Guest post by KASHIF-ul-HUDA
In just a year, Newslaundry has achieved quite a following for its in-depth and hard-hitting interviews. “Welcome to newslaundry – Sabki dhulai. You watch. We’re watching,” says the “About Us” page of this website. But the question is who will do dhulai of Newslanudry?
Newslaundry’s interview of eminent Islamic Scholar Asghar Ali Engineer makes you wonder what kind of preparation did Madhu Trehan did before doing this interview? How is this interview, asking stupid questions on the topic of women’s education, Salman Rushdie, purdah, etc., any different than idiots that play journalists on news channels?
Watching the interview, it is painfully obvious that Trehan got Engineer sahib in a conference and decided to interview him but without doing any background research or knowing anything about his lifetime of work. The reason she is unaware of his work is that when it comes to Muslim issues, Indian journalists make no attempt to go beyond their prejudices and stereotypes.
For our journalists there are only two types of Muslims: liberals represented by Javed Akhtar and conservatives led by Ahmed Bukhari. They forget that there are 150 million other Muslims with as many viewpoints, speaking a number of languages, and belonging to different sects and groups living in all parts of India.
Engineer has written over 30 books on communalism, women, and Islam. Samples some of the questions asked by Madhu Trehan:
Are you a priest?
Do you support girls’ education?
What do you think of Salman Rushdie?
Would you be in favor of banning Kamal Haasan’s movie?
Do you think killing the cartoonist who mocked Prophet Muhammad is right?
Then she goes on to say that “your progressive ideas of Islam should be spread more in India, you are not doing enough.”
It is the mainstream media with its mass reach that helps spread the news about weird fatwas and fringe groups, keeping legitimate and responsible voices out of the discourse. It is no wonder that Madhu Trehan has never heard of Asghar Ali Engineer or his work.
When it comes to Muslim issues, the Indian media is woefully ignorant of even fundamentals and loses all sense of proportion. My research in 2010 showed that 80% of Darul Uloom fatwas have nothing to do with women and that most fatwas are pretty harmless advice, but it is always that one fatwa that will drive the media coverage that can paint all Muslims in the familiar stereotypical already cut-out by the media. This is what the media is familiar with. So what if the original fatwa that everyone went crazy about is four-week old news, and not exactly as the screaming headlines suggest?