Khush Amdeed (Welcome)

Welcome to Chowraha - crossroads!

Chowraha is the crossroads of thoughts, events, opinions and feelings...all that have been shaped by individuals living in an increasingly complex world inter-connected through various means of communications.

This blog is about the crossroads in society - whether it is those of a diaspora community, global media complicating the structure of nations and cultures, or individuals finding parallels in spaces unknown to them.

Note:
The above picture is courtesy a much-admired photographer (Ali Khurshid) whose work is a source of inspiration and reaffirms the belief in the complex beauty of this world.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Good Media, Bad Media: How News-Making Practices Make Stories News Worthy & Their Impact on Society

School of oriental and african studies (soas)

Good Media, Bad Media:

How News-Making Practices Make Stories News Worthy and Their Impact on Society

The Transnational News Environment: Production, Representation and Use

Fiza Fatima Asar

4/1/2010

[This paper looks at the case study of a video which was released on Pakistani television channels in April 2009 and later circulated internationally via satellite television and internet. Although it immediately provoked demonstrations all across Pakistan, it was later learned that the facts around the video were questionable. The case study reveals how news-making practices and the global as well as local political environment can turn stories into news and sheds light on their impact in society.]


Good Media, Bad Media: How News-Making Practices Make Stories News Worthy and Their Impact on Society

On April 3rd 2009 a video was released on Pakistani television channels showing a 17 year old girl being publicly flogged. The incident was reported to have occurred in Swat, Pakistan and as soon as it was first released, was broadcasted on all Pakistani channels soon to be followed by international ones. The same video was also posted online on personal websites, newspaper websites, blogs and Youtube. “Most of what people know comes to them ‘second’ or ‘third’ hand from the mass media…” (Lang and Lang 1966, pp 466) Immediately, after the video’s release on media, demonstrations were held all across the country by various groups, political parties and civil society members questioning Taliban[i] and Shariah[ii]. As Susan Sontag (1990) puts it, “Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph and the video reinforced the fears of the public against the Talibanization of Pakistan.

The video shows some men in turbans, beards and local attire (kurta shalwar) holding the female down while one of them flogs her 34 times on her back.[iii] A crowd of men are surrounding this scene witnessing the flogging. The common concern pointed out by human rights activists, women organizations, and many members of the general public alike was the brutality and savageness of theNeo-Taliban” that had begun creating strong holds in Northern areas of Pakistan. The injustice towards the girl showed that much brutality of the neo-Taliban was towards the vulnerable section of society, i.e the women who were being punished and suppressed to dangerous levels. As a result of the video being made public on local and satellite television channels, the Supreme Court decided to take a suo moto action[iv], asking the victims, witnesses and affected to come forward with their claims (AFP 2009). The relevant district and provincial governments were asked to bring these people forward but no one from either the crowd or the victims came forward and no evidence was found. The case was dropped.

However, what the video release did unfold were debates on various levels raising questions about the authenticity of the video, the timing of the video, media responsibility in news-making, and international and local conspiracies surrounding the “war on terrorism” and Pakistan. Concerns over media responsibility were largely over the question of what makes news and why. Although the overall majority chose to raise their voice, rightly so, against the brutality of the public flogging act, there were voices that came up arguing that media should be more responsible before blasting the television with an unverified or rather, incomplete (taken to mean out-of-context) video. I am going to take this argument a step further, and show that what happens with videos like these making to news is a process of “other-ing” (Said, 1979) in which we begin to label a set of people dangerously using this label to umbrella any one we despise for the security of our country. As a result, we begin to push further every one that comes under this umbrella label without allowing this enemy a voice – hence increasing the divide between the two sets of people constituting the binaries of good and evil. What proceeds this is the intensification of what is popularly knows as clash of civilizations” (Huntington, 1996).

Questioning the Facts

Samar Minallah, a human rights activist, brought the video to the television screens. She received the video from another human rights activist who claimed to have received the video from a local who disapproved of the flogging. She claimed that the video showed a girl called Chand Bibi from Kala Killay village in Swat and that the event took place in March 2009.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the spokesperson for North West Frontier Provice (NWFP), informed that a girl by the name of Chand Bibi, who was idenitified to be the person in the video, was tracked down in Kala Killay village but she denied the claims that she was ever flogged. Her husband and other family members also denied the event. Furthermore, no one from the witnesses came forward either (PakTribune, 2009). The Information Minister, following this investigation, in fact even believed that the “incident depicted in the videotape never took place in Swat.”

Moreover, the date of the flogging is also disputed. The people behind the video claimed that the video was a couple of weeks old while others like the Provincial government believed it was an older video. This is of relevance because if the video occurred two weeks before its release, it would imply that the incident took place after Shariah law was imposed in the area. Shariah law was officially imposed in Swat as a result of peace talks between the government and Neo-Taliban in Swat region and was seen by some factions outside the government as a part of leniency on the side of the government. If the video was, however, an older one it would mean that those involved in the flogging were in fact doing so outside Shariah law and the video was being misinterpreted. Although in neither case does the event become any less unjust, the timing of the release of the video does become of importance in understanding the bigger political picture.

The Guardian newspaper quoted the Pakistani Neo-Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan saying “she came out of her house with another guy who was not her husband, so we must punish her” while Adnkronos International (Shahzad 2009) quoted him saying that “it was not officially done by the Neo-Taliban but some people did this in their private capacity.” There were also reports that said that the girl was in fact seen leaving her house not with a strange man but her own father-in-law (Aalim Online 2009).

The various factual questions that came up after the release of the video, and especially after no evidence came forward following suo moto action by Supreme Court brought to light the question of verification of content in stories and the reliability of news items not just in their content but also in their timing and choice of release.

Practices and Norms of News-Making

The video, whether fake or authentic[v], is in my opinion a good case study to look at in order to understand the dynamics behind news-making and its relevance to the reactions it elicits in a society. Although the source, in this case Samar Minallah and people who provided her the video, may have vested interests in providing this video to the television channels, such as a chance to provide information that promotes their interests, to publicize their ideas, or in some cases, just to get their names and faces into the news (Gans 1980, pp 239) where the media’s responsibility comes in is with its choice to make publicly available any video or piece of story. For the purposes of this paper, I will not be studying sources or academic theories around them. My focus will remain on the practices of news-making and what follows as a result of them.

Undoubtedly, if the incident did actually happen, whether recently or not, it is of importance considering the fact that the people of a region may be misusing law, and the government should condemn such actions and take appropriate measures around it. However, it also raises questions regarding the practice of news making on many respects. Firstly, an unverified video (in terms of not just its content but also its timing) was widely publicized on all television channels. Given the relevance of technology, it was also shown on Pakistani satellite channels (like Geo and ARY) which can also be viewed by the diasporas all across the world. Secondly, it raises the concern as to why television channels would choose to rally around one video over other numerous stories which may arguably be of equal if not graver intensity or severity.[vi] Thirdly, assuming no malicious intent on the media’s end[vii], it brings to attention what news-making practices allow for such videos to be released given their timing in the socio-political context.

