Working with the Media

Working with media

When you see some form of injustice around you, it becomes part of your duty as the caliph of Allah (swt) to do something about it. It is easy to sit back and complain that Muslims are painted with an unfair brush in the Western media. It is harder – but more effective – to do something about it. Regardless of your education background, work experience, language barriers or other responsibilities, each and every one of you can (and should) make an effort, so that you can at least be counted among those, who are trying to make a difference.

Working with the media is a powerful way to make a difference, because if you are successful, you can touch the lives of hundreds and thousands of people in a very cost and time-efficient manner. And now with the Internet, you are no longer limited to your local town or even country. You can try to get your message to people in all far flung corners of the globe by the power you have been blessed with.

Start with Dua

If you want to dispel the myths and misinformation about Islam and Muslims by writing about your Deen in the media, then make your intentions pure.

Letters to the Editor

You need not have a degree in journalism or extensive writing experience to write a letter to the editor. Just remember to be concise and polite, and even if your letter is not published, be assured that someone did read it. Just bringing the point across that there are Muslims in their readership base is the first step you should aim for. Therefore, you should write to the editor or a particular writer of a story that piqued your interest with both positive and negative feedback.

Unfortunately, we are all motivated to complain, when some media outlet talks negatively about Muslims. We gather friends and family, forward emails and sign petitions like there is no tomorrow. While that is important, establishing a relationship with the media for positive feedback is a great place to start. Everyone likes to be complimented.

Know the Process

Nothing frustrates an editor more than the writer not knowing anything about the publication she or he is interested in. Pick up a few issues of the newspaper or magazine or read through online archives to get a feel for the publication. Find out, how they accept articles. Find out, if they prefer email or snail mail, what sections of the publication they accept freelance work for, what word count stories do they usually assign first-timers, and what topics have their already covered?

After doing this research, plan out your article and send a brief outline to the editor. Do not follow up almost immediately as editors are inundated with a lot of queries every day. Follow up politely after two weeks to see, if they have made a decision. Do not be disheartened, if they choose not to show interest in your story.

Choose an Angle

The best way to stand out in a sea of queries is to choose an angle. Instead of just pitching “Ramadan”, I had more success in pitching “Ramadan: Why do Muslim Children Fast?”, “Ramadan in the Workplace” and “Fasting in all Faiths”.

Do Not Give Up

There will be rejection, so be prepared for it. However, do not give up. Polish your writing skills and attend workshops. Offer to volunteer for local papers, so that you learn the ropes. Make a website and start a free blog, so that you have a permanent place to store all your thoughts.

Even though getting published does boost your confidence, never let it go to your head. Constantly evaluate your intentions for getting into this field and praise Allah (swt) for giving you the opportunity to serve Him with your pen. Use your words wisely and continue your mission to change hearts, one reader at a time.

Islam in Saudi Arabia

July 11- Islam in Saudi Arabia

By Kristine Julika

It all starts with a single ‘Allahu Akbar!’ in the distance. Soon, other voices from other mosques join in. Then, one by one, the Muadh-dhins finish their Adhans, until there is just a single voice left again concluding the choral call to prayer: “La ilaha illa Allah!”

Prayer is a central and very influential part of life in Saudi Arabia; everybody and everything stops for the sake of the Creator (swt). The shops are closed; people stop working to remember the true meaning of this ephemeral world.

My story of Islam in Saudi Arabia is mainly a story about a relatively new Muslim revert, who has lived in both Western and Eastern societies. Since Saudi Arabia is the cradle of Islam and the Muslim civilization, it is the dream of every Muslim to live there or at least visit once in a lifetime. This is because Saudi Arabia means no obstacles in enjoying a really Islamic life.

In every European country, I felt like a freak. All the stares and whispers made me feel uncomfortable, even in my native country. Although I wasn’t wearing an Abaya or Niqab, the headscarf did the trick. In Saudi Arabia, however, I don’t feel any different from other women. Everybody has a black Abaya (in most cases, also the Niqab). In contrast to the Western countries, here, you might get some uncomfortable looks, if you do not wear Hijab – at least, in Riyadh. In Riyadh, whenever I put on my Abaya and Niqab, I feel so safe and protected, hardly a feeling I had in Europe.

