Monday, May 23, 2011

When ISLAM is the Brand; Where Do We Stand?

Muslims all over the world can agree that vast proportion of global population towards the end of 20th century and the beginning of this millennium haven’t been able to favor Islam as a respected peaceful and merciful religion. The fact that there are more Muslim communities across the globe remain unrest is not helping the goodwill of such a loving belief to be perceived as what it deserves.

This once most dominant and prominent religion in the whole world is today’s one of the feared brands in some skeptical nations, often associated with negative connotations including extremism, violence and gender oppression. Notwithstanding various kinds of haters who never rest from smearing the goodness of Islam, some unconcerned and arrogant Muslims themselves added deterioration to the existing injured perception upon this religion.

Amongst the fundamentals of branding as embraced by renowned brands is to never skip public opinion via persuasion. Another dynamic approach taken to ensure top of mind branding is often proactive measurements instead of simply reactive retaliations. Evidently it seems as if Muslims are generally lacking in both aspects thus resulting less impact in upholding positive perceptions towards Islam as the supposedly respected and trustworthy brand.

The late Malcolm X once said upon his return from pilgrimage and visits to Arab nations that Muslim countries are in dire needs of good public relation service if they are serious in becoming the catalyst towards strengthening the image of Islam. That was said decades ago and to date we are seeing the results of not taking such advice seriously, with the brand of Islam somehow deteriorate further to worse extent in some instances.

Malaysian 4th Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed has voiced out his opinion about the need for Muslims having strong news agencies in order to obtain fair reporting from Muslim perspectives. His views were expressed in the OIC summit 2003 as he urged Muslim countries to join effort in establishing this strength. True to his words, Islam as a brand is in shortage of advocates to tell the world about Muslims and their unique predicaments in their own words, thus allowing partisan and biased news reporting about Islam to continue being circulated and construed as ‘the truth’.

If we look at how the Jewish managed to popularize ‘Zionist’ throughout approximately fifty years from the time Theodor Herzl published his book ‘Der Judenstaat’ or ‘The State of The Jews’ in 1896 until the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, we can notice the focal point of the Jews was targeted by infusing contents of pride into Jewish hearts. Theodor was successful in promoting Israeli State over ‘Zionist’ branding although the word itself was coined by another person named Nathan Birnbaum. Throughout this effort, they realized that medium of diffusion is actually as important as contents needed to be diffused.

Taking into consideration that nowadays more Muslims have realized there aren’t many media houses belonging to Muslims on top ranking positions across the globe, since most large corporations in media industry are dominated by the Jews, numerous efforts are currently in motion from various concerned Muslim entities to spearhead such needs into actions. Still, there are plenty of loopholes and initiatives needed to be synchronized before these efforts can achieve substantial intended outcomes.

Media industry has been predominantly influenced by non-Muslims especially Jewish and Christians. To a certain extent, because there aren’t enough Muslims to dictate contents created by these media players, we can see rampant slanders against Islam flying around at random in numerous programs’ scripts whether explicitly, implicitly and subliminally. Islam is under continuous branding attack in lots of movies and TV series, notwithstanding other print and innovative Medias.

In production of media related contents, Muslims have been allowing or perhaps relying too much on others to produce their stories and represent their voices as seen on most screens. The percentage of good quality, well marketed and popular films, documentaries, dramas, telemovies including animations containing truth about Islam as a decent, peaceful and merciful religion is still a scarce commodity.

Ironically some of the existing programs about Islam are produced by non-Muslims, thus making rooms for impartial exposures to influence viewers on positivity of Islam to remain shallow. Be that programs are produced as action adventure, epic, fiction, comedy, sitcom, entertainment, documentary, magazine, romantic, musical, animations etc. whether single or multiple episodes, there are always chances for us to come across negative connotations against Islam and/or Muslims. Some of these messages are subtle while some are indeed direct and aggressive.

Looking at this phenomenon again, it should click our minds why are Muslims being perceived into such images? Who would benefit from it anyway? Are all those claims totally baseless? How true are those claims? Rationale of causality would pinpoint at least a reason for anything, so could it be Muslims themselves caused some of these? Last but not least is how should we confront and deal with these challenges?

Like it or not, extremism in promoting religious viewpoints often leads towards negative stigmas and skepticisms no matter how decent is the underlying intention. The mass Medias have contributed so much in influencing public opinions. In various countries and communities all over the world, many times we witnessed the issue of Muslim extremists being spinned again and again alongside terrorism.

As we speak, Muslims are still commonly seen keener to retaliate on reactive measures although the need to be strongly proactive is seemingly getting clear as the day. If the Zionist took slightly more than 50 years to achieve their goal to establish State of Israel, perhaps it would take Muslims similar amount of time to rejuvenate the brand of Islam. With the current technological advancement in media and broadcasting, probably it would only take half, quarter or even one tenth of that number of years, provided that the effort is collectively concerted with focus.

Today, although Islam is the only religion on earth that carries most details in believing system as it includes total lifestyle; the existence of Islamic and Muslim contents are still discouraging. Try googling or search for a Prophetic story in Wikipedia for instance and compare the number of contents between biblical, shi’ite, israiliyat and pure Islamic. Sad enough at this point in time, the existence of pure Islamic content is still at the least limited amount although it is growing in numbers.

Over the years, mass Medias have been offering contents that used to be categorized as dissuading and today we can see provocative and/or insulting contents being aired under the lawful clause of freedom of speech which allows any opinionated views to be broadcasted especially in the so-called developed nations. The challenge for Islam as a brand gets tougher due to monopoly of non-Muslims including Muslim and Islam haters amongst media producers but this should not become a deterrent for Muslims to continue strengthening footings in the same area.

Muslims can only rely on themselves to refresh and rejuvenate the brand of Islam by enjoining good and forbidding evil. The term to enjoin goodness and to forbid evil however must be looked from all possible angles with a blend between practicality and creativity. Some who claim themselves as devoted Muslims prefers the stringent method of not condoning with gray areas such as entertainment and music although majority of world Muslims population are into them. Being purists may put them at holistic status but the twisted opinion triggered upon their reflection goes back to Islam itself as a rigid religion.

To a certain level of pragmatics, the idea of Islamization seems more accommodating as long as religious fundamentals involving faith and jurisprudence are not compromised. Efforts towards strengthening the brand of Islam as merciful and loving religion must continue at all levels based on the ways of the Prophets without neglecting the fact that every human soul deserve to be informed about the beauty of Islam and bounty of God in Islam.

Indoctrination of Islamic values must go on in most suitable manners of dissemination. Islam will only continue to receive negative perceptions if Muslims keep on glorifying awes of the worldly affairs far greater than positive values of this religion. Embracing the brand of Islam should be made a priority in every Muslim’s life until a point where Islam can be seen as beautiful, just, harmony and practical simply by observing Muslims in their daily lifestyles. It’s an effort that comes with utmost importance, patience and perseverance, be that on the level of individuals moreover on organizations.

Quoted from:

By: Towil

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