I will begin to look at the possible reasons behind the release of an unverified video (un verified both in terms of the story it shows and the timing of the event) and the implications it has on understanding the process of news-making. It is important to bring out here the time pressure that journalists work with given that news is broadcast round the clock. Live television with it has brought the necessity to release news-worthy material in a very short span of time. Given the time crunch, journalists may not find enough time to verify the content or the context of a story, as is evident in this case. There is also tremendous “competition to public attention” (Roshco 1999, pp 35) which adds to the time crunch and again allows little time to journalists to verify the news item and the story around it before airing it. With the vast number of local news channels, not even including the international ones, available for a viewer to choose from, the immediacy with which a news piece is broken becomes far more relevant to the news channels today because if the right time is missed, the channel may lose “the esteem and attention to his audience” (Roshco 1999, pp 35) at the hands of its rivals.

It is this sense of immediacy and winning the esteem of its audience that makes channels immediately air stories from relatively reliable sources[viii]. However, looking at the release and spread of this story with this lens (i.e that news has to be broken around the clock given tremendous competition between television news channels) may not be enough to solve the puzzle posed earlier (i.e how such videos surface without prior verification and with priority over other stories). Knowing that verification may be a concern, journalists[ix] may still go ahead and air such a video because of its relevance to “news”. I found the article by Roschco (1999) extremely informative in understanding the criteria journalists may use to decide what makes news. He gives (pp 34) three items, that is recency, immediacy, and currency which work in conjunction to make news. The girl flogging video matched all three items on the journalist’s checklist. It was recently discovered (recency), it could be immediately played on television (immediacy) and it was relevant to present concerns of society (currency). I am emphasizing on recently ‘discovered’ rather than recently ‘occurred’ because the time of the flogging incident’s occurrence is highly debated.

“Currency is the local angle in the broadcast sense” (Roscho 1999, pp 35) making it relevant to a country’s or society’s present concerns. USA, Britain and its allies are at war with terrorism and terrorism is deeply rooted with the Taliban who also provide a safe-haven to Al-Qaeda. Pakistan is wrapped up with Afghanistan, in the US and its allies agenda, when it comes to the fears of Talibanization and hence terrorism in that part of the world. Pakistan’s government and army are at war with the Neo-Taliban (or rather Tehreek-e-Taliban) which have established strong holds in some Northern areas of Pakistan. This makes anything that Taliban (or neo-Taliban) does, in the name of law, a matter of relevance and concern to Pakistanis and the world.

Perhaps the above relevance is what I will call thematically relevant that is it fits relevantly to a bigger theme or context given the larger time period or era we live in. What makes the incident even more timely relevant, time here taken to mean the context provided by recent past or present, was the political peace process which was taking place between the Neo-Taliban and Pakistani government in order to bring some kind of stability to the region during that time of the year. This peace process involved establishing “Nizam-e-Adl” (Order of Justice)[x] in line with Shariah which was seen by many factions (amongst them political parties with their ethnic and political agendas) as a sign of the government giving in to Neo-Taliban. This ties in well with the concerns that I brought up earlier in the section relating to why this video became more relevant in the eyes of media than other instances of injustice in the country and to the timing of the release of the video.

How News Becomes News-Worthy

Columnist Ansar Ahmed and Head of Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan Syed Munawwar Hasan, in separate interviews on Geo News Channel on April 3, 2009[xi], amongst others questioned why an unverified video rallied more media and hence public outcry (visible in demonstrations and rallies throughout the country) than Dr. Afia’s case[xii], the rape of hundreds of women daily, the drone attacks by United States on the North Western villages of Pakistan, the displacement of Swat refugees as a result of government’s war against Neo-Taliban in the region and the insecurity caused to women as a result. The answer, to me, lies in the relevance of the timing of the issue (as explained above) as well as factors that make a story news-worthy and what becomes internalized in society as “common sense”.

The criteria of recency, immediacy and currency in news-making process, as explained in the section above, are not enough to figure out how certain stories get selected over others when being publicized on media. If this were the only framework with which to look at news-making process, it would imply that all such news which can be immediately published and are relevant to the time will take a lead on news channels. I find arguments put forward by two writers, Stuart Hall et al and Gadi Wolfsted extremely helpful in adding to the understanding of the debate around the girl-flogging video.

When the video was first released, it was with the claims that the girl was publicly flogged by the Neo-Taliban for being seen with a strange man (and assumedly having unlawful relationship with him) and that this occurred after Shariah law became official in Swat region. According to Gadi Wolfsted (2003, pp 85) a “major factor that increases the news value of an antagonist” (in this case the Neo-Taliban) “is the degree to which they carry out exceptional behavior”. The public flogging of a girl fits that definition of “exceptional” or “extraordinary” (Hall et al 1978, pp 250) behavior. However, Hall goes on to say that added to extraordinariness, for a story to have news value, it has to have an element of personal touch to it. It has to be “dramatic…can be personalized so as to point up the essentially human characteristics of…sadness, etc;…and events which can be made to appear part of, an existing newsworthy theme…” The girl’s cries for help heard on the video made the video especially disturbing and added that personal sentiment to it. The fact that the flogging was claimed by its sources, to have been carried out by the Neo-Taliban makes it part of the newsworthy theme, as mentioned earlier on Page 7 of this paper.

Stuart Hall et al (1978, pp 250) concluded that given the above mentioned factors are required to build towards the news-worthiness of a story, “journalists will tend to play up the extraordinary, dramatic, tragic, etc. elements in a story in order to enhance its newsworthiness” and that “events which score high on a number of these news values will have greater news potential than ones that do not.” To Wolfsted (2003) “exceptional behavior” is deviant behavior and goes back to his argument that weaker antagonists carry out deviant acts because they are not allowed room in the mainstream politics or share in the same resources as the government or powerful antagonists. Taking this argument into account, the Neo-Taliban, with their enemy status in world politics, will always carry out deviant acts considering their political status in the region and their role in “war on terrorism” and because exceptional or deviant acts are more news worthy, the only image that will come forward of them will be a deviant one. This circular reaction dangerously widens the gap between the haves and the have nots as it does not allow any room for improvement in relations. Instead of giving way to a society which aims to pave ways between differences, this propagates enmities and allows writers along the same school of thought as Samuel Huntington to believe that what exists in society is a clash of civilizations.

Process of Creating the “Other”

Shahid Masood, an eminent journalist and political analyst, criticized media’s lack of responsibility in showing an unverified video on all channels and creating an outcry about it. He concluded that the Pakistani media was strengthening the Western rhetoric (Reference). Imran Khan’s party Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Justice Movement) voiced similar concerns questioning the timing of the release of the video, pointing out that at a time when there are peace agreements underway in Swat region, a video like this automatically strengthens the public’s fear against the Neo-Taliban and sways their feelings “along American logic.” (Teeth Maestro 2009). Stuart Hall et al blame professional practice in playing “a key role in reproducing the dominant field of the ruling ideologies” (1978, Pg 256). Since the US war on terrorism has become Pakistan’s war against Neo-Taliban, it can be argued that the politically dominant ideology in Pakistan is the same as the “Western rhetoric” or “American logic” against Neo-Taliban and terrorism.

