Category Archives: American Muslims

Ramadan & Media Relations: 18 Ways To Create Positive “Newsworthy” Stories

Ramadan_newsworthy

By Taha Ghayyur

“Media is all anti-Muslim.”

“We should boycott media because it’sthe source of Islamophobia.”

“No one is interested in our stories in corporate media!”

While these sentiments and generalizations are common in the Muslim community, dwelling on them and propagating them doesn’t help our cause.

Media bias and Islamomphobic rhetoric certainly exist. There is no denying of anti-Muslim agenda among some media outlets and journalists.

However, media personnel and journalists are humans like us. Engaging them positively with genuine human stories can turn things around.

Media in the US and Canada is constantly looking for original “newsworthy”  stories of peace loving Muslims living their faith in North America.

A key reason why our stories don’t get published or featured in the mainstream media is that we don’t know how to create and pitch stories that are “newsworthy”. Media is not interested in showcasing our theology or what morals our faith preaches! Nor does it care about covering an event or an occasion.

For media, the bottom line is ratings, which translate into dollars. The more original, human, and exciting your story, the higher your chance would be of getting the sound bites.

So, How Do We Create “Newsworthy” Stories?

As the public opinion about Islam and Muslims in the US and Canada plummets to record low, and Muslims witness a sharp increase in discrimination, Ramadan is a unique time to engage media.

Given the fact that Ramadan and Eid season is a good 4-5 week long “holiday season” for Muslims, it offers an excellent opportunity to portray Islam and Muslims in a positive light.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about the stories you conceive this Ramadan and Eid for productive media relations.

Your Story Should

  • Be more human than philosophical or preachy (Humanize Ramadan and Islam by featuring a story of a person, or family, or community)

  • Have a local connection (A local resident, business, Masjid, or community)

  • Be as unique and interesting as possible (First Ramadan of a convert, Iftar event at the  City Hall, a celebrity visiting a Masjid, or a Ramadan food drive)

  • Show significant numbers that your story impacts (The number people in the neighborhood or city who are fasting, or the number of people participating at an event)

  • Be ideally set against the backdrop of hate, terrorism, and Islamophobia (How will this Ramadan story help create a positive image about Islam and Muslims? How will this help make America or Canada better?)

  • Consider ways to connect with a local cause or hot social issue in the city that community cares about (#BlackLivesMatter, homelessness, or elections)

  • Consider involving or inviting a VIP or a celebrity to increase credibility of the story (Mayor, radio show host, sports personality, CEO of local food bank, or a local interfaith leader)

  • Focus on cultural dimensions of Ramadan and Eid (Diversity, multiculturalism, food, family, or community spirit)

17 Ideas for a Potential “Newsworthy” Story

  1. “First Ramadan in the Life of a Convert Muslim” (Invite media to cover the entire cycle from Suhoor to Taraweeh and contrast with his / her life before embracing Islam)

  2. “A Day in the Life of a Young Muslim in Ramadan” (Show how Ramadan disciplines and humanizes young Muslims in contrast with usual portrayal of Muslim youth being extremists….etc.)

  3. “Spirit of Giving” featuring a Muslim Entrepreneur (Showcase a generous donation by a Muslim business person to a social cause in Ramadan. Make it an annual tradition)

  4. “Invite Your Neighbor to Iftar” at a Masjid or at someone’s house.

  5. “Ramadan Cuisine” series, featuring a different cultural Iftar every day / week

  6. “Ramadan Food Drive” for a local food bank (Show Muslims collecting and delivering food)

  7. “Iftar with Our Homeless Neighbors” (Organize the largest city soup kitchen at Iftar time)

  8. “Stronger Family Campaign” in Ramadan (Do a media release and launch of the campaign, showcasing how Ramadan brings families together and strengthens these bonds)

  9. “Fasting Muslims for #BlackLivesMatter” Rally (Peaceful demonstration in support for African Americans or Canadians)

  10. “Multi-Masjid Open House” (Mass advertise in mainstream media a coordinated open house at several ‘public-friendly’ professionally run mosques in your city, featuring brief engaging lectures, mosque tours, cultural food, and giveaways)

  11. “Iftar or Eid Celebration” hosted by the Mayor, or Councillors, or a Congressperson / Member of Parliament

  12. “Eid for All Celebration” (invite public and media to enjoy and celebrate Eid day with the community, starting with Eid prayer)

  13. “Smile at Your Brother” Ramadan Campaign (Design flyers and posters with smiling Muslims promoting smiling and friendliness since it’s Ramadan. Make this campaign go viral on social media)

  14. “Live Simply, So Others Can Simply Live” Ramadan Campaign (Show how Muslims can live without food and water for 12-18 hours)

  15. “Healthy Eating” Ramadan Campaign

  16. “Green Ramadan” Campaign (Show how your local Masjid is making Iftars and Taraweeh environmentally friendly)

  17. “Experience the Melodious Quran Day” (Invite best Qaris / reciters of the Quran in the city to share their melodious voice and the beautiful message of the Quran with media and public. Accompany the event with a Quran exhibit)

  18. “Interfaith Fasting Day” (Engage Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and other faith leaders and groups to celebrate the fasting tradition among all faiths. End with a community Iftar)

Creating and pitching a “newsworthy” Ramadan story requires significant planning and legwork, but it’s all worth it.

Let the world see the beauty of your faith and culture. Let everyone experience it! What’s there to hide?

