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  • Giving Islam a positive spin

    by Sunny
    30th March, 2006 at 6:22 pm    

    In a documentary tonight, writer and director Nasfim Haque wants to give Islam a positive spin. From AIM magazine:

    Under the guise of her company Jihad Media, she sets off to show the religion in a positive light while trying to enlist the help of well known TV personalities.

    She says: “As a Muslim myself, I feel Islam has recently been saddled with an image problem, quite unfairly in my opinion, so I wanted to twist this around to ask the real questions about religion in secular society.”

    Don’t Panic I’m Islamic‘ will see her ask publicist Max Clifford for advice; get Bernard Manning to make her Muslim Kurdish protégé funny; try and persuade ITV to make Face for Islam a rival to X factor; get Trouble TV to fall for Mighty Mecca Morphing Muslims as a rival to The Simpsons; put together a National Muslims are Nice day and more.

    Should make good viewing. BBC Three tonight at 00:25am.

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    1. Jai — on 30th March, 2006 at 7:24 pm  

      =>”Under the guise of her company Jihad Media”

      Probably not an auspicious start. It might be a good idea to change the name of that company…..

      =>”get Bernard Manning to make her Muslim Kurdish protégé funny;”

      The mind boggles. Maybe she should get Jim Davidson on board too…..

      In the current climate, I don’t see the various other ideas listed as being feasible options either, bearing in mind the various dubious activities presently being conducted in the name of Islam by a number of groups.

      Promoting Sufism and its associated values, along with the music (especially the music) would probably be a far better (and more realistic) way to change the image of Islam in this part of the world.

    2. Jai — on 30th March, 2006 at 7:25 pm  

      *the various dubious activities presently being conducted in the name of Islam by a number of groups

      ie. Al-Qaeda, HuT, Al-Gharaaba etc etc

    3. Fe'reeha — on 30th March, 2006 at 7:53 pm  

      Promoting Sufism and its associated values, along with the music (especially the music) would probably be a far better (and more realistic) way to change the image of Islam in this part of the world.

      Jai! I am sorry, but I will diagree with you here!
      Sufism is a rich and unprecedented genre, but, you cannot make it Islam.
      How can you mould the shape of a religion into something else just because it might look more attractive?
      Also, a lot of exploitation takes place under the guise of Sufism in the third world countries.
      It’s education about true spirit of Islam to Muslims which is important.
      Also, in order to change the image of a certain product, you cannot change the prodcut can you?

    4. Steve M — on 30th March, 2006 at 8:01 pm  

      Who should give this education, Fe’reeha?

    5. Fe'reeha — on 30th March, 2006 at 8:26 pm  

      You know, such an important debate. Where will this education come from.
      At present, the state of both Islamic and secular knowledge is so depressing that there should really be a declaration “of state of emergency” in the Islamic ummah.
      At present there is no declared religious body to give education on Islam, or some sort of qualification to Imams before they can actually start preaching.
      anyone who has basically memorised about fifteen surahs from Quran (which most of the Muslims do anyway) can go and opt for the job of an Imam. Well, I could not being a woman, but otherwise there is no other qualification.
      It is this lack of attestation and checks that basically anyone, and everyone can get up and talk about Islam and think they are right.
      Sadly, Muslim scholars have failed to understand the need to educate themselves first before start clamouring of being misunderstood by the mainstream media.
      Half of the Muslims do not even understand their own religion, what do they expect from the people from outside?

    6. Sid D H Arthur — on 30th March, 2006 at 8:38 pm  


      Sufism gets a lot of stick by extoric Islam. It gets it now and it has since the beginning of Islam when what started Sufism was a group of unnamed people who were the prophet Muhammad’s diciples known as the Companions of the Benches.

      When you say “Sufism is a rich and unprecedented genre, but, you cannot make it Islam.” you’re making it out to be some kind of pop music chart slot. Its nothing of the sort. Sufism is the way Islam still has one common thread running through it, across nations, sects, sub sects, tribes, castes etc.

      Sufism can never be made the mainstream of Islam. It it never will and it doesn’t need to. But it will remain the heart of Islamic spirituality long after the passing of this or that modern phenomena such as the MAB, Hizbut Tahrir, Nation of Islam and other such jive ass mofos.

    7. Sunny — on 30th March, 2006 at 11:26 pm  

      I have to agree with Fe’reeha on this one. I like Sufism too, though I haven’t read enough on it (have a big fat book on it but havent got started), but trying to hope that Sufism takes over is not the way forward. Sufism is a part of Islam, nothing more and nothing less, it has its attractions and issues.

