Like in the West, media enjoys full autonomy in Australia. The print media can publish whatever it likes. Australian media is traditionally influenced by the western media. Most of the global political issues are published vocalizing western standpoint. The 9/11 (2001) and post-9/11 (2001) on-going human tragedies in U.S, Europe and other parts of the world have been covered by some mainstream Australian media in such a fashion that it directly hit the sentiments of the local communities. The westernized approach of Australian media, in covering the post September 11 (2001) events has gradually produced timid situation for Muslim community in Australia.
The incidents of terrorism where Muslims are claimed to be the offenders are highlighted using such kinds of sentimental words that directly heart to the local Muslim community. On the other hand, the Australian Muslims have practically demonstrated their full devotion to maintain harmony, solidarity and unity with the other Australians. From 9/11 attacks in US to Bali bomb and recent London bomb blast, Muslims in Australia loudly condemned the incidents and the terrorists. When in the neighbouring Indonesia the people were demonstrating on the street having the portraits of Osama Bin Laden in their hands, alighting American flags and condemning American attack on Afghanistan and in Iraq the Australian Muslims showed their full loyalty to their homeland. Australian Muslims find very affirmative in building a unified and harmonious Australia. They have, evidently proved that whatsoever the situation may be against Muslims internationally -” they have to deal the situation according to the demand as one Australian nation.
On July 15, Sydney-based tabloids -” Daily Telegraph – published a cover-page story of Melbourne-based Muslim cleric, Sheikh Mohammed Omran with his picture, headline, “He is an Aussie citizen”. I could not understand the message, as this was not a news for me about Sheikh Omran, so suddenly I went through the entire story to find-out what happed to his Australian citizenship. The tabloid extracted the pieces of Sheik Omran statements from his interview, which he gave to ABC television in its program Lateline about a week ago.
Before I further touch the issue, let me clear here that I certainly don’t agree with the views of Sheikh Omran on the current issues of terrorism as published in the story. However, analyzing the material I could not find any other impact of the story to readers except it would sentimentalize the majority.
The commercialized media, today, can entertain masses and simultaneously gain remarkable profits on their products, which may attract majority in the first place. However, whether these stories would promote harmony and solidarity in the multicultural Australian society is the most important question of the day, for every Australians.
The story contains Sheikh’s view on Osama Bin Ladin, 9/11 and London Bomb blast. In the statements, as published, Sheikh abused United States and made U.S responsible for 9/11 and the London Blast to be used as war against Islam. In regard to London bomb blast, according to the published story, Sheikh said, “the London bombings were evil but could not have been carried out by true Muslims because Londoners ‘marched in their millions" against the war in Iraq’. he said, ‘it was more likely the US orchestrated the London attacks to justify a war on Islam’.
Interestingly, in the entire story I could not find Sheikh’s statement where he said anything against Australia or any statement where he disgraced Australians. Hence I could not link the substance of the story to the burning headline nevertheless; I felt the sensitivity of the subject and its impact on readers of both sides.
For me it’s a disturbing, burning and agitating material, which I believe would have agitated unaccountable non-Muslim readers against Muslims and equally feared many Muslims. The next day ‘letters to the editor’ in the tabloid and other mainstream newspapers verify my judgment where people abusing each other making Islam and terrorism as a subject.
Producing this kind of stories with burning leads could not educate anything the readers except producing disharmony and disunity in our multicultural society. There are blatant inaccuracies involved in the casual use of terms and phrases like ‘jihad’ and ‘Islamic terrorist group’ the precise meaning of which requires a dissertation; certainly it is being crudely misrepresented by populists (Islamic and otherwise) all round the world at the present time. Islam, like other religions, is open to various interpretations, and as such it can be used to support various ends. Scholars in the field of Islamic studies know well that most informed Quranic readings need careful scholarly analysis and explanation.
The media plays an important role in understanding complex issues on national and international politics. It is also a responsibility of the media to consider the implication of every story published on people’s mind not just the selling parameters.
Media has its own strength of creating public opinion and to change public perception on critical issues. This is the time where our mainstream media should feel more responsibility and promote peace, harmony and unity in our society. This is the time when media, following the basic rules of journalism, can play a vital role to maintain unity, integrity and harmony in our society and guide the people on the issues of sensitive nature.
This is the time when writers, intellectuals and journalists should be extra careful while documenting their stories to avoid curiosity and uncertainty in the society. Media has the capacity to shape public opinion and perceptions, and this devolves a great responsibility on the media professionals.