If Muslim TV warriors had not joined in the debate over the fabricated Gyanvapi Mosque issue, the incidence of disrespecting the last Prophet of Islam would not have happened. The incident has enraged Muslims all across the world, not only in India, and has become a huge international issue. It’s also become the largest diplomatic debacle in the history of the current regime, which aspires to be a Vishwaguru’.
This is not a single incident; most Indian TV networks and primetime debates have been reduced to a Hindu-Muslim binary regularly, with toxic vitriol being spread across the country to millions of naïve individuals. Much of this may be attributed to the little-known and semi-literate-type Muslim TV debaters who egregiously participate in the air-condition-studio discussions aimed at promoting the ruling party’s ideology and creating enmity and polarization in society.
Sensing the community’s outrage at these so-called Muslim debaters on television, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) took the initiative and issued a plea to “Ulema” and “Islamic scholars and intellectuals” to refrain from participating in these agenda-driven discussions. Since their main objective has been to serve the interests of the ruling class, the majority of television networks have become a menace not only to the community but also to the entire society.
The Muslim Board, a prominent and representative organization of Indian Muslims, has also asked Muslims to refrain from watching these television networks, which are mostly controlled and monopolized by a small group of born-privileged people.
Board president Maulana Rabe Hasan Nadvi along with other officials issued a joint statement on June 6, saying such debates intended to create a climate of hostility in the country. “TV stations design their debates to degrade Islam and its revered personalities, not to expand the public’s knowledge,” they said in the statement.
They went on to say that the TV stations invite Muslim faces to get some “legitimacy.” The press release further underlined that the Muslims who took part in the TV debates “cannot able to do any service to Islam or Muslims.”
“The purpose of these programmes is to mock and discredit Islam and Muslims, not to reach any conclusion through healthy conversation,” it claimed.
“If the community stopped watching those “ridiculous debates,” not only would their Television Rating Point (TRP) drop massively but also would expose the “well-orchestrated conspiracy” against Islam.
Tom, Dick, or Harry gets invite
TV anchors are expected to function as an unbiased referee in a debate and handle it respectfully and decently, yet this is something they rarely practice. They invite any Tom, Dick, or Harry to participate in a debate on anything and everything and such Muslim debtors have become ideal fodder for primetime television debates intended at stoking hysteria.
For example, Ilyas Sharafuddin, a self-styled Islamic scholar, for example, advocates “beheading non-believers and selectively reciting or misquoting from the Quran.” He contributed to polarization by perpetuating prejudices and misconceptions.
The majority of them are unknown faces who are just semi-literate and have minimal expertise in the subject matter.
‘Maulana’ Syed Maqsoodul Hasan Qasmi, ‘Maulana’ Nadimuddin, ‘ Maulana’ Ather Delhive, ‘ Maulana’ Ansar Raza, ‘ Maulana’ Saajid Rasheedi, ‘Maulana’ Aijaz Ather, Dr. Fahim Baig (Unani physician), Atiqur Rehaman, Shoeb Jamie, Maulana Abdul Hameed Nomani, Dr. Tasleem Ahmad Rehmani, Ilyas Sharafuddin, Maulana Ali Qadri, Prof Junaid Haris, Ghulam Sarwar, Haziq Khan, Maulvi Sufyaan, and Haji Rangrez as well as some MIM leaders including Advocate Waris Pathan, and Syed Asim Waqar and others are notable among them.
When this correspondent tried to reach out to Ilyas Sharafuddin, Ansar Raza, Saajid Rasheedi, and Ather Delhive, none of them returned his calls or responded to his written messages sent to their Whatsapp numbers.
Disagreement with Board’s Appeal
On the other hand, Dr. Tasleem Ahmad Rehmani answered the phone. He told Islamic Voice that the Muslim Board’s demand for a boycott of television stations is “going away from reality or escapism,” and that he does not agree with it.
It’s worth mentioning that during a debate on Times Now, Dr. Rehmani challenged suspended BJP spokeswoman Nupur Sharma, who made disrespectful remarks about the last Prophet.
Dr. Rehmani, defiantly questioning the Board’s jurisdiction, asserted that it is not the Board’s job to issue such appeals. He did, however, say he took a month off from visiting the TV studios of his own volition.
When asked why he participates in discussions when Muslim speakers are heckled and humiliated by the anchor and opposing panelists? Maulana Ali Qadri from Hyderabad quipped, “You would witness my performance,” quipped.
“Aap mere debate dekh leje doosro ki tarha kamoosh nahi raheta hoon wo moulvi ki tarha nahi hoon jo gali sunte hai, (You see, when I participate in debate, I do not remain silent like the others; I am not one of those moulvis who remain silent when insults are directed at them).
