New Media Activism!
New media are perfect reflections of the world around us. Early indications of many social changes are first visible in social media; hence we should approach such images cautiously. Freedom of expression provided by these new media to the common man and the possibility of alternate sources of information have created big booms in the society. We can sight many such examples from recent times.
This is a self-criticizing post about the social media activism of some of the Muslims. It is an undeniable fact that emotional outrages expressed by Muslims in social media often causes undesired results in the larger society. If you live in an Islamic country, or in an Islamic society that is already isolated from the communities around it, you may find these thoughts strange but this is definitely a matter of concern for all those Muslims who wish to be part of an Islamic community that would like to co-exist with other communities living around it, especially where Muslims are minority.
Let’s take the example of the responses of Muslim youth in social media against the Israeli aggression in Palestine. Often, by the general masses, these stands are read and evaluated not as a stand against the aggression as they really mean, but as a religious passion. If we watch the happenings in social media closely, this can be easily understood. If a person, who has never raised his voice against any aggression on humanity till date begins to mourn against the killings in Palestine suddenly in a day, there is no wonder why his outcry is perceived in a wrong way. ‘Like’ and ‘share’ buttons that was not clicked even once against the killings of thousands in Syria and Iraq between Muslims, if started getting continuous clicks only when Israel rain bombs in Palestine, we cannot blame a non-Muslim who takes the uproar of Muslims in a negative way and especially when these responses are in the social media before the eyes of everyone.
If those who raise their voice against the killings by Al-Qaida, ISIS or Boko Haraam, raise their voice against the killings in Gaza, it has the face of sincerity in it. If those who expressed their concern over the aggression against Shia, Ahemmedia minorities and Christians in some Islamic countries, respond for Gaza, it has a touch of Humanity in it. Problem arises when people choose to respond only when Muslims are killed by Non-Muslims. As a result, even those who used to speak strongly against Israel, happens to be their supporters!
Not only with Gaza, in each and every social issue, single sided responses by Muslims create an opposite reaction from other communities. This is applicable not only for the activists in social media alone, Muslim communities and organizations have the responsibility to come out of this single sided responses.
There was a video spread in whatsapp recently; a group of people manhandling a person, who posted in Facebook maligning Prophet(PBUH) Muhammad (PBUH). Those who get this clip shares it to each and every in their contact list. They do this as if doing a great deed for Islam. The very basic that we should understand, thinking from the perspective of a pluralistic society, is that no one is above criticism. No religion or Prophet(PBUH) is exempt from this. We are living in a society where anyone can criticize others. Do not criticize and do not humiliate Prophet(PBUH) is the stand of a believer, but we cannot impose this to the mind of public society. It’s the mind of a Hindu that no one should criticize or speak against Hindu Gods and Goddess. Likewise, no one will like the leaders and symbols of his belief making the subject of others’ criticism. Not to criticize any idea or person cannot be imposed on the members of a pluralistic society as an unwritten law.
Prophet(PBUH) lived through the out-pour of criticisms. Not only verbal criticisms, Prophet(PBUH)’s society were subjected to humiliations and even brutal tortures during his life time. He never asked his followers to respond in the same coin. He never expressed intolerance towards criticisms. To those who criticized him through poems, he asked his companions to reply through poems. Why then his so called followers of this time should get aroused upon seeing a status in Facebook? If a criticism is done through social media, we can give gentle replies through the same media. Those who beat on the face of the criticizer and then shares it in whatsapp are not only the criminals to be punished but also the number one enemies of the Prophet(PBUH).
A new media awareness is really required for today’s society. They should recognize social media as a public space. And we should be careful to keep the social manners in this public space. What we should do in the privacy of a bedroom cannot be done in the streets. We should have a common sense on what can be shared and cannot be shared in a public place. This is literacy. Be it a matter related to family, religion or politics, we should have this awareness. We should definitely filter the contents based on whom we target – our family members, country men, friends… and the list goes on.
It is said that “You are what you share”. This is very relevant in case of social media. We never think how others are evaluating us based on what we share. We keep on sharing all that we see without even thinking about its source, relevance or its consequences. It can be in Facebook, Twitter or in Whatsapp. ‘Sharing’ is not something we can do so irresponsibly. It’s a teaching from Quran that “if an evil-doer comes to you with a report, look carefully into it, lest you harm a people in ignorance, then be sorry for what you have done(49:6). This teaching is not to be kept dusted in our Masjids and houses, but to be implemented by each and every Muslim responsibly.
There is another very important question; whether we should look at every social issue from the side of a religious passion. Take Gaza only as an example. It’s not religion alone, but the colonization and aggression is the issue there. More than the religion of the people live there, it is the human rights violations and the denial of freedom that should be the subject of sympathizers. This is a social issue. A bare denial of justice against which both believers and others should raise their voice. Portraying this just as an aggression against Muslims, and by merely raising the slogan of ‘Jihad’ against Israel in front of the public, we are pulling down a big ‘human issue’ to a mere passion of religion, in the eyes of Non-Muslims.
There is no doubt that social media can be effectively utilized for useful discussions and fruitful debates. This can be used a a good media to spread awareness and ideologies. However, acting irresponsibility only invite negative impacts. Thus, it is a need of the time that we should think twice, use our brains and behave responsibly in the social media.