The same thing can be said about food. Here, I don’t have to be extra careful, when I am in the supermarket buying food. I know that all meat is Halal. In general, I can eat whatever I like!

The amount of shopping malls is unbelievable, and they all tend to be really huge, maybe because this is (almost) the only form of relaxation, entertainment and socialization for Saudi women, and people want to make these places as huge as possible.

The Saudi youth, with their iPods and iPads, are more prone to cultural invasion, because they have lots of money; for some of them, Islam seems to be only a tradition. They love travelling to Western countries. But, at the same time, they also love this country because “this is where I was born” (an answer a student gave me in one of my classes).

However, we should remember that Saudi Arabia is not a flawless place to be. It is not Jannah, after all. Although everybody is said to be Muslim, there are some people, who are just following Islam by tradition or default. For example, some behave contrary to Islamic norms of behaviour; they might be arrogant or forget about being kind to other people. If we live with the right attitude in mind – one that is not judgemental of others – and enjoy life in the country where the Prophet (sa) was born, then it really seems a perfect place to be. Alhumdulillah for the great opportunity!

Islam in Singapore

Apr 11- Singapore

By Ruhie Jamshaid

The little island nation of Singapore is renowned to be a modern, urban ‘lion-city’. It is often recognized as the commercial heart of Asia. The levels of cleanliness and law and order found in this nation are somewhat legendary, with many cities, such as Dubai, Bahrain and Shanghai, modelling after it.

However, beyond the glitz and glamour of the heart of the far East, lies a nation that is admired for its sense of respect for all religions and races. A myriad of races from the Chinese to Malays and Indians live side by side on the island, practicing their religions. Needless to say, Islam, too, is practiced freely and widely in Singapore!

In fact, growing up in such a multi-cultural country as Singapore, I had the opportunity to learn about my religion from my Malay and Arab friends. Somehow, the religion of Islam and my culture as a Pakistani were often separate entities. Hence, I got a chance to study my religion for what it is, beyond cultural influences.

One of the most wonderful things about being a Muslim in Singapore is celebrating Ramadan. This holy month is always very special here. It is a common practice to go to the Masjid for Taraweeh prayers as a family. Every locality, or rather housing estate, has a mosque, although the volume of the Adhans has to be controlled for the sake of not disturbing non-Muslim residents. Iftar is organized in all the mosques for all and sundry. It is common to find people of such varied nationalities as Moroccons, Bangladeshis, Indonesians and the local Singaporean Malays sitting side by side and breaking their fasts. Taraweeh prayers are conducted with Tahleels and Dhikr sessions.

My family and I cherish the opportunity to go to the mosque for Taraweeh prayers. It is an opportunity for us to meet other Muslims and for our children to be aware of the spirit of Islam in a community. As many Muslims are foreigners, with only a few family members in Singapore, Eid-ul-Fitr prayers also offer an opportunity to connect with the Muslim community.

The Chinese Muslim community of Singapore, though small in number, is also an interesting aspect of the Muslim community found here. While they practice Islam, they also embrace certain Chinese cultural practices, such as the celebration of the Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Ms. Mah, a Chinese Muslim, states: “We are basically all Chinese, except that we practice Islam. For instance, we avoid pork, which is often the preferred meat in Chinese households!” Many Chinese Muslims in Singapore have either embraced Islam through marriage and adoption, or their families are of Hui or Uyghur descent, having moved to Singapore from China in the 1920s.

It is quite easy to practice Islam in most areas of life in Singapore. Though there may not be special rooms allocated for Salah in most workplaces, it is typical for employers to make allowances for you to go to a quiet corner such as a staircase area or your own office cubicle to pray. Halal food is also easily available with most fast food restaurants being Halal. Wearing Hijab at workplaces can be an issue but in daily life, it is common to find Muslim ladies donning the Hijab at market places and restaurants.