I find it useful to delve further into news-making practices that allow dominant ideologies, like the ones mentioned above, to seep into media. Stuart Allen (2004), in his book News Culture, demonstrates how dominant ideology enters into the “common sense” of media and hence, public. In the case of an unverified video and the claimed story behind it being broadcasted without apparently much opposition, it may be relevant to see how “common sense” dictated that the Neo-Taliban must have committed this act and that it must have occurred Islamically (according to Shariah law) and that this concludes that the women under Neo-Taliban rule must be extremely vulnerable and hence, Neo-Taliban are evil and must be uprooted. Drawing from Gramsci’s studies of hegemony and ‘common sense’ Allen (2004, pp 79) explains that “Hegemony is a matter of ‘common sense.’ …the uncritical and largely unconscious way of perceiving and understanding the social world”.

News, therefore, becomes worthy due to its relevancy, currency and immediacy factors. It has to be an extraordinary event that elicits human sentiments. Such a news story is then portrayed in the way “common sense” dictates it to be. This common sense is driven by dominant ideology and the dominant political ideology prevalent in Pakistan these days is that there should be war against terrorism and hence Neo-Taliban, one that is aligned with Western rhetoric against terrorism. Ironically enough, the broadcasting and then repetition of news stories in media only makes this “common sense” more engrained in society. A news piece which is portrayed along these lines runs the risk of representing a group of people as the “evil other” and hence distancing this group of people. As a result the gap between groups is increased. Gadi Wolfsted calls this the principle of cumulative inequality (Wolfsted, 2006 pp 87)

Edward Said argues that “one aspect of the electronic, postmodern world is that there has been a reinforcement of the stereotypes by which the Orient is viewed. Television … and all the media resources have forced information into more and more standardized molds. So far as the Orient is concerned, standardization and cultural stereotyping have intensified the hold of the nineteenth century academic and imaginative demonology of "the mysterious Orient." When eminent names within Pakistan like that of Shahid Masood, Imran Khan, Ansar Abbasi raise concerns that the society is falling into “Western rhetoric” or following “American logic,” they are actually thinking along the same lines and also referring to the justification used by the United States and its allies in intervening in Afghanistan in order to save its women. Abu-Lughod (2002) pointed out that after the US intervention in Afghanistan, the then-First Lady Laura Bush said, ‘Because of our recent military gain in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes. They can listen to music and teach their daughters without fear of punishment….The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women’ (U.S Government 2002)”.

As writers like Robert Fisk, Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali and Edward Said argue, blindly following such rhetoric only accentuates the perceived clash of civilizations. As in the case of this video and the story around it, there was no consideration as to the political or legal history of the region, the cultural background and beliefs of the people, the lack of education in the area or many other factors which need to be necessarily taken into account before labeling them in a certain way. Although the strategy of contrasting images of Others is not new to political discourse, it was prominent and influential in the political and cultural discourses justifying the 2001–2002 war with Afghanistan that began after terrorist attacks on U.S. targets on September 11, 2001 (Abu-Lughod 2002)[xiii]. However, as a result of dividing society into good and evil, the enemy being evil and the dominant ideology being good, “people were made to feel very good and very virtuous by simply participating in the denunciation of the 'evil forces' “ (Mouffe 2005, pp 73)

Conclusion

The above case-study is a classic example of an unverified story being released immediately on media channels without due consideration being given to its impact on society. Following the events and debates around the story, it can be concluded that the weakness lies in the news-making procedures and criterion developed for making stories news-worthy. It is the competition for time and prestige that leads journalists to release videos without considering their implications on a group of people or the society at large.

The danger however lies in the strengthening of stereotypes and hence widening of the divide between the enemy and the dominant force. In doing so, the enemy is portrayed as as savage and barbaric and in such an environment of enmity, the lack of trust is further aggravated so that it becomes impossible to look at the enemy from a balanced eye. As explained in the paper above, common sense is driven by the dominant ideology and this common sense systematically does not allow the enemy to ever become part of mainstream understanding. In any given situation, various political groups and organizations vying for attention could exploit such stories and the political situation could be made more vulnerable. As a result the enemy will continue to feel secluded and will continue to carry out deviant acts to call for attention.

17


[i] The term Taliban (the group which was struggling for power in Afghanistan) is commonly used by public and in media to refer to the group called “Tehreek-e-Taliban” (Movement of Taliban) in Pakistan. Some analysts and commentators, like Tariq Ali and Antonio Guistozzi among others, prefer to call this group neo-Taliban because they argue that the current “Taliban” involves those groups which are a reaction to war-on-terrorism and the world politics that ensued after and its aims are more with being against those who are allied with war-on-terrorism.

[ii] Shariah, translated as Islamic law, is applied on Muslims and is derived from Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad. It is the legal framework based on Islamic jurisprudence which runs the public and private lives of those living under it.

[iii] This paper will not deal with Shariah rulings or the understanding of Islamic jurisprudence which requires a different level of expertise. However, it is worth mentioning here that this debate was brought up in both television and print media in Pakistan in order to discuss that what the men in the video were committing in the name of Islamic law was in fact being handled un-Islamically and hence showed that law was being misused.

[iv] Suo motu literally meaning “in its own motion” is when the government or law-making agencies decide to take an action or initiate a process without being approached by a victim, witness or others concerned first.

[v] Conspiracy theorists have gone so far as to say that the event was orchestrated and recorded in order to malign the people of Swat. However, for the purposes of this paper, I will take the approach the majority of analysts and commentators took in calling the video “fake” in terms of the claimed names of the girl in, and location and timing of the event.

[vi] Another video was released over internet, earlier in 2009, and widely circulated over Facebook especially showing the Pakistani army committing brutal acts against elderly neo-Taliban men in Northern areas of Pakistan.

[vii] That is theories around the flogging being either orchestrated or released deliberately at this point when peace process was underway in the region.

[viii] Samar Minallah is a human rights activist and documentary-maker in Pakistan. She is an anthropologist by education.

ix I will use “journalists” and “news channels” interchangeably and therefore am not including theories of political economy or the hierarchy between journalists and how that affects their operation within a news channel. Since the paper is concentrating on news-making practices and its impact on society, the theories I will be using to understand the issue are around the same topics too.

x Nizam-e-Adl or Order of Justice was established in Pakistan on April 13, 2009 as a result of peace talks between Pakistan government and Tehreek-e-Taliban in Swat region. This involved the establishment of Shariah rule in the region.

xi Dr. Afia, an MIT grad, was kidnapped along with her three children by agencies within Pakistan 6 years ago and handed over to CIA in United States. She was reported to be imprisoned in Afghanistan first and is now jailed in New York. Amongst her three children, only the eldest (now 13 years old) was found and returned. Her case received attention only last year after Yvonne Ridley began to speak about it. In Pakistan, Jamaat-e-Islami and Imran Khan’s party Tehreek-e-Insaf rallied support for Dr. Afia along with Yvonne Ridley.

xii This is quoted by Lila Abu-Lughod in the article which looks at how images of oppression against women are used to give voice to the American rhetoric of barbarity in the society of the enemy.

xiii See reference

References

Aalim Online 2009, Aalim Online on Swat Flogging 04 March 2009 – Part 1, Program on Geo News, Youtube, viewed 3 November 2009 < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRkOXEdb-2c&feature=PlayList&p=71FAB7D975FEE8EE&index=4>

Abu-Lughod, Lila 2002, ‘Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving”, American Anthropologist, vol. 104, no. 3, pp 783-790, viewed 23 November 2009, <http://www.smi.uib.no/seminars/Pensum/Abu-Lughod.pdf>

AFP 2009, Courts Demand Flogging Report, The Straits Times, 6 April, viewed 27 November 2009 < http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Asia/Story/STIStory_360125.html>

Allen, Stuart 2004, News Culture, Edition 2, Mc-Graw Hill International, New York.