      Ziauddin Sardar in Desperately Seeking Paradise has a good bit in his book where he seeks out Sufi scholars and sees if they can help him show the way forward sort of thing, but he quickly becomes disillusioned by their ways of working too. Definitely worth reading…

    8. Vikrant Singh — on 31st March, 2006 at 12:27 am  

      Should make good viewing. BBC Three tonight at 00:25am.

      Whoa wat a slot… right after some stupid dog show. Its as good as not showing it atall.Most people (unlike us) arent nocturnal creatures afterall.

    9. Sunny — on 31st March, 2006 at 12:39 am  

      ‘Fighting to get Islam noticed’ - I love that tagline. You don’t have to try that hard luv.

    10. Vikrant Singh — on 31st March, 2006 at 12:45 am  

      The show is A grade D’awa stuff. All we have is a girl telling us how Muslims are “cool” ten times per minute. Islam doesnt need a PR makeover what it needs is a bit of reformation (sufism perhaps). The problem with Muslims is that they are not ready to accept the inherent flaws of their religion instead this gal prefers to just shove it under the carpet.

    11. Vikrant Singh — on 31st March, 2006 at 12:57 am  

      ‘Fighting to get Islam noticed’ - I love that tagline.

      Wha about “Relax Muslim Rules”….

    12. Vikrant Singh — on 31st March, 2006 at 12:59 am  

      Seriously my grandma can invoke more comedy than the guy she roped in.

    13. Vikrant Singh — on 31st March, 2006 at 1:05 am  

      yikes Islams vs General Decadance sounds like Islam vs Western Civ.

    14. Refresh — on 31st March, 2006 at 1:32 am  

      Very impressive. Covered a huge swathe of issues and sterotypes on all sides. Had me laughing right through. Except the cancellation of the National Muslim are Nice Day.

    15. Refresh — on 31st March, 2006 at 1:33 am  

      Sunny - good job you pointed it out - otherwise would have missed it.

    16. Sunny — on 31st March, 2006 at 1:34 am  

      Well, Nasfim is a regular reader of PP so by all means publish your reviews :)

    17. Steve M — on 31st March, 2006 at 1:49 am  

      I watched the last episode of the rerun of Green Wing. Brilliant.

      Unfortunately this did mean that I missed Nasfim Haque’s programme.

      It does seem to me though that perhaps an end to the massacre of civilians in the name of Islam and just a shade less anger all round might work wonders for the general perception of the religion.

      And to be completely honest, if she didn’t at least bring those aspects up in the programme, then, let’s face it, whatever she did bring up was a load of wank.

      Sorry for my uncharacteristic bluntness but did you, Nasfim?

    18. Vikrant Singh — on 31st March, 2006 at 1:51 am  

      The problems with show:

      1. The title song was annoying
      2. If you wanted a PR makeover atleast try to put up a moderate or liberal looking face, having white-gal-in veils for an Islamic face only plays into hands of your feminist detractors.
      3. The cartoon series seemed as an overt jibe at western/non-muslim cultures.
      4.Fer gawds sakes we have many better Muslim comedians here at PP than the Kurd you had.


      Bleary-eyed Vikrant

    19. Vikrant Singh — on 31st March, 2006 at 1:53 am  

      And also instead of tagging to Islam-is-cool line you could have highlighted some problems in Islam and why sickos are comminting crimes in the name of Islam AND what common Muslims are doing to tackle them.

    20. Sunny — on 31st March, 2006 at 2:16 am  

      She’s a cool gal, our Nasfim. I quite enjoyed the programme and she’s funny and quite enthusiastic. Was a bit sad when she looked deflated on the bouncy castle.

      But there’s the big elephant in the room that nobody wants to mention isn’t it? When you got brothers reciting the Qu’ran while blowing themselves up, and you got other holy brothers and sisters holding up banners saying ‘Massacre those who insult Islam’ - you don’t need PR to get Islam noticed really.

      But she is I guess right to avoid that in one sense. The vast majority of Muslims are not like that, hence why should they be put in the same light. And that police officer’s explanation that it would cause other people offence was pure rubbish. People in Cardiff seemed so friendly when she was holding up that banner… so we know also that most Britons ain’t as Islamophobic as everyone tries to make out.

