Why Do I Want to be a Journalist?

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s note:  The TMO Foundation conducted a scholarship essay contest and TMO is now printing the essays of some of the entrants to the contest.

This is the second place essay, by Aysha Jamali, on the subject “Why do I want to be a journalist?” She received Second Prize, a $1,000 scholarship.

By Aysha Jamali

Aysha Jamali-photo A journalist strives, researches, listens and educates. A journalist’s role is vast and has been a necessary ingredient in society throughout the history of the world. Media influences what we know about the world around us, how we form our opinions on issues and which issues are the most important to us. A journalist’s responsibility is to report with the intention of being honest and fair in representing what goes on in the world. That is my interest: to uphold the duties of media’s mediators.

Wickham Steed, an editor of The Times of London, said that journalism is “something more than a craft, something other than an industry, something between art and a ministry.” It’s a field that requires skill and creativity, but it also requires a sense of obligation to the people. And there are several obligations.

One obligation of the journalist is to keep a check on those in power. Governments and corporate organizations are often in a position to abuse their power. They serve the larger population, but are often run by a smaller elite circle. “Melvin Mencher’s News Reporting and Writing” says that “democracy is the healthiest when the public is informed about the activities of captains of industry and chieftains in public office.” It is the journalist’s responsibility to scrutinize those captains and chieftains in the elite circle, so that the common people can have a say in their policies and the actions affecting them.

Journalists also look out for those who can’t look out for themselves. The minority always needs a spokesperson whether it’s a daughter who lost her father because of hospital malpractice, a school in a low-income district with no money for textbooks, or hundreds of upset and recently unemployed workers from a billion dollar company.

A journalist’s responsibility is also to provide the public with unbiased information on current issues. A decision is so difficult to make when both sides are white-washing and sugar-coating the truth. Journalists are there to investigate and determine accurate from inaccurate. They provide not only facts but the scoop behind the facts. Journalist T. D. Allman said, “Genuinely objective journalism not only gets the facts right, it gets the meaning of events right.” It’s with this type of fact-finding that people can make rational decisions.

Another role of the journalist is to bring to concern issues that are otherwise not discussed. In the book “Don’t Shoot the Messenger,” Bruce W. Sanford said that “most people would not see that they were being denied information about the world around them.” This requires the journalist to hunt for these hidden stories, and it can put the journalist at odds with bosses and peers. Stepping away from the mainstream is difficult but something a journalist should remember is often an obligation.

My background has taught me about the need for such responsibilities. My family and my Islamic faith have taught me that judging others is the wrong path to take since you don’t always know the whole story. I learned that what you hear is not always the truth, so you need to stay skeptical. I learned that there is always another opinion about a situation, so you need to stay open-minded. It’s because of this that I read about a war, a robbery or a movie release and I want to know what else is there that the media isn’t telling me. Did those people really initiate the shooting? Was that person trying to feed his family with the stolen money? Is this actor passionate about his role in the movie?

Beyond finding out the truth, I want to share the new ideas and incidents I discover. My question is always: why didn’t I know this before and why isn’t anyone spreading this around? I love a chance to sit down and hash out the day’s news. I relish the idea of communicating information to get myself and other people to think in different ways. It’s my inquisitive attitude and my itch to share information that attracted me to journalism.

Getting people to think in different ways is also a significant reason to have a diverse media. You can’t have variation if everyone thinks the same way. In “Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite,” Bernard Goldberg said, “It’s past time that we moved from a newsroom that simply looks like America to one that thinks like America – a newsroom that better reflects America in its highly varied beliefs and values and passions.”  A diversified newsroom is an atmosphere that permits the contribution of unique experiences and attitudes.

