Alhaji Tella however said the intuitive libertarian need for equal rights and opportunities forced the emerging Muslim societies at that time, such as the Ahmadiyya Movement of Nigeria, Ansar-Ud-Deen Society, Nawar-U-Deen Society and Ansarul-Islam Society to establish primary schools and colleges between 1948 and 1958.
He said: “Out of the one hundred early secondary schools in Nigeria, less than ten were Muslim schools, more than sixty were Christian missionary schools, while others were community or colonial government schools, particularly in Northern Nigeria. It is the products of these schools that formed the foundation of early working class elites, journalism and journalists in Nigeria.”
Media use among Muslims
Speaking on the topic, Critical Analysis of Media Use Habit Among Nigerian Muslims, a Senior Lecturer in Journalism and Communication Studies from the University of Lagos, Dr Ismail Ibrahim said the media as an institution is a reflection of the society, and it is the people who power it that use same to promote or further their interests.
Dr Ibrahim however said the Nigerian Muslims are way down the ladder in terms of power-sharing, which negatively affects the reportage of Muslims in the media.
He called on the Muslims to take the media seriously, asserting that: “We need to develop capacity. We need to understand the dynamics of news production, because most of the time, a lot of Muslims don’t have the capacity to respond or react to the need of the media organisations for news or informed commentaries on issues in the society. We need to build capacity in this area to be able to compete with other groups in the society.”
The varsity lecturer expressed disappointment over Muslims’ use of social media, which has opened a window of opportunity and a lot of empowerment for the world.
He said despite the window of opportunity that came with social media, it is sad that Muslims are still not very active on it. They engage in frivolities rather than seize the opportunity offered to them by the new media.
“The person that originated or first tweeted about the abduction of the Chibok girls in Borno by Boko Haram, using the hashtag #bringbackourgirls is a Muslim (by name Ibrahim Abdullahi, a lawyer), but it didn’t trend when he tweeted it until another person, an activist and social media influencer, Oby Ezekwesili tweeted it, and it immediately went viral. If the man had had the kind of followership Mrs. Ezekwesili has, his tweet would have gone viral, but he didn’t. Hence, it becomes pertinent for Muslims to develop icons on Twitter and other social media platforms”, he advised the audience.
Dr Ibrahim further advocated for media education, calling on the Muslims to go into the media. According to him, we cannot continue to play the blame game. “Nobody stops us from going to schools of journalism. Nobody stops us from studying mass communication. If you don’t go there, do you expect non-Muslims who don’t understand the basic tenets of Islam to promote your religion? It is not possible. It is important we join.”
Other prominent journalism scholars who related their years of practicing experience at the Conference include Professor Lakin Akintola, the Director of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC); Dr Qasim Akinreti, the incumbent Lagos Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Chairman; Ustadh AbdurRasaq AbdusSalam, the Deputy Director, Programmes, Voice of Nigeria; Alhaji AbdulRaheem Balogun, the National President, MMPN, Dr Misbaudeen Akanni, a Senior Lecturer in Journalism at the Lagos State University, and Hajia Sakinah Lawal, the Lagos Chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists.
Imperative of media ownership
Professor Lakin Akintola, in his paper, titled: Imperative of Media Ownership by Nigerian Muslims, said the parochial reportage, anti-Muslim sentiment, blackout of Muslim news/events and concentration on Christian interests and musicals forced some influential Muslims to float alternative media.
In his words: “Such media included The Covenant in the nineties, The Hammer; published by Alhaji Nojeem Jimoh in the 1990s, The Monitor; owned by the late Aare Arisekola Alao, and several magazines (like Al-Hikmah Awareness of the Muslim Students Society of UNILAG and of recent, AL-FAHM; published by MSSN Surulere Area Council, Lagos State).”
All the above mentioned Muslim media were failed attempts by Muslims, according to Prof Akintola. They have temporarily or permanently ceased production, except for AL-FAHM, which has metamorphosed into a weekly column in this newspaper and The Truth Newspaper, the publication of the Ahmadiyya movement.
Dr Akinreti, the current Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ) Chair in Lagos, who also doubles as the National Publicity Secretary for the Ahmadiyya Movement, said during his presentation of the topic; “Islam, Muslims and the Nigerian Media”, that the first Islamic evangelism weekly newspaper to be established in Nigeria was “The Truth Newspaper”.
“The newspaper was founded in 1951 and the late Naseem Saifi, the Amir for the Movement then became the first Editor-in-Chief and publisher.
“Sadly, this aspect of the history of the Nigerian press remains hidden in most media text books till date”, Dr Akinreti said.
Some of the recommendations at the Conference include a call on Muslim businessmen to invest in the media. While urging the Muslims to engage in a robust patronage of the media, the Conference also called on the government and its relevant agencies to exercise the power to sanction erring journalists or media that report lies or publish fabricated news. Muslim students studying mass communication/journalism at different government or private institutions in Nigeria should be given platforms at newspapers, TV or radio stations to showcase their talents.
One of the highlights of the gathering was the presentation of an Outstanding Hajj Performance Award to the Lagos State Government, which was received by Commissioner for Home Affairs, Dr AbdulHakeem AbdulLateef, who doubles as the Amir-ul-Hajj. The young Aasiyah Abdulkareem was also honoured as the MMPN Lagos Face of Hijab, to celebrate her courage for challenging the assault and abuse of Muslim ladies in public schools. She was also honoured for being the best Mathematics students in the state.
The Chairman, #MMPN Lagos Chapter, Alhaji AbdulKabir Garuba thanked the guests of honour and the leaders of Muslim organisations who graced the event. They include: Lagos State Deputy Governor Dr Idiat Adebule, who was represented by a Director in the Education ministry, Mrs Folashade Lediju; Dr Lukman AbdurRaheem, Amir, The Muslim Congress (TMC) and Alhaji Mumini Alao, the publisher of Complete Sports, among others.
– Rasheed Abubakar is a journalist and the author “Hijab and the Nigerian Press”. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Culled from Daily Independent