Generally, Islam is seldom viewed suspiciously in Singapore. Therefore, the freedom to practice one’s religion without fear of being ostracized makes it all the worthwhile to be a Muslim in Singapore.

Islam in Chicago

Jan 11 - Islam in Chicago

When I moved to Chicago just three weeks after I got married, I really didn’t know what to expect. Having always lived in such predominantly Muslim cities as Dubai and Karachi, I was looking forward to beginning a new chapter in my life but wasn’t quite sure how to start from scratch.

I wasn’t sure about a lot of things at first. I had never filled petrol in a car, never cleaned a bathroom and never made Khatti Daal (lentils). However, I was sure of one thing – I was not going to be just one more ingredient in a melting pot of nationalities that simmered together to become one sauce. I didn’t want to be called Karen, even though that was so much more convenient than having to spell out (sometimes twice) K-I-R-A-N. I was going to be a productive part of American society; however, instead of mixing into a melting pot, I wanted to be a part of a salad bowl of sorts – where each ingredient’s own flavour, colour and texture has its own place.

I was lucky to have arrived in a metropolitan city like Chicago, where there are Masajid and Halal meat stores in practically every town. It is not hard to find good Islamic schools and great chicken Tikkas, too. There are close to 400,000 Muslims in the greater Chicago area alone. Approximately a quarter of them are indigenous African-American Muslims. The next two of the largest ethnic groups include 20% Arab and 20% from South Asia. The remaining is a beautiful blend of Bosnian, Turkish, West African and increasingly white reverts to Islam. The result is that women may wear differently-styled Hijabs, and men may speak different languages, but when the Adhan is called, Allahu Akbar, each person sheds their ethnic differences and stands shoulder to shoulder in front of the One God.

Chicago has made a name for itself in the American Muslim landscape. The architect of the world-famous Sears Tower (now called Willis Tower) was a Muslim. Seven of the five hundred most influential Muslims in the world call Chicago home. The Chicago Muslim community is highly educated, affluent, civically engaged and socially responsible. Loosely translated, there are always at least four community events taking place every weekend. There is an array of volunteer opportunities. Youth paint Masjid classrooms, have Qiyam around a bonfire in Ramadan and pick up trash in the park. Women attend Quran circles, befriend newly-arrived refugees, attend girl scouts meetings and participate in breast cancer awareness marathons. Men volunteer to direct traffic in Masajid parking lots when they are jam-packed for Jumuah, even though they have to rush back to work. Chicago Muslims do not hesitate to let their elected representatives know how they feel about such national issues as the New York Islamic Centre or international ones as the crisis in Gaza.

There are more than two hundred places to pray Jumuah in Chicagoland. From multi-million dollar mega Masajid to small storefront prayer spaces, where people overflow on to the sidewalk due to space constraints, you can perform Salah in a different Masjid every day of the month and still not be done.

I believe I have become a stronger Muslim, since I moved to the United States. I bake cookies for my neighbours on Eid, and I read stories about Ramadan in my children’s classrooms. Like many other Muslim-Americans, I feel I am on an auto-Dawah mode. Every action of mine can be taken as representative of my Ummah. If I am rude to the cab driver, he may feel all women in Hijab are condescending. If the cashier forgets to charge me for milk, I remind her, so that she knows Muslims will not be comfortable to go home with something they haven’t paid for. Yes, it is hard work, but I feel this is one way of dispelling myths about our Deen.

My husband and I became American citizens early this year and while I know some readers may disagree, I am at peace being a Muslim and a Pakistani-American. I don’t think this tri-fold identity is at odds with one other. I can dress how I choose, pray where I please and eat what I like. I can file a lawsuit, if I believe I am discriminated against.

Looking back, I didn’t know Chicago would provide me with so many opportunities to give back to the community. I have definitely learned a lot – and I’m not just referring to the Khatti Daal.

Kiran Ansari is the editor of the “Chicago Crescent” ( ), a monthly Muslim newspaper.