Media diversity is also important for avoiding cultural taboos and clearing up misconceptions. This brings to the mind the controversial shooting of Luqman Ameen Abdullah, imam of a local Detroit mosque. Local news stations reported on broadcast and on their Web sites that he was the ringleader of a group called the “Ummah.” Actually, all Muslims consider themselves to be a part of an ummah, which is an Arabic word roughly translated as community. It’s similar to Christians belonging to a church community. The mainstream media failed to clarify whether Imam Abdullah’s “Ummah” was just confused with the general concept of the Muslim ummah. If there were more people with that type of knowledge and background present in the newsroom, then confusions like that wouldn’t happen as often. When there’s less confusion in the media, the public is getting accurate information and putting its trust back in its sources.

The need to keep a check on bias by representing all sides of a story is also a reason why the media should be diverse. It only makes sense for the media to be as diverse as the people and the views they are representing. With the melting-pot that is the United States, we should be seeing people of all backgrounds in our media. In “Arrogance,” Goldberg said that “despite the overwhelming evidence, despite all the examples of bias that were documented in my book and others, despite the surveys that show that large numbers of Americans consider the elite media too liberal … the elite remains in denial.” Diversity breaks down that elite circle to allow for proper representation.

These roles are a part of the backbone that holds up a journalist as someone who strives, researches, listens and educates. I believe it should be every journalist’s goal to uphold the field’s values. I hope to make my career as a journalist by internalizing these values. I hope to use my Muslim identity and first generation immigrant background in striving for fair media representation through diversity. This should be the journalist’s drive. This is my drive.

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Young People

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

El-Amin portrait I am appalled as I learn more and more about some of the antics and activities some of our young adults are engaging in.  In what seems to be a quest to be “cool” or “regular”, (or what some have the audacity to call “normal”) some of our young people are going too far in emulating the ugly low-life they see in in the streets and the media.

I know that every generation looks at their offspring as crazy young kids.  My parents used to shake their heads at me too.  But I can honestly say that our values and morals were much higher than the young generation today.  Even the way the young people dress (and I’m particularly talking about the young men.  When I was coming up we prided ourselves on being nicely dressed.  We made sure we had creases in our pants and our shoes were shinned.  We prided ourselves on wearing nice fabrics and taking care of them.

Nowadays the young men seem to see how bad they can dress.  They go all day looking like they just got up out of bed and threw on the first thing they could grab.  And the irony of it all is they think they are looking good.  It bewilders me how someone can wear jeans with holes and tears in them and some hanging down exposing underwear and say it looks good.  Something is definitely wrong mentally if something so ugly can be perceived as being hip and cool.

But that’s not all.  The level some of them have sank to would boggle the mind of most civil-minded human beings.  There are youngsters (males and females) who use profanity that sounds like it comes out of a sewer.  There are some choosing places of ill-repute to party and have fun.  There are even cases of homosexuality, (males and females, and it seems to be more females than males), and on top of that it is so widespread that sometimes it doesn’t get a glance.

Some of these Muslim children have grown up in Muslim homes all their life.  Some of them have more Qur’an  in their little finger than I have in my whole body.   They can recite scripture from memory in beautiful rhythmic tones that make you want to cry listening to it.  So why this double life?

In the African- American community there were many reverts to Islam that witnessed  some of the same  negative lifestyles described above – myself included.  So this degenerate lifestyle of this society has no attraction for me and others my age.  But the youngsters, growing up in an environment where this type of behavior is forbidden or strongly discouraged,  feel the pull to experiment (as all youngsters do).  But these days are so dangerous because youngsters have access to so much technology that puts virtually anything decrepit within a finger click away.

10 and 11 year olds are watching hard-core pornography, sinister sadistic murders, and glorifying morally loose lifestyles.  It has gotten so bad that some people have given up on them and believe straightening them out is a lost cause.  But I don’t.  I believe we must work even harder pointing out to them the need for them not to stray too far.  And we must work even harder to try and be better examples ourselves.  Even though that negative media has a strong influence, the strongest influence is you.

I tell you we have a big challenge ahead of us.  Some of us have been asleep (including me) but it’s time to wake up and get busy.  Let us do more Dawah at the dinner table rather than at the masjid.   Let’s start back being parents instead of friends – which really would be the best friend they could have.

