Since Sept 11, 2001, Muslims have found it harder than ever to make sense of the flood of information coming from all directions. In a critical time like this we tend to lean towards extremes, either rejecting all mainstream media as false, or naively having faith in all that the networks say.
Here are a few suggestions to help you make sense of the news and media.
- Allah says in the Quran, "O ye who believe! If an impious person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done." Surah Hujarat (49): ayah 6.
This verse is a standard for Muslims in evaluating all information. Ascertain the truth. Three principles when evaluating a news source are honesty, intelligence, and critical attitude.
- Ask yourself these questions:
- Who is delivering the information and why?
- How is the information being presented? Is there a differentiation between fact and opinion? Are there generalizations?
- Are we refusing to believe the news because of our interests?
- Are we allowing our resentment of the popular media—i.e. our emotions—to govern the way we discern between truth and untruth?
- Are we trusting sources that lack credibility simply because we’d like to think about the world in a certain way?
- The media constantly dehumanizes Muslims, so it is easy for us to become overly defensive. We have to realize that there are more than 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, and we can’t expect to defend the actions of all, or share blame with all.
To show our solidarity with fellow Muslims, we should do as the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) advised us. He said:
Help your (Muslim) brother (or sister) when he commits a wrong and when a wrong is committed against him. Someone asked, "O Messenger of Allah, I understand how I can help him if a wrong is committed against him, but how can I help him if he is himself committing a wrong?" At that the Prophet answered, "Stopping him from committing the wrong is helping him." (Bukhari)
- Gather the necessary information from various sources. If we look for all of our news from one source, it is difficult to evaluate the credibility. Look at sources that claim to be objective, sources that are presenting news from the opposing side and sources that are clearly favorable to our side of the issue.
In trying to understand world affairs, you will find that reserving judgment about many issues is in your favor. Flexible opinions and a tentative attitude will only make it easier for us to understand things as they are.
Photo Attribution: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Concern_(7618118856).jpg