Source: www.SoundVision.com

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Event Presentation: “Lost Legacy of African Islam” by Taha Ghayyur (May 7, 2016)

AlFawz_AfricanIslam_May2016

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May 1, 2016 · 6:19 am

The Sharia I Live…

By Taha Ghayyur

We have all seen the word Sharia written in red-blood-dripping-fonts accompanied by an image of clouds of smoke emanating from a half destroyed building.

We are witnessing anti-Sharia protests across the United States fueled by emotional chants demanding a ban on “draconian laws” creeping into our country. Continue reading

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From Slavery to Leadership: Muslims in North America

By Taha Ghayyur

Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Jameel Al-Ameen are perhaps a few names that cross our minds when we consider the evolution of Muslim identity and community in North America. What often escapes notice is the sacrifice, discipline, social justice, leadership, and cooperation modeled by such individuals and their communities.

The organized struggle of North American Muslims begins over seven centuries ago with the civil rights movement led by multitudes of Muslim African slaves. The spirit and movement continues today with the millions of Arab and South Asian Muslim immigrants, as well as the Latin and First Nations indigenous Muslim converts in North America.

Keeping Faith Alive in the ‘New World’

In the story of early African American Muslims, we find fascinating and empowering historical events. The story of Job ibn Solomon Jallo, in the early 1700’s, who was a well-mannered, intelligent, literate trader and Imam, reminds us of the Quranic and Biblical story of Prophet Yaqoob’s (Job) life. Captured in Gambia, Job wrote out three copies of the entire Quran from memory. He was later freed and reunited with his loving son and family[i].

The account of Bilali Muhammad (Ben Ali), an African scholar in the early 1800’s, captivates many as we read about the vibrant Islamic community he built in Georgia, as a slave[ii]. His determination to hold on to Islamic principles, regardless of his circumstances, inspires awe and admiration. In many ways his life parallels the life of Bilal Ibn Rabah, an early African slave convert to Islam in Makkah.

As Amir Nashid Ali Muhammad explains in Muslims in America: Seven Centuries of History (1312-1998):

In the ‘New World’, some of the African slaves suffered doubly tragic fate. Initially, they were enslaved because they were African, but when it was discovered that they were also Muslims, their suffering was compounded. They were tortured, burned alive, hung, and shot unless they renounced their religion and their names. At least 20% of the Africans brought to the U.S. were Muslims from ….the coastal and interior regions of the Islamic empires of Songhai, Ghana, and Mali.[iii]

Early Muslim Participation in America

We discover with pride that there were Muslims, who, in the War of 1812, helped defend America against the British[iv]. In a lecture held at Concordia University, Montreal, Imam Khalid Griggs, a political activist and leader of a North Carolina mosque, highlighted the role Africans played in the American Civil War. He related the stirring account of one African Muslim named Mohammad Ali Ibn Said, who moved to the U.S. from Africa to volunteer for the all-Black 55th division:

“Mohammad Ali said, ‘I do not want to just sit back and not do anything, I want to do something to help my brothers. The blood that joins me is deeper and stronger than the water that separates me from Africa to the United States,’…So he chose to come into a slave country at a time when he was risking his own freedom.” [v]

Did You know?

  1. The first person to request the freedom of all slaves in America was a Muslim.
  2. Muslims fought in many of the early wars.
  3. Muslims were known to live in at least 7 of the 13 original colonies, including Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia.
  4. The early American Muslims have contributed many Arabic words found in English today, such as, admiral, algebra, atlas, banana, cable, camel, checkmate, coffee, cotton, jasmine, lemon, magazine, mask, rice, sofa, sugar, syrup, and zero to name a few.
  5. Columbus was not the first adventurer to travel from Europe to the Americas. Around 986 AD, Moors (people from North Africa) crossed the Atlantic Ocean in ships, bringing back with them people from the new world.

Sadly, the impact of Black, African, and Muslim cultures on world history is often neglected in historical discourse. There are pages of history which tend to get ripped out.

Towards Contribution & Leadership

While, it could be argued that faith in today’s secular world is receding to the private quarters, North American Islam is manifesting itself as an urban phenomenon. Dr. Tariq Ramadan, a professor of Philosophy at the College of Geneva, in his monumental study, To be a European Muslim, reminds us of our role and responsibility in the secular context today. He explains:

At this time of globalisation and internationalisation, when all nations are subject to a new world order which denies or forgets God,…based on an exclusive economic logic, Muslims are facing the same responsibilities… Assertive and confident, they have to remind people around them of God, of spirituality and, regarding social affairs, to work for values and ethics, justice and solidarity. They do not forget their environment but, on the contrary, once in security, they should influence it in positive way.[vi]

Contemporary North American Muslims possess a rich seven-century old legacy of dedication, activism, community empowerment, justice, peace, and tolerance, inherited from their Muslim forefathers in this land. They must now change their outlook from the reality of “protection” alone to that of an authentic “contribution” to the society. It is at this unique juncture of Islamic history, constituting the largest and most diverse Muslim minority that we need to study the contribution of African American Muslims as the models that produced the great leaders we long for today.

Endnotes:

[i] Amir Nashid Ali Muhammad, Muslims in America: Seven Centuries of History, (Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications, 1998), 11.
[ii] A. Muhammad, Muslims in America xi.
[iii] A. Muhammad, Muslims in America, xiii.
[iv] A. Muhammad, Muslims in America, xi.
[v] The McGill Daily, Issue 46.
[vi] Tariq Ramadan, To Be A European Muslim(Markfield, Leicester: The Islamic Foundation, 1999), 144-145.

Also Re-published in The Muslim Voice (University of Toronto MSA)

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