CNBC 2009, Pakistani Media Hypocrisy, Shahid Masood’s interview on the girl flogging issue, Youtube, viewed 5 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ICs1urTbFw&feature=PlayList&p=71FAB7D975FEE8EE&index=5>

Gans, Herbert 1980, Deciding What’s News, Vintage Books ed, New York

Geo 2009, Jammat-e-Islami Ameer’s reaction to Swat Valley flogging, Youtube, viewed 5 November 2009 < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IWu4H2S4Yo&feature=PlayList&p=71FAB7D975FEE8EE&index=14>

Geo News 2009, Reaction of Ansar Abbasi about Swat Girl Flogging Video, Interview on Geo News channel, Youtube, viewed 5 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=109XWRm3-1o&feature=PlayList&p=71FAB7D975FEE8EE&index=0

Hall, Critcher, Jefferson, Clarke & Roberts 1978, Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order, Holmes and Mieier Publishers, New York.

Huntington, Samuel 1996, Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, First Edition, Rockefeller Centre, New York

Lang, Kurt and Lang, Gladys 1966, ‘Mass Media and Voting’, in Bernard Berelson and Morris Janowitz (eds.) Reader in Public Opinion and Communication, 2nd edition, Free Press, New York, pp 466

Mouffe, Chantal 2005, On the Political, New Edition, Routledge, Abingdon

PakTribune 2009, ‘Swat Girl denies Flogging by Taliban’, PakTribune, 2009, 6 April, viewed 27 November 2009, < http://paktribune.com/news/index.shtml?213299>

Roscho, B 1999, ‘Newsmaking’, in Howard Tumber (ed.), News: A Reader, Oxford University Press, USA

Said, Edward 1979, Orientalism, Vintage Books, New York.

Shahzad, Syed 2009, ‘Pakistan: Flogging Video “an attempt to undermine Swat peace deal” ‘, AdnKronos International, 3 April, viewed 27 November 2009, <http://www.adnkronos.com/AKI/English/Security/?id=3.0.3175747742>

Sontag, Susan 1990, On Photography, Anchor Books, New York.

Teeth Maestro 2009, Swat Flogging and PTI’s Stand, viewed 5 November 2009, <http://teeth.com.pk/blog/2009/04/06/swat-flogging-and-ptis-stand>

Wolfsted, Gadi 2003, ‘The Political Contest Model’, in Simon Cottle (ed.), News, Public Relations and Power, Sage Publications, London.

Bibliography

Aalim Online 2009, Aalim Online on Swat Flogging 04 March 2009 – Part 1, Program on Geo News, Youtube, viewed 3 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRkOXEdb-2c&feature=PlayList&p=71FAB7D975FEE8EE&index=4>

Abu-Lughod, Lila 2002, ‘Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving”, American Anthropologist, vol. 104, no. 3, pp 783-790, viewed 23 November 2009, <http://www.smi.uib.no/seminars/Pensum/Abu-Lughod.pdf>

AFP 2009, Courts Demand Flogging Report, The Straits Times, 6 April, viewed 27 November 2009 < http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Asia/Story/STIStory_360125.html>

Allen, Stuart 2004, News Culture, Edition 2, Mc-Graw Hill International, New York.

Cloud, Dana 2004, ‘To Veil the Threat of Terror: Afghan Women and the Clash of Civilizations in the Imagery of the U.S War on Terrorism’, Quarterly Journal of Speech, vol. 90, no. 3, pp 285-306, viewed 2 January 2010, <http://courses.essex.ac.uk/gv/gv905/W%2017%20coud_terror_afghan_women.pdf>

Gans, Herbert 1980, Deciding What’s News, Vintage Books ed, New York

Geo News 2009, Reaction of Ansar Abbasi about Swat Girl Flogging Video, Interview on Geo News channel, Youtube, viewed 5 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=109XWRm3-1o&feature=PlayList&p=71FAB7D975FEE8EE&index=0>

Geo 2009, Jammat-e-Islami Ameer’s reaction to Swat Valley flogging, Youtube, viewed 5 November 2009 < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IWu4H2S4Yo&feature=PlayList&p=71FAB7D975FEE8EE&index=14>

Guests 2009, Why Samar Minallah trying to sabotage peace process, Chowrangi, 4 April, viewed 4 November 2009, < http://www.chowrangi.com/why-samar-minallah-trying-to-sabotage-swat-peace-process.html>

Hall, Critcher, Jefferson, Clarke & Roberts 1978, Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order, Holmes and Mieier Publishers, New York.

Handoo, Sarla 2009, ‘Pakistan in Sharia Quagmaire’, Asian Tribune, 2 May, viewed 4 November 2009, < http://www.asiantribune.com/?q=node/17207>

Lang, Kurt and Lang, Gladys 1966, ‘Mass Media and Voting’, in Bernard Berelson and Morris Janowitz (eds.) Reader in Public Opinion and Communication, 2nd edition, Free Press, New York, pp 466

Media Education Foundation YEAR, On Orientalism, Youtube, viewed 9 November 2009, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwCOSkXR_Cw>

Mouffe, Chantal 2005, On the Political, New Edition, Routledge, Abingdon

PakTribune 2009, ‘Swat Girl denies Flogging by Taliban’, PakTribune, 2009, 6 April, viewed 27 November 2009, < http://paktribune.com/news/index.shtml?213299>

PRWatch.Org 2007, ‘Has the Internet Changed the Propaganda Model’, PRWatch.Org, viewed 3 December 2010, < http://www.prwatch.org/node/6068>

Roscho, B 1999, ‘Newsmaking’, in Howard Tumber (ed.), News: A Reader, Oxford University Press, USA

Said, Edward 1979, Orientalism, Vintage Books, New York

Said, Edward 1997, Covering Islam, Revised Edition, Vintage Books, New York

Said, Edward 2000, Reflections on Exile, Harvard University Press, New York

Shahzad, Syed 2009, ‘Pakistan: Flogging Video “an attempt to undermine Swat peace deal” ‘, AdnKronos International, 3 April, viewed 27 November 2009, <http://www.adnkronos.com/AKI/English/Security/?id=3.0.3175747742>

Sontag, Susan 1990, On Photography, Anchor Books, New York.

