Islam and the Media
Discussion on Islam and the media cannot be done in isolation of the definition of either of the keywords, since the two are inextricable.
Thus, Islam, on the one hand, is generally defined as a religion of peace and submission to God's command-peace with Allah and peace with humanity. This is because the word " Islam" has its derivative from "Salaam", meaning "peace". It was popularized by prophet Muhammad, the son of Abdullah who was born in 'the year of elephant' in Makkah, Saudi Arabia in 570 Christian Era.
Islam is one of the most recognised religions in the world with close to 2 billion adherents across the seven continents. It has also been established that at least one out of every five human beings on the surface of the planet, earth, is a Muslim.
On the other hand, media are the various channels-electronic or print-of disseminating information,messages, ideas and ideologies to a large heterogenous audience. These vehicles of human communication include newspapers, magazines, the radio, television, cinemas, billboards, books and the Internet especially the social media like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Linked-In, WhatsApp and many others. These new media, later mentioned, are capable of disseminating information in messages and pictures on one-on-one and one-to-many bases. Without any doubt, media influence people greatly and shape their opinions about the world.
Therefore, what people see( or do not see), what they do, what they eat,what they wear and what they say are largely products of their exposure to the media.This is because these tools of communication or information dissemination set agenda for people in government and civil lives. This view is aptly supported by Marshall Mcluhan in his media theory "Technological Determinism" of 1962 which states that "media technology shapes how we as individuals in a society think, feel, act, and how are society operates as we move from one technological age to another (Tribal- Literate- Print- Electronic)".
Generally speaking, media have several functions of educating, informing, entertainment,watchdog as well as agenda-setting earlier mentioned. Advertisements are also major instruments of persuasive messages in the media to influence buying decisions of audiences.With these roles, media are employed by their proprietors and practitioners to capture human minds and make them think in a pre-determined manner, although revolution of the new media bloggers and social media users who never had knowledge of traditional journalism has brought about more participation on different platforms.
As important as they are, no individual or group in the world today can do without the media since they constitute arenas where organisations and governments air their views or even balance misconceptions about them. As the nucleus of the global society, the media embrace all colours, races, ethnicities, religions and governments for storage and dissemination of doctrines, manifestos and ideologies.
As influential as they are, media seemed to have been used for more of vertical,top-down communication/information dissemination to their audiences than horizontal. They are instruments of control, be it political, economic or ideological. This fact was more pronounced in the past particularly with the old media when there were delayed feed backs(in form of letters to the editor, rejoinders or balance in opinions). Because of the social stratification which naturally gives room for some people to take decisions affecting their society and the entire world, media have for long been platforms where peoples of the world are indoctrinated with ideas, programmes and ideologies of 'the few' that control our world today.
For example, with its slogan "The opinion and the other opinion", Aljazeera Network has been able to balance the negative reportage of the Gulf nations by the western media.The station claims that "it covers all sides of a debate, it says it presents Israel's view, Iran's view and even aired videos released by Osama bin Laden".
There are various views regarding media vis-a-vis Islam today. The popular view among Muslims and some scholars of Internal politics is that Islam and Muslims have generally been disparaged in the eye of local and global media.This can be clearly demonstrated by media labels of Muslims and their religion. Words and phrases such as "extremists", Islamists", " Islamic fundamentalists", " Islamist group", "terrorists" are loosely used to depict Muslims particularly when crisis is involved. Also, we read " Islamic cleric" as opposed to " the man of God" where reference is being made to an Imam in the former and a reverend/pastor in the latter phrase.