The second anniversary lecture of Muslim News, Nigeria’s most authoritative Islamic newspaper might have come and gone, but the memories would continue to linger in the minds of hordes of intellectuals and participants that graced the first virtual event with the theme, “Survival of Islamic Media Institutions: Reflections from Nigeria”.
Tagged Islam and the Media series, the Webinar, which lasted for two hours and a half hours was attended by 400 participants from across the world while thousands of netizens watched it Live via the official Facebook page of the medium.
The six-man panel, which was an assemblage of experienced media scholars and practitioners, chronicled the history of Islamic media in Nigeria and proffered workable solutions to the challenges suffered by Nigerian Muslims.
It was anchored by the HOD, Mass Communication department, Fountain University, Mr Qamarudeen Salahudeen.
Amb. Abayomi Nurain Mumuni, in his opening remark, said, “I feel highly honoured and excited to be chairing this great event, which is the first edition of the Webinar on Islam and the Media, organised by a fast rising news medium, Muslim News Nigeria, a publication of Rawshield PR Media, owned by my wonderful and good brother, Rasheed Abubakar.
The author of ‘Global Terrorism and its Effects on Humanity’ advised that the media should be used to propagate love, unity and peace, just as he frowned at using the media to cause division and hatred.
“It is a great effort that must be commended and supported by all Muslims. This is because the media is very important. The media is a tool we can use in preaching love, unity, and brotherhood of Muslims in particular and humanity in general, which are part of the messages brought by Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W).
“The media should not be used to create hatred, especially in Nigeria where we have people of diverse religions, cultures and interests.
“Therefore, the media should be used as a tool to propagate love, and unity, especially at these troubling times when they are most needed.”
Brief Chronicle of Islamic Media – Sheikh Ahmad
In his presentation, the lead speaker, the National Missioner of Ansar-ud-deen Society of Nigeria, Sheikh (Imam) Abdur Rahman Ahmad chronicled the history of media practice and Islamic specialised reporting in Nigeria, asserting that the British missionary had a significant impact on the profession in the country.
According to him, the ‘Iwe Iroyin Yoruba’, which was a precursor in the Nigerian media profession, was largely a missionary venture targeted at informing, educating and entertaining readers.
The veteran ace broadcaster spoke extensively on the impact of the media on the society, noting that it, in fact, served a dominant role in fighting colonialism and agitating for self-rule in the country.
He, however, lamented that the travails of Muslims in the media began earlier as they were late starters in journalism owing to the Baptist mission which deprived many of them access to Western-styled education.
He said, though early Nigerian Muslims later developed interest in the media with the publication of Islamic magazine, the conventional media, particularly newspaper, had been well established and dominated by the non-Muslims.
“I could recall that it was the activities of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) that led to the establishment of Islamic media in Nigeria,” he said, adding that, “The A Zone (Northern) published ‘The Radiance‘, while the B Zone (Southern) published ‘Al-‘Ilm‘.”
Sheikh Ahmad described the publications of the students’ body as the flagship of Islamic Journalism in Nigeria, influenced by foreign Islamic magazine like Al-Yakeen International, a quasi-tabloid dedicated to the propagation of Islam.
“However, we didn’t pay attention to news for agenda setting or development journalism. The publications did not really conform to the standards of the profession because they focused only on Islamic propagation.
“There was therefore no dedicated Islamic newspaper because we knew news from a perspective other than Islam. That continues to impact upon us and we were and still are misrepresented in all the arms of the media, especially newspaper,” he noted.
Sheikh Ahmad also urged influential Muslim personalities to fund Islamic media initiatives and outfits.
He said Muslims need more hands in the media, who should be trained and offered proper mentorship, while advising that Muslims support nascent Islamic media organisations with both funding and readership.
Role of academia in supporting Islamic media – Dr. Adenle-Tijani
On her part, Dr Ganiyat Tijani-Adenle, a Journalism lecturer at the Lagos State University (LASU) spoke on the role of academia in supporting Islamic media in Nigeria.