Teeth Maestro 2009, Swat Flogging and PTI’s Stand, viewed 5 November 2009, <http://teeth.com.pk/blog/2009/04/06/swat-flogging-and-ptis-stand>

Wolfsted, Gadi 2003, ‘The Political Contest Model’, in Simon Cottle (ed.), News, Public Relations and Power, Sage Publications, London.

Zackintosh 2009, ‘Beyond the Flogging Video Debate’, Windmills of my mind, viewed 8 November 2009, < http://www.kidvai.com/windmills/2009/04/beyond-flogging-video-debate.html>

[ix]

[x]

[xi]

[xii]

[xiii]

The State of Sharia: Orientalism from Within

SCHOOL OF ORIENTAL AND AFRICAN STUDIES (SOAS)

The State of Sharia: Orientalism from within

[Mediated Culture of the Middle East]

Fiza Fatima Asar

4/1/2010

This paper looks at a series of programs titled ‘The State of Sharia’ that were shown on a Pakistani English News Channel, Dawn News, and studies them in the light of Orientalism. I argue that the process of creating the “Other” not only occurs when West looks at Islam but also exists when Muslims are looking at Muslims. The program is in English and can be found on Youtube by typing in ‘The The State of Sharia’. Relevant links have been provided in the reference section.


The The State of Sharia: Orientalism from Within

The 9/11 attacks in the United States and the events that unfolded thereafter have given impetus to an ongoing debate in the intellectual and political spheres over the role of Islam in world politics. After the attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York, the war on terrorism initiated by the US government soon became the war on terrorism fought by many countries of the world either within their countries or with their forces being involved in other countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. In the Muslim world, including Pakistan, the debate over political Islam has also turned into questioning the role of Islamic teachings and Sharia in politics.

Edward Said (Media Education Foundation, 2007) speaking about his book “Orientalism” mentions how there is a dearth of intellectual work from within the East. Whether this is because of a lack of critical work or lack of work being translated into English makes it a point worth considering. However, when the first and foremost English channel of Pakistan, a reputable voice amongst the English-speaking Pakistanis speaks about Islam or Muslims and their politics, it is a matter of grave concern that they too fall into the same rhetoric that carries within it voices of the ideologically dominant forces of the world.

During October and November 2009, Dawn Television of Pakistan showed a series of programs called the The State of Sharia focusing on what Sharia means to Muslims and the view the West has of Islam. It tackled the issue by interviewing, amongst others, scholars, clerics, and those involved in “Islamic” activism. Although the program aims to think critically in understanding the ideology of Sharia and to bring out the conflict within Islam[i] (not just between West and Islam), I argue that it in fact reinforces the divide between “Islam” and “West”. With the usage of its images, its arguments, selection of interviewees and questions asked from them, and the structure of the program it is in fact playing into the same Orientalist rhetoric that exaggerates and plays up the “clash of civilizations.”[ii]

Orientalism and The State of Sharia

Edward Said (1979, pp 1) in his book Orientalism describes Orientalism as "...a way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orient's special place in European Western experience...and one of its deepest and most recurring images of the Other.” According to his argument (pp 2), the Orient was everything that the West was not and hence it was “the Other. “the Orient has helped to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting image, idea, personality, experience."

Thanks to technological advancement, the communication between peoples has become far better than ever before. This is due to the presence of television and internet, and the convenience in traveling which has allowed for people to move across borders for education, business or pleasure. This improved communication has meant that there are more people today who are aware of the biases that can exist in representation and are trying to set themselves free of the Orientalist view of Islam. However, given the world political scenario today (where terrorism is one of the foremost concerns and war on terrorism the foremost responsibility of governments), biases in representation still exist. A great deal of coverage of Muslims in the news and on television programs continues to promote “Islam” or followers of Islam as “the other.” The seven-week long show, The State of Sharia, is one such example.

The pretext for the program is set with the words from the introduction given to the first episode’s by its host Owais Mangalwala “…a different set of people, a different set of beliefs, and a different set of ideology” referring to Muslims and their religion Islam. In the program aiming to hatch what Sharia means to Muslims, why West has a certain negative image of Islam and why Islamophobia exists, there is already an assumption that Muslims represent a different ideology - a school of thought that prevailed during the Cold War and that intellectuals argue still manipulates our understanding of global politics today. Samuel Huntington (1996) argued that it would be the clash of civilizations that would define world politics and amongst others, Edward Said (2007, pp. 570) refuted this argument by explaining that this was “a recycled version of the Cold War thesis, that conflicts in today’s and tomorrow’s world will remain not economic or social in essence but ideological; and if that is so then one ideology, the West’s, is the still point or locus around which Huntington and all others turn.

One of the criticism to Huntington’s theory was that it failed to see other factors that played into conflicts such as economic concerns, role of various countries, political and social history, geo-political conditions, etc. The State of Sharia has fallen into similar trap. With only a fleeting reference to the role of oil-politics in the clash between West and Islam[iii], The State of Sharia lay the claim that the bigger underlying concern was the fear that Islam stood as the only enemy of the West after Communism’s decline. Like Huntington’s argument, this program too was unable to see a connection between the two and was hence propagating that the difference in today’s world was an ideological one only. Furthermore, what this demonstrates is that the over 1 billion Muslims of the world, spread over all the continents, have been bunked into the same category of “Muslims” and their local issues are seen as being rooted in the same problem, their ideology of Islam.

My paper does not take into account what the audience thinks or how it reacted to the show broadcasted on Dawn News television. Neither does it shed great light on who the audience is of the television and the program[iv]. My concern primarily is with the limitations with which media within an "Oriental" setting can still limit itself with the same or similar attitude towards Islam as that of the West towards the Orient, and I am convinced that this is due to what Edward Said (1979, pp 2) observes to be the weakness in a “large mass of writers, among whom are poets, novelists, philosophers, political theorists, economists, and imperial administrators…” who have accepted the basic distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate theories, epics, novels, social descriptions, and political accounts concerning the Orient, its people, customs, mind, destiny, and so on....

Recurring Images of the “Other”

An eminent Pakistani columnist and political analyst, Shahid Masood commented in an interview on Geo News[v] (expressing his resentment over the handling of a certain news issue at the time) that the Pakistani media was following the “Western rhetoric” when it came to the representation of Muslims. The program The State of Sharia which quite clearly sets Muslims apart as “a totally different set of people” with “a totally different set of ideologies” (referring to “Islam”) strengthens its rhetoric with a set of images through out the show. Although there are several examples that can be referred to, I am going to go into relatively more detail over the introductory set of images that appeared in the beginning of each episode of the show because clearly set the pretext of the show.

These introductory set of images showed the Muslims to have an over-zealous attachment to spirituality translated into their defiance as shown on the streets and in crowds. In the 14 images that form this introductory piece, 8 are related to forms of praying and supplicating while the rest are mostly of protests and street demonstrations. The very first image is that of a man bowing (assumedly praying) in the middle of a street, an image which interplays between the dual concepts of attachment to religion (prostration) and protest/defiance (street) at the same time. The symbolism attached with Islam, in the program, is also constantly apparent whether it is ranging from the apparels worn, Islamic architecture of buildings, the Kaabah in Mecca or Islamic calligraphy. All images with men in them, show men either wearing head caps or with bands tied around their heads.