As Salaam alaikum
(Al Hajj) Imam Abdullah El-Amin

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Harun Yahya – Unawareness—A Sly Threat

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

They believe they are on the right path

Taking the general population as an example, the most salient characteristic of heedless individuals is their attempt to persuade themselves that their thoughts and actions are justified. Believing that they are not harming others and that their hearts are filled with goodness, they imagine that they deserve what they have. However, Allah says something rather different in the Qur’an:

Do they imagine that, in the wealth and children We extend to them, We are hastening to them with good things? No indeed, but they have no awareness!

Al-Mu’minun: 55-56

It is revealed in the Qur’an that such people believe that they are on the right path, and so satan prevents them from obeying Allah’s commands and prohibitions:

They debar them from the path, yet they still think they are guided.

Al-Zukhruf: 37

But your Lord knows best who is best guided on the (right) Path.

Al-Isra’: 84

Allah gives an instructive example of the state of such individuals in the story of the vineyard owner. We are told in the Qur’an of a conversation between two people, only one of whom is aware:

Make an example for them of two men. To one of them We gave two gardens of grapevines and surrounded them with date palms, putting between them some cultivated land. Both gardens yielded their crops and did not suffer any loss, and We made a river flow right through the middle of them.

Al-Kahf: 32-33

He entered his garden and wronged himself by saying: “I do not think that this will ever end. I do not think the Hour will ever come. But if I should be sent back to my Lord, I will definitely get something better in return.”

Al-Kahf: 35-36

His companion, with whom he was debating, asked: “Do you then not believe in Him Who created you from dust, then from a drop of sperm, and then formed you as a man? He is, however, Allah, my Lord, and I will not associate anyone with my Lord.” (His companion replied:) “Why, when you entered your garden, did you not say: ‘It is as Allah wills, there is no strength but in Him’? Though you see me with less wealth and children than you possess, it may well be that my Lord will give me something better than your garden and send down upon it a fireball from the sky so that the morning finds it a shifting heap of dust or finds its water drained into the ground so that you cannot get at it.

Al-Kahf: 37-41

The fruits of his labor were completely destroyed, and he woke up wringing his hands in grief, for everything that he had spent on it was now a ruin, a ruin with all of its trellises fallen in. He exclaimed: “Oh, if only I had not associated anyone with my Lord!” There was no group to come to his aid, besides Allah, and he was not given any help. In that situation, the only protection is from Allah, the Real. He gives the best reward and the best outcome.

Al-Kahf: 42-44

The vineyard owner was deceived into thinking that he was on the right path due to his great wealth and many children. His very words demonstrate his unawareness, for his overwhelming pride and arrogance made it impossible for him to conceive of Allah’s power: “But if I should be sent back to my Lord, I will definitely get something better in return.”, His unawareness is so deep that he thinks he created his garden and therefore will keep it forever. In recompense for his attitude, all of a sudden Allah destroyed his treasured vineyard.

Although they are unaware, some individuals think that they are on the right path and do some good deeds. However, these are not done to gain Allah’s favor but out of custom and habit, or out of a desire to put on appearances or soothe their consciences, or to make someone feel grateful to them. In reality, such deeds may not be of any use in the Hereafter, because they are limited only to those actions that do not conflict with the person’s own interests. Unaware that they may not receive a reward for the deeds they did to curry other people’s favor rather than to please Allah, they feel certainly sure that they are on the right path.

These people regard their children, property, and easy and carefree life as signs that they are on the right path. The fact is, however, that Allah allots them a period of time to test them and, due to their actions, gives them no share in the Hereafter:

As for those who desire the life of this world and its finery, We will give them full payment in it for their actions. They will not be deprived here of their due. But such people will have nothing in the Hereafter but the Fire. What they achieved here will come to nothing. What they did will prove to be null and void.

