Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia agreeing to jointly fight the rising trend of Islamophobia centred in the West by launching a new English language TV channel is an ambitious decision. Prime Minister Imran Khan, Turkish President Erdogan, and Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad have taken a responsibility to address the challenges faced by Muslims around the world.
Islam has been trapped in stereotypes for too long and at last Muslims can be given a dedicated media presence and their narrative promoted. The power of the media should not be undermined as can change perceptions and mould opinions.
The contentious issue of blasphemy could finally be addressed through the channel, enabling non-Muslims – especially white westerners – to understand the significance of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in Islam; disrespecting him is painfully unacceptable to the Muslim heart.
Islamophobia is one of the most prevalent forms of prejudice in the world today and influences foreign and domestic policies of Western governments. Muslims are the most subjected to hate speech, cultural racism, and discrimination; Islamophobia has been normalised by populist politicians and media.
Most coverage of Muslims in the Western world is negative and tends to focus on extremists and terrorists. This is often seen after a mass shooting as a Muslim suspect is immediately branded a ‘terrorist’, while a White supremacist is considered as ‘mentally disturbed’.
There is a concerted effort in Western communities to stoke fear by treating Islam and Muslims as the enemy opposed to secular values. The Western right-wing and even liberal media seems to agree on the perceived Muslim threat.
Islamphobia has been growing in Europe as far-right parties are gaining momentum and forming governments, without realising the political and social upheaval. The rise of Trump has also given impetus to anti-Muslim sentiments and an opportunity for White supremacists to regroup.
Earlier this year, a self-confessed Australian White supremacist shot dead 51 Muslims at two mosques in New Zealand, and broadcasted the killings live on social media. The killer was also inspired by media outlets who have sought to profit from promoting fear and hatred of Islam and Muslims.
This new channel will also bring Muslim communities together especially these three countries as they will collaborate together and provide their resources. The Muslim world needs internal unity, peace and brotherhood before it can challenge greater challenges. The new proposed channel could help overcome political and sectarian differences to a single cause.
The solution to counter hate speech and anti-Muslim perceptions is to confront it head-on. These three leaders have taken a major step by using the power of media to promote greater understanding and tolerance among communities across the world.