Sunday, October 22, 2006

What if Osama had sent this letter

Thirty eight leading Muslim scholars and leaders have signed a joint open letter to the Pope in the spirit of goodwill to respond to the remarks made by His Holiness on 12 September 2006.All the eight schools of thought and jurisprudence in Islam are represented by the signatories. (refer to earlier post)

A few weeks have passed and the mainstream media have hardly given any significance to this. Had only Osama "CEO of Destruction" or his deputy, issued a letter or an audio recording or a video recording, every mainstream media in every country in the form of print media or tv or radio will covered it without fail.

I had a debate with a senior straits times journalist two weeks ago who blamed Al-Jazeera to be an important source of misinterpretations of Islam through its choice to broadcast letters, videos, audios from extremist groups. He said Al-Jazeera has to stop it and also play a role in promoting good understanding of Islam. Well Al-Jazeera also covered this letter. If Al-Jazeera's coverage of extremist opinions propagates misunderstandings then Al-Jazeera's coverage of moderate opinions must propagate understanding. However that is not the case....

Every home in every country with a tv do not have cable or satelite subscription to Al-Jazeera. It is the delibrate selective coverage of extremists' opinions and rhetoric, by mainstream media in every country, that have been originally shown by Al-Jazeera which really serves as an important avenue to promote misunderstandings of Islam. Mainstream media conveniently however point the finger at Al-Jazeera accusing it of constructing misconceptions of Islam and Muslims, propagating hate and promoting terrorism. It is more than apparent that mainstream media works with its ulterior motives or hidden agenda or prejudices and it benignly, staunchly and implicitly holds Islam and Muslims in the worst light and propagating a cultural understanding of Islam and Muslims, it selectively chooses the information that is consistent with its biases/agenda/motives. Al-Jazeera just serves as a data source.

This letter by the most eminent scholars and authorities of the Islamic world highlights a milestone effort by the Islamic world to try to engage the West in an intellectual way and through dialogue. Clearly the West has not been inspired by it, not has the West keenly welcomed it nor has it used it.

The conventional way the west engages the Muslim world through its politicians, media and academics is undeniably through controversies, confrontation, peripheries and isolated individuals which naturally can only isolate relations. Clearly by ignoring and giving little importance to this landmark diplomacy, effort and positive healthy engagement by the Muslim world, the West only has lost for itself a valuable opportunity to integrate relations with the Muslim world and set a precedence and standard for engagement through dialogue and intellectual discourse.

The mainstream Muslim world is however not going to loose hope. How long is the west going to engage us in their idiosyncratic ways? How long can western media and politicians and academics thrive on their rhetoric and controversies? How long can the western people live in anxiety, suspicion and apprehension? There will come a time perhaps in one or two generations, they will grow fed up and then choose to engage the Muslim world through real dialogue and intellectual discourse. Till then this letter will just be the first and not the last.....


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