There is equal emphasis on pictures with females, as of males, and the women and girls too are shown with similar symbolism as mentioned above. Out of the 6 pictures with females in this introductory piece, five are with women covering their heads with scarves and wearing robes, and one with a girl in a protest wearing a band that is tied around her head. Considering the timing of the program[vi], the images of veiled women is not surprising in conjunction with the images that have been circulated in the media when representing Muslim women. Photos of women in burkas, their faces hidden behind embroidered lace grilles, their bodies enveloped in gathered rayon cloth, were a striking feature of the US and UK propaganda of 2001 in the lead-up to the recent Afghan War (Armbruster and Laerke 2008, pp 27) as their liberation was used as a justification “for the bombing of Afghanistan and the removal of the Taliban regime.” Even in a picture, from the introductory piece, which does not apparently involve any form of religious ritual (like praying, recitation of Qur’an or supplicating) and is taken in a supposedly Western setting, there is evident Islamic symbolism involving three women in black veils covering their bodies and faces.

It is also interesting to note the recurring image of “fists” in many pictures serving as a reminder that followers of Islam are feisty and overly passionate in their attachment to religion. As though there is a direct connection with the image of the three veiled women, the very next image is that of a woman in black robe and brown scarf protesting angrily with her hand raised in a fist shouting a slogan. In her background are soldiers. This is followed by the image of a young girl with a Palestinian head band tied around her head again with her fist also raised in the air. This is immediately followed by a man in a long beard looking up in the air with his eyes closed fervently shouting a slogan with his arm raised and his hands in a fist! In his background are lots of people as though in a rally. The next image shows men of East Asian descent again either wearing an Islamic cap or with head bands tied around their foreheads. They are holding placards and they all have fisted hands raised in the air.

It is unclear as to the intention of the next image - a group of men sitting in a room staring at the camera. They are wearing local Pakistani apparel, kameez shalwar, and either have caps or turbans. They could be either from the North West Frontier province of Pakistan or from Afghanistan but it would be foolish to deny that the picture is being used to to represent the Taliban. This is immediately followed by the The State of Sharia, the program's name written on the screen with a mosque in the background. The last image depicting the most current or demanding issue at hand, the Taliban, explains the political context in which the program is made and could be revealing in trying to understand the context in which the program has been made. Journalists interpret a situation “depending on what historical moment the interpretation takes place” (Said, 1997, pp 162).

These images preclude each episode and set the mood for the program and it is clear from it that the direction the program will be taking, in tackling Sharia and its establishment in Muslim countries, will involve the emphasis on political Islam as understood to be in the light of demonstrations, protests and “terrorists”[vii]. It is troubling to note how acts of religious rituals directly translate into protests and defiance in these set of images. This is further reiterated when in the first episode Owais Mangalwala, the host of the show, introduces us to the program by saying that he will "turn the pages of politics in Islam" which is immediately followed by images of Muslim men in white caps, clothes, beards, protesting and burning effigies and the screen is supplanted with a grey-scale image of Allah written in Arabic.

These pictures immediately raise questions like why turning the pages of politics in Islam, elicit these images? Does it show that political Islam is about protests, disruption and senseless burning? Turning the pages of political Islam does not elicit image of sufferings in Bosnia, Albania, Kashmir, Chechnya, Iraq or Afghanistan. In the introductory piece, there is no acknowledgement of the millions of Muslim women who do not wear veils or are not participating in any demonstration or protest. After these images are blown across the screen, the voice of the host appears in the background throwing words like "fundamentalists", "radicals", "extremists" explaining that these are what Muslims have been termed as by the West. These words are again accompanied by images of protests, beards and burning over the screen.

It is unclear why each protest shown in these images should imply that those involved in it are fundamentalists and extremists. In the systematic “othering” of Muslim citizens protesting, and with no context given to the images, there is direct implication that those who protest against American or European actions are “extremists.” Perhaps it would have been better for the host to explain that these terms have been matched with these images in Western media. However, given no context, these images simply imply that these images have been paired with these words because this is what common sense implies to the program maker.

Structure of the program

…So authoritative a position did Orientalism have that I believe no one writing, thinking, or acting on the Orient could do so without taking account of the limitations on thought and action imposed by Orientalism (Said 1979, pp 3). Moreover, “Today Islam is defined negatively as that with which the West is radically at odds, and this tension establishes a framework radically limiting knowledge of Islam." (Said 1997, pp 163.) These limitations were apparent in the structure of the program, the logic behind its episodes and their topics, and the way the host of the show approached the The State of Sharia in the Muslim world.

The name itself is a play on the words state and Sharia and can be understood to mean both a State (a country) where Sharia law can be or is applied and the state (or condition) of Sharia. It fails however to bring out the complete understanding of Sharia and rather chooses to focus on the aspect of jihad[viii] in Sharia. For example, in the first episode each of the interviewees were asked about jihad and their thoughts on it, the XX episode on establishment of Islam during the day of Prophet Muhammad focused on whether it was jihad or other factors that worked then, the third episode on expansion of Islam during the times of caliphates questioned the imperialistic and military intentions of the rulers and the following episodes also covered Iran and Taliban and their political defiance in the name of God. Sharia is an Arabic word for “way” or “path” and is the legal framework based on Islamic jurisprudence regulating both private and public lives of those Muslims living under it (Wikipedia). An equivalent but completely bizarre approach would be doing a show on democracy in the world and in fact focusing the entire show on the military strategies or outlook of countries. It is obvious from this approach, that the makers of the program view Islam as being militaristic and hence “different” and the “other.”

The television program covers the debate by involving what it calls Islamists and puts them up against what it calls anti-Islamists (or former Islamists). Looking at the examples of Islamists and former-Islamists it gives, it can be deduced that for the host Islamists is equivalent to “jihadis” or “mujahideen” and in fact the three terms are used interchangeably throughout the length of the show. Edward Said (1997, pp 14) claims that "In the United States … Islam is mainly a policy question for the Council on Foreign Relations, a "threat" or military and security challenge" and although the program is trying to address the Western perceptions of "Islam," all it does is really strengthen these stereotypes and fails to take a look at "Islam" outside of its military and security threat to the governments of the world today.

What I find extremely problematic is that the program, although, claims to tackle Sharia as is understood by the Muslim world and how Muslims as a whole understand Sharia, it in fact only includes examples who are either of Pakistani origin or are living in Pakistan. Dr. Israr Ahmed is the founder of an Islamic organization in Pakistan called Tanzeem-e-Islami, his son Akif Saeed leads this organization, Zaid Hamid is a popular security analyst in Pakistan, and Majid Nawaz, an ex-Islamist, although residing in the UK is of Pakistani ethnic origin. Even in the episode which briefly mentions Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherhood) and its founder Hassan Al-Banna, there is no interview or mention of source that is from Egypt or from the Arab world where the Muslim Brotherhood continues to operate. There is no reference to Hassan Al-Banna’s words or thoughts. Similarly when Mawlana Mawdudi[ix] is mentioned, this too has the same weaknesses. Edward Said (1997, pp 572) very aptly explains why this is troublesome in his book Covering Islam when he explains how “…about more than a billion Muslims, scattered throughout at least five continents, speaking dozens of differing languages, and possessing various traditions and histories” are all talked about and represented in a way “as if a billion people were but one.”

