Category Archives: Canadian 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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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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Interview- MuslimFest Exceeds Expectations of Founders, Critics (Muslim Link Story- Jun. 2010)

As MuslimFest, Canada’s largest Muslim summer festival, gets ready to kick off on July 31st at the Mississauga Living Arts Centre, the Muslim Link sat down with Taha Ghayyur, one of the founders and organizers of the two-day art and cultural festival, to get his thoughts on the need for such event and his hopes for the future of Muslim artistes in North America.

What prompted the creation of MuslimFest?

It was in the summer of 2003 that a group of concerned people, including Muslim artists like Dawud Wharnsby Ali, community leaders like Abdul Malik Mujahid the President of Sound Vision, teachers, and other creative individuals from DawaNet gathered to discuss the most effective ways of connecting with our neighbours, communicating the message of Islam in creative fashion, and engaging Muslim youth.

Moreover, a strong need was felt to offer an alternative to the mainstream entertainment industry so Muslim youth and families could enjoy artistic performances and shows that are safe and grounded in Islamic ethics. Continue reading

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Interview- In Search of Muslims to Tell Their Stories (Globe and Mail Story- Feb. 2010)

By Amira Elghawaby

Aminata Diallo, the fictional protagonist in Lawrence Hill’s bestselling novel The Book of Negroes, realizes early on that she had better cling to the details of her bondage so that she can later recount what she endures. “See, and remember,” she tells herself as her painful journey into slavery begins.

Years later, she fulfills her vision, becoming a djeji, or storyteller, sharing details of her life with people of myriad backgrounds and persuasions. Her story humanizes her to those who would otherwise view her as either a threat or a victim. Continue reading

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Interview- Tradition or Science: Muslims Debate Official Start of Ramadan (Metro Story- Aug. 2009)

Published on August 20, 2009

It is known as the pre-Ramadan headache. But, for Muslims in Toronto, the ailment has nothing to do with anxiety around fasting from sunrise to sunset in the coming days.

Instead, it is caused by confusion that every year precedes the month of fasting, prayer and self-reflection.

Simply trying to answer the question: When does the month officially start?

“It’s a not an easy question to answer,” said Taha Ghayyur, the coordinator of the Muslim information portal Torontomuslims .com, which attempts to sort out the messy details for community members on its website.

“This year it is pretty much between Friday or Saturday … and for some in Toronto, it could also be Sunday,” he said.

Traditionally, Muslims in Toronto have literally looked to the skies on the eve of Ramadan — the month the Quran was revealed — for signs of the new moon to determine when the holy month begins. A second group, mostly from the Arab world, used global moon sighting, and start fasting when Muslims in Saudi Arabia do.

But in recent years, scholars in North America introduced a new idea to use scientific astronomical calculations to predetermine the first day of Ramadan. When introduced in 2006 by the Fiqh Council of North America, an organization that makes legal opinions on Islam, it was meant to unify the community.
Instead, it ended up doing the opposite.

“It has added to the confusion,” said Ghayyur. “Since most people see all three as Islamically correct, now people have too many options in a way.”

Many in the community say within the issue of moon sighting is a deeper debate. A debate between the those trying to find ways to modernize Islamic traditions within the bounds of Islam, and those struggling to hold fast on to tradition.

Original Story Published on Metro News
Copyright Free Daily News Group Inc.

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Dale Marcell’s Departure: A Great Loss to the Muslim Art Community

Taha Ghayyur (a MuslimFest Organizer & Sound Vision Director)
Dec. 12, 2008

I write this tribute with a heavy heart.

I can recall his sparkling smile and extraordinary energy in lifting people’s spirits.

He was a performing artist of remarkable calibre. He was the leader of the Fletcher Valve Drummers, who were first introduced to the Muslim community at MuslimFest 2004, in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

The meaning of his Muslim name, Jamaluddin (“Beauty of the Deen”), did not only reflect in the beauty of his personality, but also in the beautiful art he so passionately shared with the world.

Dale Marcell at MuslimFest 2007

Dale Marcell at MuslimFest 2007

Brother Dale (Jamaluddin) Marcell, who embraced Islam about 3 years ago, passed away at his home in Kitchener, ON, on December 11th, 2008. He was in his mid-50’s.  

Inna Lillahi wa Inna Ilayhi Rajioon (To God we belong and to Him we return). May Allah erase his past mistakes and give him the glad tidings of Paradise, Ameen.

Many of us could recall his public declaration of Shahada (acceptance of Islam) at MuslimFest 2005 as he shared the stage with his drumming companions and Dawud Wharnsby: “I love Islam and I love Muslims!”.

Born and raised on a farm on the St. Lawrence in Iroquois, Ontario, Dale Marcell, who was of Aboriginal descent, always had a special interest in the use of drumming in Aboriginal cultures for emotional and spiritual healing.

The layers of rhythm and energetic percussions of the Fletcher Valve Drummers brought a new dimension to the live Nasheed / Musical stage in the Muslim community.

Dale and his group were the all-time favourites at MuslimFest in Canada and at several major events in the UK, as they shared the stage with renowned Muslim performers, including Dawud Wharnsby Ali, Native Deen, 786, and Ashiqe Rasul.

You may watch two of his live performaces at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3GKx-IDW6Q

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8KWexu1pKg 

Hundreds of attendees have been enchanted by and have learned from their drumming circles, drumming workshops, and live concert performances.

His first and only album after he embraced Islam, “A Different Drum”, was produced by Sound Vision. In this album, Dawud Wharnsby Ali joined forces with the Fletcher Valve Drummers for a unique and totally new style of Islamic songs.

Although Dale was at times disillusioned by the growing pains of the Muslim entertainment industry and was disappointed by the lack of appreciation of his art in the Muslim community, he always remained optimistic and focused on his service and talent.

The most inspiring aspect of his work was not known to many in the Muslim community. Dale had a ceaseless schedule of drumming circles and workshops in prisons, seniors homes, and shelters for battered women as well as programs for kids with physical and cognitive disabilities in public schools.

Dale Leading a Drumming Circle

Dale Leading a Drumming Circle

He loved raising the spirits of people who had lost hope. He had his ways of relating to the lonely and less fortunate with his positive spirit that often baffled qualified social workers in the GTA. He had a unique way of doing Dawa to such people.

I remember seeing him in tears once as he narrated his experience with a senior who had not smiled for ten years until he got him to beat the drums.

Several disabled persons began to regain their mobility as they joined these therapeutic drumming circles. Dale’s spirit of love breathed a new life and hope in so many.

He described his mission in a Maclean’s Magazine interview, “I think of myself as a drumming guide — helping people remember the beat they were born with.”

As Dale’s beloved wife Chris and his two dear children, Nate and Kattie, deal with this tragedy, let us make a sincere Dua (prayers) for him, his soul, and his family.

He was always happy about his family’s support for his practice of Islam. 

It’s obvious, despite all the raving fans who surrounded him at the Muslim events, Dale himself was a strong lonely Muslim. Perhaps the Muslim community could have done more to assist him in his difficult times.

May Allah bless Br. Jamaluddin with the highest rank in Jannah (Paradise), Ameen.

May Allah truly reward him for his social work and for lifting the spirits of people around him, Ameen.

May Allah give his family members fortitude to endure this loss, Ameen.

May Allah inspire a new generation of talented Muslim artists and percussionists like Dale to beautify our gatherings and touch the lives of people, Ameen.

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