Tuesday, February 13, 2007

We Muslims are so often complaining about how there is a lack of Muslim presence in the media (especially on TV) to counter all the negative stuff that's put up against us. In particular, whenever people like Irshad Manji or Ayaan Hirsi Ali are on TV and giving their usual diatribe against Islam and Muslims, we gnash our teeth and moan about how they never give real Muslims a chance to answer their arguments.

But then we have another problem... whenever 'real Muslims' ARE given a chance to debate the likes of Hirsi Ali and her brethren, they often end up screwing it up. See Ali Eteraz's post here.

The fact is, we Muslims suck at debating. We have no real debating skills. When we're brought on TV or interviewed or whatever, we often end up making big mistakes and sometimes even doing more harm than good - or at least, not doing as much good as we could be doing if we just knew how to deal with all those questions the right way.

We need to deal with this. Letters like Ali's, politely pointing out where and when things could have been answered differently (and better), are great - but it doesn't really help after the fact. What we need is to be able to prevent these types of gaffes.

Here in the West, we Muslims REALLY need to brush up on our language/communication and debating skills. We've seen far too often how the lack of the aforementioned skills has had a negative effect on our PR. We've seen far too often how great opportunities to repair our damaged reputations have been messed up and as a result, the non-Muslims who initially took an interest in the issue at hand end up dismissing us as uneducated, illiterate, etc.

We need to deal with this ASAP. The people who are being given these opportunities to speak for the Muslims on TV, need to realize that it's a serious matter that they need to handle carefully, and that they're going to have a lot demanded of them. To meet those demands, their language, communication, and debating skills are going to have to be up to par.

Two things are required: Islamic knowledge; and good language, communication, and debating skills. To have one without the other, and to be on TV representing the Muslim community(which is exactly what Muslims on TV are doing, whether they like it or not), will cause serious problems... which none of us want or need!

So how do we do it? I think that workshops would be a good idea, wherein attendees could learn how to seize the opportunity provided in an interview (or whatever) and use it to refute the person you're debating, in a way that can get YOUR message across in clearly and concisely.

But what other solutions might there be? Ideas, anyone?

Your little sister in Islam,


Travelling Stranger said...

I totally agree. An excellent example of why we need both knowledge and good communication skills is the mess made by "Undercover Mosque".

You get Sheikhs (with all due respect) saying something in harsh tones and whatnot. After the show aired they repeated it in a better way (improved communication skills).

You get him saying: "We hate the kuffar", then saying: "No no, we hate kufr."

So which is it? You need to understand it yourself first and then explain it. And when you explain it, make sure I don't go running away with the wrong idea.

We live in a time in which everything we say can reach across the globe. If you're someone who's respected among Muslims for example, and you say something that's misunderstood by those who respect you, that might have a negative effect on their behaviour and attitude and their Islamic lifestyle basically.

We should gain more knowledge and be wiser about what we say and how we say it.

iMuslim said...

Maybe the producers purposely find the 'suckiest' debaters, to make us look bad... hehe. Just kidding, we do need better people representing us.

For example, the MCB and other UK Muslim umbrella organizations are usually headed by 1st generation Asian men, who obviously have influence in their respective communities (and are well-educated), but have such thick accents, even i don't know what they're saying on TV!

Most organizations have a PR section, whereby well-trained representatives speak on behalf of the group. The head honcho doesn't have to do it all the time...

But i also disagree with you... we don't all suck at debate! I've seen some good Muslim debaters, even on TV: Hamza Yusuf, Tariq Ramadan, the head of UK Hizb-ut-Tahrir, who's name i've forgotten... he's a bit aggressive in comparison to the first two though! We just don't have the right people in the right positions, that's all.

We need to improve on our resource management, as well as our PR, skills!

illuminatingfaith said...
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illuminatingfaith said...

As Salaamu alaikum wa rahmatuAllah wa barakatuh :-)

MashaAllah I totally agree with you! We Muslims really need to get up, learn the deen and PRACTICE it, and establish a voice for ourselves that is assertive and not wishy washy, trying to please everyone. Our goal should be to please ALLAH and our goal should be to empower the voiceless Muslims all over the world.

Maybe my vision is too grand to apply to everyone, but I feel that, in general, Muslims DO need stronger improvements in many areas and one of them, definitely, is in communicating more articulately.

With that said, I'm inshaAllah trying out to be on our school's competitive civics team for next year. That adds (inshaAllah) at least one more Muslim(ah) on the list. :-)

Barak Allah feeki for the post. ;)

AnonyMouse said...

As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatu,

Travelling Stranger:
Good point with the Undercover Mosques documentary! I hadn't even thought of it when I wrote this post... as you said, what with globalization and all this new technology that's out for everyone to use, almost nothing can be kept 'private' or 'just for the community' anymore - some way, somehow, others are going to find out what you said.

"the MCB and other UK Muslim umbrella organizations are usually headed by 1st generation Asian men, who obviously have influence in their respective communities (and are well-educated), but have such thick accents, even i don't know what they're saying on TV!"

That's another thing that I find unfortunate - the people speaking for us ARE educated and know what they're talking about, but their accents can cause a lot of trouble! On the other hand, it seems to me that the younger people who HAVE the communication skills are often a part of the 'progressives' and therefore a lot of what they say is actually different from what a lot of the people support (e.g. on issues like hijab, gender segregation/relations in Islam, and various other topics).

Wa 'alaikumus-salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatu,

"I'm inshaAllah trying out to be on our school's competitive civics team for next year."
Masha'Allah, that's AWESOME! :D I'll bet you'll be doing wonderfully... insha'Allah! :)

Manas Shaikh said...

I would love to see Tariq Ramadan arguing with Hirsi Ali.

I feel like agreeing with iMuslim "Maybe the producers purposely find the 'suckiest' debaters, to make us look bad."

crusader said...
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Anonymous said...

What the West Can Learn From Islam:
Wednesday 14 February 2007, by Tariq Ramadan:

M&M said...

welll said, i like ur thoughts.

education! biggest thing is education, participating in debating, as others mentioned, workshops. and making sure that only those with decent communication skills are the ones talking publicly not just anyone random.

iMuslim said...

Salaams Mouse

Something's up with your comments feed; all the comments from after Dec have disappeared from it! That's why your "Recent Comments" widget is showing not-so-recent comments!

Not sure why that is... you may want to contact Blogger if it doesn't fix itself soon.


Amad said...

i sent a note to blogger but it seems like they have their head in the sand.

Anonymous said...


iMuslim said...

If anyone is wondering whether to view the above image, i would say "go for it", as it's actually quite amusing!

Personally, i find the Science diagram accurate, but idealistic. That is what should happen, but it often doesn't, unfortunately.

The religion diagram was hilarious, but i take no offence from it, as i don't feel it describes Islam... but i guess all people of whatever religion must say that. Well, someone has to be right! hehe