Hud: 15-16

People who deceive themselves in this way gain nothing but a painful death in a state of unawareness and eternal suffering:

Do not let their wealth and their children impress you. Allah merely wants to punish them by them in this world, and for them to die while they are unbelievers.

Al-Tawba: 85

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Dawah at the Dinner table During Ramadan

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Correct Fear of ALLAH

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin

A famous politician once said, “ The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.  That may be true if you are speaking in generalities only.  If you are afraid of the scrutiny of other people or their criticisms, then you will have a fear of them and be under their power, unable to utilize your own.

But if the only fear you have is the fear (respect, regardfulness) of ALLAH, you are empowered over everything in creation.

In my leadership at the masjid I often see people hold back from expressing the truth about a situation simply because they are afraid of the gaze or scrutiny of another person.  That is the wrong fear.

People will also not pursue their dreams because someone told them they were unqualified and so they back up and let it drop and it is probably something they are very good at or at least something that can be sharpened.  They drop their dreams because this naysayer appears to be stronger or smarter than you.  But when you really look at this person you will probably find they are actually weaker than you.

Suppressing the talent ALLAH blessed you with is actually being ungrateful to Him.  If you suppress your Islam so as to not let non-Muslims see you, you are being ungrateful of the greatest gift bestowed on mankind.

Alhamdullilah, we are at the advent of another Ramadan fast.  We look to this month as a period of rejuvenation of our souls and our spirits.  Almighty ALLAH orders us to abstain from food, drink, sex, and vain talk as a submission to Him so as to strengthen our iman.  It is an excellent time to re-visit, study, and, strengthen some basic Islamic principles.

Ramadan is also the time when ALLAH affords us the opportunity to eat with each other more often.  At Maghrib time, you can be sure most Muslims are scurrying around to find something to eat.  During the rest of the year, with our busy schedules, it is difficult for some families to find time to eat together.

This Ramadan, we should focus on utilizing this time to do “Dawah at the dinner table.”  When we have fear of ALLAH, it will be more easy to combat the following weak behaviors.

Muslim men and women need to pay attention to how we live and practice our religion.  This society makes a big point out of irresponsible men and loose women seeming to be normal.  I know some Muslim males who have fathered children and never taken care of them.  They have gotten to the point in their life where the sin of such action escapes them.  In some communities the men go from woman to woman as though they were expendable collateral.  To father children and not “maintain and protect them,” is in direct conflict to the directives of ALLAH.  Men are also charged with maintaining and protecting the community.  Adhering to basic directives like this is necessary to have a stable productive community.

Females also need to be reminded of basic Islamic principles.  ALLAH orders women to not expose their breasts and not draw unnecessary attention to their bodies.  Yet I am noticing increasing numbers of Muslim women exposing cleavage and wearing form fitting jeans and dresses with not enough top piece to cover their forms.  And it is ironic that at the same time they are wearing a scarf.  What do you think the men inside and outside of the mosque are looking at…the scarf??  I think not.

Female breasts are sexual body parts.  That’s why ALLAH orders women to draw a veil over them.  But I see lots of Muslim females from teenagers to young women – and even some “seasoned” women showing cleavage just like the women on TV.

Dawah at the dinner table will help those guilty of this.

Men, if you have babies with women and you haven’t financially, materially, or emotionally supported them, start doing it now – for the sake of ALLAH – if you believe.  You cannot continue lying to and using women just because you can – because they are the weaker sex.  Repent to ALLAH and ask for His forgiveness; and from then on, strive to be upright.

During this month I would like to see more men standing up to their obligations to our women and children.  Start with what you have and ask ALLAH to make it easy for you to fulfill you duties.

And I don’t want to see any more females showing cleavage.  I don’t want to see it at any mosque  – or if I happen to see you at CVS pharmacy.  If you don’t demand respect, you will not get any.

Let’s talk to each other for real.  Do dawah at the dinner table – it’s the best place.

As Salaam alaikum
(Al Hajj) Imam Abdullah El-Amin

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Once Upon a Destined Time

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Siddiq Ather

Step, dip, look, hop, stumble, flail, drip, drop and step. It is always an annoyance when you accidently step into a puddle, a predicament that happened perchance because a lack of perspicacity or maybe simply put in place by destiny; drip, nevertheless no matter how many more thoughts profess it makes the water soak no less, it doesn’t clean the mess.  Since there is no use crying over spilled milk, he continued to walk under the silky sky with his big white hat and waving tie, no frown, no curse, no frustration dispersed, and maybe even a smile crossed his face. Pondering over how this was his problem in life, something so small. If he were to become angry how in the world he would stand next to those who are patient in times of real hardship. How could he stand with those who have no homes, no food, or no sight to lose? Don’t be confused, wet ankles and shoes aren’t his preferred medium of walking but everything must be put into perspective, dig?

That was his explanation to him as the bus’s speed began to dim, and it stopped.  He propped up and walked off saying goodbye to him; the doors closed and the rims began to spin. The bus darkened as its final destination for the day neared and its final passenger veered toward the exit. Though he usually wouldn’t mind to stay a bit, to chat and chit, there was something waiting, in somber solitude as it had waited for ages. Its pages waiting like papyrus cages holding words heavy on the heart but light on the sight. He hastily descended to the ground and laboriously looked around to avoid any puddles in the vicinity. Then he, quite easily, made his way to the bus stop shelter, listening to the sound of the bus leaving echo into the distance.  Walking into the glass box he heard the echo of the bus mince with the profound drips and drops falling down off of roof tops making small spots of dark gray on the pavement.

This time he was sitting in the light of day; the sun’s shining rays penetrated the clouds and went past the glass hitting those golden letters on that dark cover. He shuttered at the shining spots on the silver strap and the buckle burning brightly under the sun. He sat on the bench and exhaled. The cover sat there next to the unlatched buckle. He took a deep breath and opened the book with a quick glance at the title, Stories of the Wise and Human; the first page still held the phrase one person, one page. Flipping through the blank pages, he felt an odd texture on a page and stopped. It was wrinkled, the way paper gets after it gets wet and dries. It was brittle, hard, stiff, and stubborn all at the same time.  The page was covered in curly, but neat, blue ink; they looked like thin vines and leaves delicate, intricate, and complex gripping the various faces of the page. It was a beautiful piece of art further accented by the crinkled page behind it. The sentences twisted and turned in such a fluid manner that they seemed almost alive; he was careful not to tip the book to one side because of the fear that the liquid sapphire resting on the page might drop, in essence, a baseless fear.   Realizing his foolishness, he tipped the book side to side.  It looked nice, but what did it say?

In the name of the most merciful, may peace be upon anyone reading this book or writing in it. The world works in funny ways with nigh pitch black nights, and sunny days.  With its twists and turns, it is more like a maze.  Every soul follows its own path, converging and diverging with the lives of others.

It was one of those cold Chicago days you hear so much about, with the wind chill way below zero and piles of snow everywhere. I never really thought gloves were necessary until that day. You wouldn’t be able to identify any walking passerby as a person; they just looked like moving piles of cloth. I was wearing a sweat pants under a long skirt, a sweater, jacket, and a cloth scarf. You know how in the fall when it gets mildly chilly you always chance upon seeing that one determined individual in the morning, jogging with only shorts on in the “cold” weather, it is always such a juxtaposition  and deserves that “are you crazy” stare. Well, the tables had turned and everyone was giving me that “are you crazy” stare.  I didn’t know I would be standing in the cold for this long! I thought all I needed was something warm enough to get to the car and back. Turns out my car got towed. You would think they might have a shred of mercy in this freezing weather and seeing my out of state license plate.