In order to further understand the weaknesses in the The State of Sharia, it is important to see how the various episodes of the program were brought together. Apparently a logical and chronological view of how political Islam has developed, the show traces Islam from the days of the Prophet Muhammad to the caliphate and the end of the Ottoman Empire, the Iran and Afghanistan wars and ties it in with the political situation today. However, within this, lies the weakness of the program. What it does not show is the intellectual and philosophical understanding of what Sharia meant for the rulers and intellectuals mentioned in the past. By asking questions about the past from current scholars, it brought down the vast history of the Muslim world into the paradigms of jihad or peace, hence creating an “other” automatically. Even in its chronologically ordered account of Muslim history, the histories, the cultures, or the geographic and economic politics, amongst other factors are not taken into account at all.

Dichotomies in the Program

The show begins with its host Owais Mangalwala saying the words "Render to Caesar, what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." In a couple of sentences following this, he describes how since renaissance Church and State have remained separate in the West. It is at this point, he quite disturbingly chooses to introduce the words "totally different set of people, totally different set of beliefs and totally different set of ideology" and exclaims with authority that "this time it is Islam!" The inherent problem with using the word Islam so authoritatively in this instance is that when it is not used with great restraint and many qualifications, precisely because in many Muslim societies and states (and ofcourse in the West) ‘Islam’ has become a political cover for much that is not at all religious. How then can we begin to discuss Muslim interpretations of Islam, and developments within it, responsibly?” (Said 1997, pp 57) The context of dichotomizing society in terms of the West versus Islam (and West taken to be Christian) begins from this point onwards and it is with these assumptions and this interpretative project that the host aims to study the topic of the program.

By pitting the West against Islam, the host is inevitably implying that the West is congruous on all aspects of life and that Islam is interpreted and followed congruently by all Muslims. Furthermore, such an outlook which promotes “a clash of civilizations” by dividing the world into binaries unfortunately ends up “exaggerating and making intractable various political or economic problems. The sad part is that “the clash of civilizations” is useful as a way of exaggerating and making intractable various political or economic problems (Said 2000, pp 571). Hence important factors in understanding world politics are ignored such as “…the pauperization of most of the globe’s population; the emergence of virulent local, national, ethnic, and religious sentiment, as in Bosnia, Rwanda, Lebanon, Chechnya, and elsewhere; the decline of literacy and the onset of a new illiteracy based on electronic modes of communication, television, and the new global information superhighway; the fragmentation and threatened disappearance of the grand narratives of emancipation and enlightenment” (Said 1997, pp 589).

Throughout the program there are troubling numbers of dichotomies and the arguments put forward in each episode seem to be pitting one group of people against the other, hence blurring the lines between the two. To begin with, West is pitted against Islam and this dichotomization has been introduced as a pretext to the entire seven-week long show. Furthermore, the moderates are played up against hard-liners, and Islamists versus former-Islamists. Akif Saeed and his father Israr Ahmed are conservatives whereas Ghamidi is labeled as a moderate. Similarly, Majid Nawaz is a former-Islamist whereas Zaid Hamid is an Islamist still. Similarly even in the episode on current issues, Afghanistan is put up against Iran, hence dichotomizing Shia Islam from Sunni Islam. Whenever there are binaries in question there is an underlying assumption that one is good and the other is evil. This is because one has the qualities the other lacks and whenever two opposing side are put in front of each other, one is on the right and the other is in the wrong. If West is on one side and Islam on the other, and Islam is represented with extreme religiosity and defiance, elements of jihad then obviously Islamists as opposed to ex-Islamists and conservatives as opposed to moderates will all fall in the same binary of “evil” or the “other.”

Observing the show closely and its editing it can be noticed that the questions put at the conservatives and “Islamists” are more confrontational whereas the moderates like Ghamidi and Majid Nawaz seem to be refuting what the conservatives are saying. Dr. Israr Ahmed's son Akif Saeed who is the head of the organization founded by his father says, as translated in English, that is is a Muslim’s responsibility to establish God’s order in the world, and he goes on to say that struggling for this is what is more important than actually succeeding in the task. The host Owais Mangalwala immediately after this goes on to say that “this call is taken to extreme terms here and the images that are thrown across the television screen are those of US soldiers versus Osama bin Laden, reminding us of the dichotomization between West and Islam, and terrorism and peace. It is unclear why the above statement would translate into this, however what is clear is that making this association automatically marks the organization, or its sympathizers, as a terrorist organization like that of Osama Bin Laden’s. A dangerous representation, the choice of editing of the show and the host’s interpretation of the subject is highly questionable here.

The State of Sharia focuses on a single family (a husband, a wife and their son aged two) to represent those Muslims who believe in the ideals of Islam and Sharia and it is this same family that is constantly referred back to in all the episodes of the show. Troubling here is not just the fact that Muslims around the world are being represented by this single family from Pakistan belonging to a certain school of thought but also that even within Pakistan, this single family’s example is being used to represent those who are conservative in their opinions. The outer appearance of the couple symbolized Islam and was one that has been spoken about earlier too when discussing the images of Muslims in the introductory piece of the show. The husband had a beard while the wife was veiled in black such that covered both her body and her face. The husband was a professor at a local university and one of the first questions he was asked was whether his beard put his students off and whether he faced difficulties communicating with the female students. One of the first questions the wife was asked (after hearing the couple’s opinion on jihad and sharia) was if she would not be scared sending her son for jihad. These questions reflect the biases with which the host was approaching the show and it was clear that he was making certain assumptions about beard and jihad, or religious adherence and the difficulty it brings in communication between opposite sexes. It is troubling that this family’s responses are taken to represent a myriad of opinions based on complex political, economic, social and individual experiences.

Similarly on the question of Iran and Afghanistan and the statement “Ayatollah versus one-eyed Mullah” automatically has connotations that place them in the same block as well as that of putting them against each other. In both instances, it is problematic because when putting them in the same block it automatically implies that the Iranian revolution had the same qualities that come to mind with the Talibanization of a country or region. When putting both against each other, there is the dangerous implication of putting Shias against Sunnis, hence creating another set of dichotomies. Both Israr Ahmed (conservative) and Ghamidi (moderate) are asked for their opinion on Taliban. However, no effort is made in the show to explain who the Taliban were in Afghanistan and what the Taliban is in Pakistan.[x]

Conclusion

Set in a time when "war on terror" dominates international politics and "Talibanization" concerns Pakistani society, the program has not dealt with the understanding of Sharia or Islamic take on politics, rather it has looked at the debates around Sharia from the lens of jihad and terrorism. In doing so it has not only created several dichotomies ranging from West verus Islam, Shia versus Sunni, conservatives versus moderates and Islamists versus ex-Islamists, but it has also created an “other” in each example. The idea of a clash of civilizations based on their ideological difference is further reinforced. There is much emphasis given on how the West views and portrays Muslims and Islam. The State of Sharia, however, proves that even when the intention may be a positive one, Orientalism has been so engrained in the common thinking that no one can work without its limitations. In the world where concerns over Talibanization and terrorism are rampant, a program originating from within the East or the Muslim world is reinforcing the same stereotypes that exist about Islam and Muslims in the socio-political situation today.