      The fact that she tried to use comedy though - priceless. That is the only way forward. Leave Wales and come to London for a proper job Nasfim!

    21. Refresh — on 31st March, 2006 at 2:25 am  


      Excellent opening and close in the street with the Bjork stuff. It was Bjork wasn’t it? Memory isn’t what it used to be.

      Lighthearted throughout, made me laugh perhaps because I could recognise all the issues coming up one by one - and the way you handled them.

      The introduction was very interesting, drawing on similarities with the various pressure groups eg Greenpeace.

      The cartoon series concepts the agency picked up on - the battle between capitalism and Islam: I didn’t see that you had actually made that point to them. Did the animators ‘draw’ on that for themselves.

      The lefty PR agency (also responsible for Ikea ads) were bit on the subtle side - but struck at the heart of Islamaphobia. The comparison with anti-semitism left the Islam Channel presenter lost for words, which was instructive in itself.

      But most of all - having a muslim woman pull this off and with attitude was the highlight. Reminded me of my nieces - almost all of them. Doing the Beckham thing (all girl teams at school), taken up violin and guitar - one in the semi-final of an X-Factor type of competition at school. They wear that headcover too.

      Don’t Panic, I’m Islamic was very entertaining. And on a serious note, totally agree with what I believe was your conclusion - there are plenty in the establishment wittingly or otherwise who are pursuing a strategy which is dividing society.

      I enjoyed it tremendously and hope you found it as rewarding as it looked (except that cancellation of course).

    22. syil — on 31st March, 2006 at 7:18 am  

      I drop in from time to time. I love what you are doing here, your spirit and commitment. thanks from this non-abrahamic female.

    23. Steve M — on 31st March, 2006 at 8:30 am  

      Sunny, of course the vast majority of Muslims aren’t like that but surely the issue here is public perception.

      The murderers of civilians, the level of anger, the threatened executions of those who practice freedom of speech or religion, the treatment of women (including on issues such as rape) and the vehement anti-semitism, flood any positive images of the vast majority.

      What’s going to make the headlines?

    24. Jai — on 31st March, 2006 at 10:13 am  

      A couple of points:

      1. Non-Muslim people, especially here in the West, will not accept Islam in its entirety as being a positive thing — at least with regards to the orthodox, organised form of the religion (including the concept of Shariah etc) — as long as one of the fundamental tenets is that it is an “exclusivist” faith and as long as there are basic concepts integral to the religion that they do not agree with, both with regards to some of the theological assertions and also various human rights issues (esp. the role and expectations of women).

      They may tolerate it — as they did pre-9/11 and pre-7/7 — as long as Muslims’ practice of their faith does not interfere negatively with anyone else’s life or Western society in general. However, they will not necessarily agree with the basics of the religion — and here in the UK this is especially pertinent because the indigenous population here is nowhere near as “strictly” religious these days as they used to be, and bear in mind that they have undergone their own social and religious revolution with regards to “shaking off” some of the more controversial and negative aspects of orthodox, organised Christianity. I very much doubt they would want to go “backwards” by accepting the validity of (in their view) similar/analogous concepts in another Abrahamic faith.

      However, for various reasons I can see Sufism getting a much more positive reception, as discussed already.

      2. Playing Devil’s Advocate for a moment, the suggestion of that cartoon series sounds like a Trojan Horse to promote Islam in an evangelical/proselytising sense, especially as much of modern Western society is based upon capitalism. At least if the idea is “Islam versus Capitalism” rather than “A more humane version of capitalism”, or “Islam within the broader framework of capitalist society.”

    25. Steve M — on 31st March, 2006 at 11:31 am  

      Most of us can see the benefits that capitalism has brought to our society but most agree that ‘pure’ capitalism needs capping. We want capitalism but we want both a humane version of it and, increasingly, an eco-friendly version.

      The idea that we will dismount our Western systems, and replace them with Communism, Fascism, Islam or anything else is a sick joke. It ain’t going to happen and the sooner the more extreme elements of Islam realize that the better it will be for all of us.

      There is a real danger of fragmentation in our society now and any increase in Islamic extremism could be met by a rise in fascism, racism and violence on our streets. We don’t want it, we don’t need it and, to be honest, I’d be surprised if we tolerated it.

      The UK has a long history of toleration, moderation and fairness. If any society can absorb and profit (socially, culturally as well as financially) from our immigrant and minority populations it’s British society. We’ll fight our battles on the playing fields of Lords and Wembley (well ok, