Facts · Islam

Discourse on Extremism and the Role of Media.

Extremism and role of Media

Nadia Shamas, Manchester

In this century we have seen and are more aware of acts of extremism than ever before. Extremism by definition, is the idea of ‘holding extreme political and religious values.’ In this year alone, the world has experienced 506 extremist attacks perpetrated by people who called themselves Muslim. However, my question is what about the extremist attacks that were brought on by those who were not Muslim? In no way is this supporting the self-proclaimed jihadists because they do not and are not portraying the morals and teachings of Islam. The religion of Islam teaches and promotes peace and states that there should be no compulsion in religion.

But it does raise the question that why is it that when people use the word ‘extremism’ the first words that crop up in the media are ‘Muslims’, ‘Jihadists’ or ‘Islam’? Why is it that we never hear discussions about non-Muslim terrorist groups such as the KKK (Ku Klux Klan), who have been responsible for burning not only churches and peoples’ property on American soil but also burning people? Why is it that a man such as Mark Conditt is not labelled a terrorist when he was related to an extreme Christian group and committed a suicide bomb attack in which he killed two innocent people and injured five? The answer is because of the role of media and what they do and don’t present to the public.

On Saturday 3rd June 2017, London was hit with a devastating terrorist attack that killed eight innocent people. Theresa May in her speech exclaimed, ‘enough is enough,’ further stating that it was social media platforms that had allowed extremists to ‘breed’ their wrong ideologies and plan so many attacks that had hit all around the world. Many agreed with the Prime Minister’s view. The media covered her speech as well as the terrorist attack. Although we are observing that many social media platforms such as, Facebook and Instagram are now much more rigorously tracking or removing content related to extremism, there is still a huge misunderstanding of extremism, its perpetrators and the role of the western media in how these two factors are portrayed.  For example, Kimberly Powell, a professor of Communication and Women and Gender Studies, concluded in her study of U.S. media coverage on terrorism after 9/11, that terrorism was most effective at spreading when given widespread media coverage. Additionally, a recent study that was published in the daily newspaper Independent has shown how misleading the media can become when the topic of extremism arises.

Research conducted by Erin M. Kearns, an American assistant professor of criminology, and her colleagues, included looking at 89 specific terrorist attacks that had occurred during the years 2011 to 2015 in the United States (these were according to the GTD’s – Global Terrorism Database – definition of terrorism) and they found that out of those attacks, Muslims were responsible for 12.4% of atrocities. What they further found out was, out of the 89 attacks, 24 hadn’t received any media coverage, but the small percentage of 12.4% of Muslim perpetrators had received 44% news coverage. They also discovered that there were 192.8 articles out of 2,413 that were related to either Muslim or foreign-born perpetrators, compared to the 18.1 articles that had been written about the rest of the 88% terrorist attacks that weren’t to do with Muslim extremists. All in all, showing that, on average, Muslim extremist attacks tend to receive four and a half times more coverage within the media. The researchers of this study concluded, “In other words, whether intentional or not, US media outlets disproportionality emphasise the smaller number of terrorist attacks by Muslims, leading America to have an exaggerated sense of threat.”

Thus, we come to see that the western media plays a crucial role in how extremist attacks are usually portrayed to the larger audience who witness such atrocities. This not only highlights the sphere of influence the media has, but also calls to attention the responsibility of those who work in this field in depicting the actual truth of extremism, in whatever form it may manifest itself.

Certainly we see that the so-called ‘cherry-picking’ of stories related to extremism that only fit a certain agenda, against extremists claiming to be Muslim, is a grave injustice. Such misrepresentation of information can lead to the disastrous consequences of hate, prejudice and stereotype arising against the many of a particular group of people, due to the deplorable actions of the very few. Such injustices in the media only emphasise the need to educate people on not initially believing everything they read or see as the final truth.

Finally, this also stresses to those in the media that they must give a fair and just account of any matters they report on, not just extremism, because as best said in the words of revolutionary civil rights leader, Malcolm X: “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”


Peer Pressure


Peer Pressure 3

                                                          Yusra Dahri, London 

How many times have we all been told through some medium or another that we must stay true to ourselves and not let anyone change who we are?

How many times have we rolled our eyes in response, thinking that it would never be us?

We are far too clever for that!

 If we fast forward a few years later then we all start looking a little foolish.

A flicker of hesitation. An awkward smile.

If we’re so smart, why can’t we think of the perfect thing to say right now, instead of fidgeting nervously?

How do you hold on to your values without offending those who didn’t really mean any harm?

 Peer pressure.

Not as black and white as we thought.

It’s easy enough to defend yourself when someone attacks you directly, but it’s much harder to defend yourself when people challenge your way of thinking, especially unintentionally.

The desire to ‘fit in’ is human nature; no one wants to be an outcast.

But remember, who is it that you’re trying to fit in with? Who are you allowing to influence you?

A family member who has experience with your problem and is trying to give you advice? Or a classmate, someone who is just as inexperienced with real life as you are but insists they know best, or is treated like they do?

And you have to ascertain whether your friends (who are probably quite naive) have your best interests at heart, or don’t know what they’re doing and just don’t want to be alone?

If you’re more inclined to the latter option, then the chances are you’re a sensitive and kind person who wants to help others.

But you have to distinguish whether they need help or they want hedonism.

(If hedonism, say no. There’s no reason for you to take part in something you don’t believe in.)

And even in some cases the help they want is help you can’t give. It’s unfair to you and it’s unfair to them because they aren’t getting the proper help they need.

Peer pressure can also be more confrontational. People will want, even demand you to do something that you really don’t want to do. They may even threaten you, but the key here is to say no.

When I was in my first year of secondary school, there were some people who wanted me to do something that I did not want to do. They even threatened to drop my pencil case out of the window (the stakes were high- that pencil case was brand new!). However, I still refused and blatantly said I would tell a teacher. They scoffed like they didn’t care, but lo and behold, my pencil case was returned to me. I stayed sitting exactly where I was but they left me alone after that. By saying no you give yourself respect and people will sense that immediately.

To their credit, after five years they’ve matured and grown up completely since then.

That’s another reason why it’s so important to stand up for your values: you have no idea what a profound effect it can have on someone else.

The best way to avoid peer pressure or influence is to find a peer group that respects you and your values. If you’re lucky, you may find this at school, but even if you don’t, remember that school is a setting that’s only temporary.

The people you know now you may not even know in another five years, but you have yourself forever. You don’t want to change yourself for people you won’t even remember in ten years time.

So what do you do amidst the hesitation and the awkward smiles? If you’re not quite feeling up to it (which is fine, by the way) stay away and don’t look back. But if you’re feeling brave enough, say what you think clearly and boldly.

There will be pressure. There always will.

But why does that mean you should give in?

Facts · Hijab · Islam · Women

Wearing The Hijab In Islam


Navida 1

Navida Sayed, London

Over the last decade the hijab has become one of the most widely discussed and controversial topic not only in the West but also in Muslim societies. The covering of the head has also been debated among some Muslim scholars and they have joined in the debate on whether or not the wearing of a headscarf is required of Muslim women. Before we discuss what some scholars are saying we will see what led to this debate. [i]

Recently the topic of hijab came into the spotlight through social media platforms. Some European governments have introduced legislation against wearing the full face Hijab. In pursuit of their own political agendas some of the Western countries repeatedly intervene and attempt imposing and elaborating a dress code about how Muslim women should dress in the name of secularism, as a result this is dividing societies rather than uniting.  It leads to backlash and hatred against Muslim women in hijab. This has resulted in many with little awareness of Islam to identify Muslim women in hijab either with terrorism or as oppressed women in desperate need of liberation from their hijab.  Sadly all the negative media propaganda and recent hate crimes against Muslim women in Hijab has resulted in some Muslim women to turn their back on wearing the veil and forming countercultural statements.

Women choosing to walk away from the hijab as feminists or because of modernity actually believe that the hijab is ingrained in culture rather than faith. They pander to the arguments of those who erroneously believe that Muslim hijab wearing women are brainwashed into saying they are wearing it out of choice and they are not forced to wear it. Activists are taking the removal of the hijab to a whole new level, from videos and blogs on how to remove the headscarf to linking the headscarf as an out dated cultural practice. To further confuse matters some Muslim males opposing the headscarf have jumped on the bandwagon too, they quote five so-called high profile Muslim Scholars as an authority who issued a fatwa on – ‘The Permissibility Of Not Wearing The Headscarf’, I will only touch on some of their points here.

The first is Khaled Abou El-Fadl ‘ who critiques the predominant Muslim position of viewing the khimar (veil) as a piece of cloth that covers the head and face or just the head. He argues that if the headscarf itself causes women to stand out and put them in the way of harm and if uncovering the head is not considered socially immodest or licentious then it would be permissible for Muslim women to not wear the headscarf.’

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi also shares the opinions of Khaled Abou El-Fadl, Ghamidi and his affiliate Farhad Shafti that ‘the khimar (veil) was neither a religious act nor did it pertain to modesty.

Abdullah Bin Bayyah ‘argues that hardships allow for uncovering of women’s body parts or hair in public.

In relation to the wearing of the headscarf Bin Bayyah’s student Hamza Yusuf mistakenly asserts that ‘the laws are there to serve human beings, we are not there to serve the law. We are there to serve Allah, and that is why whenever the law does not serve you, you are permitted to abandon it, and that is actually following the law. … The law is for our benefit, not for our harm. Therefore, if the law harms us, we no longer have to abide by it.’

The late Shia cleric, Ahmad Ghabel deemed as an authority on Islam, ‘argued that the head covering was not obligatory but recommended, he also said there was no consensus as to whether hair constituted parts that must be covered.’