Turns out my wardrobe hadn’t been the only reason I was getting the “are you crazy stare.” According to a round and fluffy tan jacket with what seemed to be a raccoon hat wrapped in a beige scarf,” taxis don’t really come round here. You should try the bus stop a few blocks down.”  From where I was standing, anything was better than standing here in the cold with the glacial gusts blowing right through my clothes and freezing me to the core, I was wrong. Trudging along buildings through about a foot of snow, completely oblivious as to whether I was on the sidewalk, grass, or shoulder of the road, was way worse. I had a cozy hotel room I could’ve been in, but no, I wanted to see “the town.”  After taking a few wrong turns I found the bus stop. Luckily or unluckily, I waited next to an old purple coat with an elegant air and a small energy filled pink jacketed munchkin that wouldn’t stop running around.  The purple coat had a black fur scarf, and was extremely well versed in how the Chicago bus system worked and the history of Chicago. When the bus came I sat with her part of the way to the lot where my car would be. She said I should call anybody I knew around here in case something went wrong. I called my best friend who I had come here for in the first place, she didn’t pick up. She was probably busy preparing for her wedding, which was tonight. I was busy the whole night before I had flown here early yesterday morning, and had slept the whole day. That’s what prompted me to venture into “town” today.

I exited the bus and walked to the end of the street where I found the “prison” where my car was being held.  Because of various reasons which I couldn’t explain if I had to, it took hours for me to get my car back; luckily, I had prayed beforehand. I took some hot chocolate from the vending machine and ran to my car. I thought why I had to go through all this trouble, why all these bad things happened to me. I turned on the head lights, reversed, and drove out. It appeared that I wasn’t the only one in a hurry; some of the cars around me were driving just as fast, despite the snow. A green light turned yellow, but I needed get back fast. The light turned red, and I braked. The problem was my car didn’t stop. I had no control and no grip. I heard loud honking, and as I looked through my window I saw a car coming at me from the side, its lights getting brighter and brighter. Everything went by very slowly. Suddenly, the car skidding behind me, bumped me forward, just enough to be missed by the oncoming traffic. Not looking back I heard what I thought was the car behind me and the car that was about to hit me crash; the sound of bending metal and shattering glass permeated the air. My car got grip again and I parked on the side of a road, and called the police. A few moments later an ambulance came and took the people out of their cars. Most of them were able to walk away, but some were taken in the ambulance to have some injuries treated, at least that’s what they told me.  The police said the main cause of the accident was something called “black ice” around the intersection. I talked to the officer about the whole incident, in the end they said to drive safe and have a good night.

I sat in my car and cried thanking the most merciful. I remembered something my mum said before I left,” no matter what happens always say alhamdulila.” I said the supplication or dua before driving a vehicle and drove back to my hotel.  I received a call from the friend whose wedding I was missing. I could tell she was uneasy about something as soon as she picked up the phone.  I told her the whole story and by the end she was more worried about me than whatever had happened. Apparently, it was so cold that some pipes had burst around the hall they were using, so everyone was moved to a random empty hall in the middle of the wedding, and by the time everything was sorted out most of the guests had left. She said that I shouldn’t worry about it though, and that they were holding a smaller function at her uncle’s house with close family and friends. She sincerely apologized for not calling sooner, but after hearing about how busy she was all day, I understood.  We talked most of the night, and she said she would pick me up tomorrow, I declined.  She insisted it wouldn’t be much trouble. I told her I found out there was a bus which went straight to where she lived, and it was pretty close to my hotel, she finally accepted saying she would be waiting at the bus stop. I told her the departure and arrival times, and went to bed.

I walked to this bus shelter and found this odd but interesting book, and couldn’t help but write down the events that had transpired. I just got a call from my friend; she is actually across the street. She said she’d be waiting at the bus stop but asserts that she didn’t mention which one; she also says I should come quickly because my hot chocolate is getting cold. The snow has lightened up a bit, and is not as bone chilling as yesterday. I guess I’ll be going soon so I will end with a final bit. If you’re in Chicago or any other city, watch where you park, prepare for the weather, and if the times get tough, trust in the most merciful. With every hardship comes ease.

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