English fortnightly Milli Gazette, a magazine started around the turn of the century has folded up. It is a departure that should sadden the hearts of every conscientious Muslim who aspires to see that voices of the community are heard in the higher echelons of the Government.
For 17 years, the magazine led a crusade against communal elements and forces within and without the establishment who were out to deny parity and justice to the Muslim community. Edited by Dr. Zafrul Islam Khan, it minced no words when it came to exposing those behind the torture and harassment of Muslim youth.
For decades, Muslims have been screaming for media attention towards their plight. But national media has its priorities and cannot be expected to be always sympathetic to all that afflicts a minority or highlight the issues it aspires to be projected. A community media is often the one that takes up that niche role.Milli Gazette used to come stuffed with copious material on Muslims issues and problems. It had sufficiently alarmed its readers and the community about the financial unsustainability of the venture and sought help to meet the rising cost of production and declining readership. In a time when even the major print media organizations are finding the survival tough, it was not unusual for a tiny journal like Milli Gazette to feel the pinch and appeal to the donors to come forward to lend it a helping hand. Alas! There were no offers of help forthcoming from all those who had been crying hoarse over misreporting, character assassination and scurrilous news about the community at the hands of the national media.
Media, research and publications are far from the horizons of the Muslim ummah. Offering no tangible and immediate benefits, these do not occupy their priorities. A community under the tight stranglehold of the clerics, considers them luxury rather than a necessity. It wakes up only when misinformation and tendentious reports would have poisoned the minds of the general populace.
Some clerics have convinced them of the necessity to keep away from investment in such ventures and better be mindful of earning their individual salvation through excessive engagement with rites and rituals, more of which are currently being visible and they even consider reading or watching the media as sheer waste of time. All these have led us to a situation where access to alternative sources to information and knowledge are being starved of resources. Milli Gazette was a casualty of this attitude.
Sustainability and credibility are two essential ingredients of media. They complement each other. Credibility takes long to be established while sustainability is a phenomenon of market. Even if a media is sustainable from the day one, the credibility is not quick to be attained. Milli Gazette was striving to focus the issues pertaining to the community and had created a niche for itself whereby it could have developed into a media house. But the lackadaisical attitude of the community has put paid to the hopes of Muslims having a virile media in the near future.
The community is being led by myopic leaders who do not think beyond expanding the circle of their personal influence or serving their sectarian as well as partisan interests. Their dreams are grandiose but are devoid of preparedness for challenges of the way forward. They are good at passing resolutions but have no stomach for sacrifices warranted by the cause. They look for instantaneous and tangible outcomes and cannot be persuaded to invest in intellectual exercises that produce intangible dividends after long struggle. Milli Gazette’s closure is no less than a tragedy of monumental proportions.