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.