[i] Based on difference of opinion amongst analysts and intellectuals.

[ii] As understood by Samuel Huntington in his book Clash of Civilizations published in 1996.

[iii] In episode 2

[iv] Although it is quite obvious that the audience of the only English news channel in Pakistan is the English-speaking viewer and hence a relative elite of the society.

[v] An unverified girl flogging video was released in April 2009 and claimed to have been from Swat where the peace process was underway between the neo-Taliban and the government. The video instigated nationwide protests and demonstrations immediately. Many argued that the video was to either fabricated or old and released then to undermine the peace process in the region. Shahid Masood resented the mishandling of the video by media in an interview related to this issue < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ICs1urTbFw&feature=PlayList&p=71FAB7D975FEE8EE&index=5>.

[vi] In a time when war on terrorism is being fought all over the world, and especially in Muslim countries, and one of the major concerns to world security is from the Taliban in Afghanistan or neo-Taliban (involving groups against US war on terror) in Pakistan.

[vii] Like the Taliban

[viii] Jihad means to struggle, however in this instance I am using it with its specific usage meaning holy war (on battle field).

[ix] Mawlana Mawdudi, an eminent journalist , religious scholar and intellectual of his time (in the 1930s) also founded Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamic organization still existing in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

[x] Neo-Taliban or the Taliban in Pakistan are said to represent those splinter group which sympathize with the Taliban only in their resentment of US attacks on Afghanistan and West Pakistan. These groups were created as a result of “war on terrorism” waged by US and its allies.

References

Armbruster, Heidi and Laerke, Anna 2008, Taking sides: ethics, politics and fieldwork in anthropology, Berghahn Books,

Dawnnewspakistan 2009, The The State of Sharia - Episode 1 Part 1, Program on Dawn News, Youtube, 6 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3MRLGOACnw&feature=PlayList&p=97BBDCB697FA799A&index=0>

Dawnnewspakistan 2009, The The State of Sharia - Episode 2 Part 1, Program on Dawn News, Youtube, 6 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQnCLLhUhM8&feature=PlayList&p=97BBDCB697FA799A&index=5>

Dawnnewspakistan 2009, The The State of Sharia - Episode 3 Part 1, Program on Dawn News, Youtube, 6 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3MRLGOACnw&feature=PlayList&p=97BBDCB697FA799A&index=6>

Dawnnewspakistan 2009, The The State of Sharia - Episode 4 Part 1, Program on Dawn News, Youtube, 6 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=df9KiP4tpaQ&feature=related>

Dawnnewspakistan 2009, The The State of Sharia - Episode 6 Part 1, Program on Dawn News, Youtube, 6 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjfgVcoo3-Q&feature=related>

Huntington, Samuel 1996, Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, First Edition, Rockefeller Centre, New York

Media Education Foundation 2007, On Orientalism, Youtube, viewed 9 November 2009, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwCOSkXR_Cw>

Saheen 2009, The The State of Sharia - Episode 5 Part 1, Program on Dawn News, Youtube, 6 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-smrGutTbx4&feature=related>

Saheen 2009, The The State of Sharia - Episode 7 Part 1, Program on Dawn News, Youtube, 6 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EE5Jf-sKjk&feature=related>

Said, Edward 1979, Orientalism, Vintage Books, New York

Said, Edward 1997, Covering Islam, Revised Edition, Vintage Books, New York

Said, Edward 2000, Reflections on Exile, Harvard University Press, New York

Bibliography

Abu-Lughod, Lila 2002, ‘Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving”, American Anthropologist, vol. 104, no. 3, pp 783-790, viewed 23 November 2009, <http://www.smi.uib.no/seminars/Pensum/Abu-Lughod.pdf>

Ali, Tariq 2003, The Clash of Fundamentalisms, Paperback Edition, Verso, London

Ali, Tariq 2009, The Guardian, 3 March,

Ali, Tariq 2006, The Guardian, 9 September

Armbruster, Heidi and Laerke, Anna 2008, Taking sides: ethics, politics and fieldwork in anthropology,Berghahn Books,

Cloud, Dana 2004, ‘To Veil the Threat of Terror: Afghan Women and the Clash of Civilizations in the Imagery of the U.S War on Terrorism’, Quarterly Journal of Speech, vol. 90, no. 3, pp 285-306, viewed 2 January 2010, <http://courses.essex.ac.uk/gv/gv905/W%2017%20coud_terror_afghan_women.pdf>

CNBC 2009, Pakistani Media Hypocrisy, Shahid Masood’s interview on the girl flogging issue, Youtube, viewed 5 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ICs1urTbFw&feature=PlayList&p=71FAB7D975FEE8EE&index=5>

Dawnnewspakistan 2009, The The State of Sharia - Episode 1 Part 1, Program on Dawn News, Youtube, 6 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3MRLGOACnw&feature=PlayList&p=97BBDCB697FA799A&index=0>

Dawnnewspakistan 2009, The The State of Sharia - Episode 2 Part 1, Program on Dawn News, Youtube, 6 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQnCLLhUhM8&feature=PlayList&p=97BBDCB697FA799A&index=5>

Dawnnewspakistan 2009, The The State of Sharia - Episode 3 Part 1, Program on Dawn News, Youtube, 6 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3MRLGOACnw&feature=PlayList&p=97BBDCB697FA799A&index=6>

Dawnnewspakistan 2009, The The State of Sharia - Episode 4 Part 1, Program on Dawn News, Youtube, 6 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=df9KiP4tpaQ&feature=related>

Dawnnewspakistan 2009, The The State of Sharia - Episode 6 Part 1, Program on Dawn News, Youtube, 6 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjfgVcoo3-Q&feature=related>

Huntington, Samuel 1996, Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, First Edition, Rockefeller Centre, New York

Media Education Foundation YEAR, On Orientalism, Youtube, viewed 9 November 2009, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwCOSkXR_Cw>

Mouffe, Chantal 2005, On the Political, New Edition, Routledge, Abingdon

Media Education Foundation YEAR, On Orientalism, Youtube, viewed 9 November 2009, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwCOSkXR_Cw>

Saheen 2009, The The State of Sharia - Episode 5 Part 1, Program on Dawn News, Youtube, 6 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-smrGutTbx4&feature=related>

Saheen 2009, The The State of Sharia - Episode 7 Part 1, Program on Dawn News, Youtube, 6 November 2009, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EE5Jf-sKjk&feature=related>

Said, Edward 1979, Orientalism, Vintage Books, New York

Said, Edward 1997, Covering Islam, Revised Edition, Vintage Books, New York

Said, Edward 2000, Reflections on Exile, Harvard University Press, New York