Maulana Abdul Hameed Nomani, who used to be a frequent visitor to TV channels, said he supports the Muslim Board’s appeal but there is a need of building an alternative panel of good debaters.
Money, according to Nomani, is not a motivator for attending such toxic debates. Speaking with IV, Nomani claimed that Rajya Sabha TV (now Sansad TV) and DD News pay each panelist Rs 5,000, whereas other stations do not pay anything.
However, it is common knowledge that most TV channels pay each panelist between Rs 2,000 and Rs 5,000. Without a doubt, money is a huge draw for these self-styled spokespersons of the community and also a passionate desire to be on TV screens.
BJP’s ‘Muslim’ faces
Another set of Muslim speakers is from the ruling BJP who plays the role of ‘more loyal than the king’.
Shaukat H Mohammed, a senior journalist based in Hyderabad, pointed this out to IV. “Men like Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, and men like Syed Zafarul Islam, Shahnawaz Hussain, Shehzad Poonawalla, a new convert to BJP worldview, and Rizwan Ahmed, a lawyer from Meerut”.
He adds that “Both Shehzad and Rizwan use the bigot’s platform to run down an entire faith day in and day out. Clearly, these men are given a free run because they call themselves Muslim and have Muslim names. The anchor does not challenge their hatred but plays the role of an agent provocateur by running down mullahs or other dangerous men posturing as “Spokesmen” of the Muslim community. Each statement of these men is twisted out of shape by the bigot and his accomplices on other channels“.
Muslim Board’s Appeal Gets Wider Traction
The Muslim Board has received considerable support from the community and its organizations.
“We should welcome AIMPLB’s daring stance to avoid participating in media debates,” remarked Maulana Syed Zaheer Abbas Rizvi of The All India Shia Personal Law Board. For the past few years, right-wingers have been using TV debates, particularly primetime shows, to hurl vitriol against Islam.”
The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind also held the same view.
Prof Mohammad Salim Engineer, vice president of JIH said that Muslims should exercise “restraint for the time being” from participating in any TV debates. “While it is not an edict (fatwa) or anything like that, it is sound advice.”
Speaking with Islamic Voice , President of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM), Navaid Hamid, said it was the “correct and much-needed decision.”
The majority of Muslims who attend TV debates have their own agenda. Specifically, they are unable to convey the viewpoint of Muslims effectively.
Supporting the initiative “The measure taken by the Personal Law Board is a positive step,” stated Anis Ahmed, General Secretary of the Popular Front. The prime-time television debates are no longer a venue for meaningful public-interest discussions.
The Community Reacts
Many community members vent their ire against these “self-styled ‘spokesmen’ calling them derisively as “rental Maulanas’
They said the so-called “Islamic Scholars” are being utilized as pawns in the divisive agenda of the ruling party. Saud Akhtar alleged that these ‘Rental Mullah’ don’t represent them as a community. “Their appearance is horrifying and the majority of them Bark loudly.”
“This is a late but necessary step.” The epicenter of hatred is the television newsroom. Not only Muslims but also opposition leaders should boycott television news networks. Because they’ve been reduced to becoming the government’s mouthpiece,” said Quamar Ashraf, a media expert.
What is the Main Problem?
With over 100,000 publications (including 36 weekly newspapers) and 380 television news stations, the Indian media landscape, like India itself, is huge and densely populated. The profusion of media outlets, however, masks ownership concentration trends, with just a few large media conglomerates operating on a national scale, such as the Times Group, HT Media Ltd, The Hindu Group, and Network 18. Three-quarters of the Hindi readership is served by four Hindi daily. At the regional level, the concentration of local language publications is much greater.
There are around 10 major English channels and about 20 Hindi channels.
Modi orchestrated a dramatic reunion between his party and the media’s large families. The best example is the Reliance Industries group, led by Mukesh Ambani, who owns more than 70 media outlets and is now Modi’s personal friend.
Dependency on Ad Revenue
The Indian government is the largest advertiser, paying approximately 130 billion rupees per year. As a result, it has the power to compel the media to follow its line by exploiting its vulnerability.
The enormous diversity of Indian society is seldom reflected in mainstream news outlets. Only caste Hindus have occupied crucial positions in major media outlets for the most part. As a result, media content reflects obvious bias.
“Of the 121 newsroom leadership positions—editor-in-chief, managing editor, executive editor, bureau chief, input/output editor—across the newspapers, TV news channels, news websites, and magazines under study, 106 are occupied by journalists from the upper castes, and none by journalists from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes,” according to a study titled as “Who Tells Our Stories Matters: Representation of Marginalised Caste Groups in Indian Newsrooms”.
TV channels do not come under any government-appointed regulatory body. There is a self-regulating body called ‘News Broadcasting Standards Authority’ but it seems to be a toothless body.