Dr. Adenle-Tijani revealed that though there is no element of Islamic journalism in the media curriculum, her colleagues can mainstream it in the teaching of specialised reporting and other reporting courses, including courses like media and society.
She said, “Besides, the media curriculum just got edited and courses are many and we can’t stand alone courses for every issue. Students will be overwhelmed. What can be done is for journalism teachers, especially the Muslims among them to include Islamic journalism during specialised reporting classes.”
The Varsity lecturer called on journalism teachers to contribute to the growth of Islamic media in Nigeria, saying that their contribution will assist all future journalists regardless of their faith to respect values of objectivity, balance and fairness.
“Journalism teachers can also help the students to become role models and find their feet in the industry. More importantly, we also need to guide them back to Allah and alert them of their responsibilities to Islam,” she added.
Dr Tijani-Adenle noted that there is no doubt that the Nigerian media is largely anti-Islam and unfair to Muslims, calling on Muslims to rise up to the occasion and change the status quo.
Buttressing her point, the former journalist with Voice of Nigeria (VON) referenced Qur’an 13:11 where Allah said He (SWT) would not change the condition of some people until they take up the challenge themselves.
Muslims should step up by patronising Islamic media – Alhaji Yemisi-Coker
Also on the panel was a veteran Journalist, Alhaji AbdulBaqee Yemisi-Coker who decried the low patronage of Islamic media organisations by Muslims in Nigeria.
The publisher of the now rested Islamic newspaper, Al-Islam shared his experience during his days on the field (in the early 2000s), noting that patronage was very low and was in fact one of the biggest challenges that inhibited their efforts in the industry.
Alhaji Yemisi-Coker called on notable Muslim Associations to support Islamic media outfits with special emphasis on Muslim News and encourage their members to patronise them through subscription, adverts placement, donations, among others.
According to him, if Muslims can pay special attention to the print medium as they do the electronic medium, the essence of establishing Islamic media would not be defeated.
Other contributors (panelists)
In his remark, a Turkish Academic, Asst. Professor, Ismail Söylemez advised Nigerian Muslims to utilize the power of the new media in projecting the Islamic interests if the old media (print and broadcast) proves too difficult.
The Head of Center for African Studies, Inönu University, Turkey stated that the new media, unlike the old media, is not capital intensive, and can be explored to make up for the latter to change the narratives.
The Media and Communications Scholar also urged Nigeria Muslims Journalists to form a social network both among themselves in the country and internationally in order to get necessary support.
Concluding, he wooed Nigerians who have interest in journalism or communication studies to come enrol at Inönu University, Turkey for studies, saying there are qualitiy learning facilities on ground.
Another Contributor, Abdullah Eshamy, Al Jazeera Europe correspondent, emphasized the need for Muslim media stakeholders to have a strategic mind-set.
Eshamy, who said there is a large place for Nigeria in his heart, having lived his formative years in Lagos and later worked in Abuja, pointed out that Muslims must be on the lookout for technical capabilities and ideas that would reinforce their agenda.
Rounding off the panel session, a lecturer at Bayero University, Kano, Dr Umar Jibril Gwandu said media organisations in Nigeria generally have a shorter life-span when compared to their counterparts in the West.
He attributed this challenge of longevity to low funding, while arguing that Nigerian Muslims should establish newspapers that will report politics, economy, health, law, etc all from the Islamic perspective.
At the end of the Webinar, the convener, Rawshield PR Media, issued a communique which encapsulated the theme and serves as a working tool for Muslim organisations and institutions in Nigeria.
1. That Muslims must understand the history of the media in Nigeria as a childbirth and oil of missionary efforts.
2. Islam and the media contents have to be integrated into the curricula of Mass Communication and Media Studies.
3. The Ummah needs to establish training institutions (universities, polytechnics, monotechnics and certified short training institutes) where the right orientation will be enshrined and media houses can spring up easily.
4. Muslims need to develop media technical capabilities among themselves.
5. The Ummah needs to deploy a business model strategy to make media ownership attractive to wealthy Muslims.
6. The Ummah needs to promulgate Islamic-oriented media policy and lobby the government for its integration into the national media training and practice policy.