The fifth person the late Nasr Abu Zayd argued ‘covering of body parts and the hijab are subject to socio-cultural norms and therefore are changeable and not fixed. He opined that both are not legislated by Islam but are rather specific to the Arab culture.’[ii]

Citing the above-mentioned individuals as authorities on Islam is misleading. Deliberation on their arguments in detail is for another time. In a nutshell as scholars of Islam they are all inaccurately asserting with authority that Islam does not require women to cover their heads with a headscarf especially in countries where they may be facing discrimination or persecution because of their headscarves.  However the real and only authority on Islam is the Holy Qura’n.  In Islam, modesty and chastity are very important tenets of faith, and are achieved through establishing certain codes of behaviour and dress. It is said in the Holy Qur’an:

‘And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they display not their beauty and embellishments except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head-covers over their bosoms…’ (Ch.24:V.32)

The veil is a word used generically, which could refer to Hijab, Burqa, Niqab, headscarf or outer garment used to cover the body. Because Islam is a global religion there is no specific or compulsory dress for all Muslim women. Each country or community adapts its cultural dress code to observe the Hijab in accordance with Qur’anic instructions. In essence, this does not mean that the Hijab stems from cultural dress in fact the beauty of Islam is that it allows women to adapt their cultural dress in accordance with teachings of Islam as mentioned in the above verse of the Holy Qura’n.  Observance of the veil is definitely part of a Muslim woman’s faith, as it is clear from the Holy Qur’an.

Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab in Western countries do not struggle with any kind of inferiority complex or dilemma about whether or not they should wear the hijab. They do not feel constricted or objectified instead they feel confident and empowered.  The Hijab establishes dignity and respect for women, so that they are recognised in society as individuals who are respected for their intelligence and personality rather than for their physical appearance.  For Muslim women having the right to choose what to wear including the hijab is the most liberating and empowering choice of all.



[i] HuffPost Canada. (2017). 5 Muslim Scholars On The Permissibility Of Not Wearing The Headscarf. [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/junaid-jahangir/islam-wearing-hijab_b_14046520.html

[ii] HuffPost Canada. (2017). 5 Muslim Scholars On The Permissibility Of Not Wearing The Headscarf. [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/junaid-jahangir/islam-wearing-hijab_b_14046520.html

Customs and Rituals · Facts · Islam

Halloween: Trick more than Treat


By Ayza Mahmood, age 14, Roehampton, London

It is the month of October and Halloween, the festival widely celebrated around the globe is a few days away. Halloween is based on ancient traditions that on the day the boundary between the living and the dead is removed and the dead come back to ‘haunt the living’. Halloween is a celebration of dressing up in frightening masks and costumes and going around knocking on doors and asking for sweets.

The concept behind giving sweets to children at the door is a way of protecting your household from the evil and the dead according to Halloween participants. In Islam this would be called ‘shirk’, which means association of anything with God. For example, the worship of idols would be classed as shirk because the idea behind it is that the idol is the worshipper’s god. So, to think that giving sweets on Halloween day is protecting one’s household from the dead is merely shirk because God is Omnipotent (All- Powerful) which means it is only He Who can protect a household or anything for that matter.

The Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said that ‘avoid shirk, it is more subtle than footprints [on soft soil]. The Imam of the age, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that even a ‘hint of shirk is unacceptable to God’.

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (may Allah be his Helper) gave us the background of Halloween and explained how wrong the practice was in his Friday sermon of 29 October 2010. Huzoor said Halloween is generally regarded as fun. Huzoor said it should always be remembered that any ‘fun’ that is based on shirk or any harmful way is to be avoided. Huzoor said it was a ‘wrong and displeasing practice’ which was ‘a hidden evil’.

It is undignified for a child to dress up in an absurd manner and go knocking from door to door begging for sweets. And allowing a child to roam the streets at night is prone to harm and danger and a major cause for concern. Is it not a basic moral principle to give instead of take? And allowing one’s child to throw eggs on houses simply because they were not given sweets makes one wonder as to why this practice is even allowed.

As an Ahmadi Muslim girl living in the 21st century I have become used to the common question asked of me as to why I do not take part in Halloween. I stay firm in my faith and say there is no need to go around begging for sweets. Halloween mocks the dead including all our ancestors. And anyway God has given us all beautiful faces and why should we spoil them by painting them to make us look like the dead. Life is a blessing that God has bestowed upon us all so why would we ever want to dress up to look like we are not living but rather dead?

Fortunately most people in today’s society are accepting and when I say to people that I do not take part in something they might take part in, the response is usually always reassuring. For example, my neighbour once knocked on my door on Halloween day. She asked my mum if I could go trick or treating with her. My mum gave her sweets and told her politely that we do not celebrate Halloween. She understood and never knocked on our door for Halloween again.

To finish I would like to say that we should try and make positive changes to our society but I find Halloween is a way of dehumanizing everyone. We should be taking steps to better our society instead of disguising as macabre creatures. Life is far too precious to be taken for granted and for us to dress up looking like the dead.