MUMBAI: Purdah. Terrorists. Imrana. Offended by what they perceive as a biased and unfavourable portrayal of Islam on television, a section of the Muslim community has decided to take matters into its hands.
Two new free-to-air, 24×7 Islamic channels will showcase “the true Islamic perspective” on issues facing Muslims across the world. The new channels will compete with QTV (Quran TV), the Dubai-based channel which has a vast and dedicated audience of Muslims in India and Pakistan.
The first channel, Kitaab, whose name is a homage to the Quran, will go on air on October 7, the second or third day of the holy month of Ramzan. The second channel, tentatively called Peace TV, will be launched in two months’ time by Dr Zakir Naik, a well-known preacher on QTV.
“Kitaab will not just counter anti-Muslim propaganda in media, but will also help cleanse Muslim society,” claimed Akhtar Sheikh, builder and the channel’s chief promoter. “Muslims have long felt the need for a channel which they can claim as their own.”
The programming for Kitaab will be entrusted to a largely orthodox group of… … madrassa-educated Deobandi ulema.
Markaz-ul-Maarif, a Mumbai-based centre of Muslim religious scholars, has already set the compass for the channel – remove misconceptions about Islam, highlight the sacrifice of Muslim freedom- fighters such as Maulana Azad, and the Ali brothers, debate issues of personal law like marriage, talaq, maintenance and purdah.
The ulema’s involvement is surprising given the debate about the legitimacy of television that currently divides the ulema in India. Last year, Mufti Mahmud-ul-Hasan of the Darul Uloom Deoband seminary had issued a fatwa banning television for Muslims.
Madrassas do not allow their students to watch TV. “Television is a means to (frivolous) entertainment,” the Mufti had said, triggering a debate in the Urdu press.
But Maulana Burhanuddin Qasmi, who is involved in Kitaab’s programming, says the ulema cannot deny the importance of visual media. “Take the case of Imrana. It was debated endlessly to the exclusion of everything else as if Muslims didn’t have any other issues,” he said.
Other members on the programming panel include Maulana Mehmood Madni of Jamiatul-Ulema-e-Hind and Syed Salman Nadvi of Nadwatul Ulema in Lucknow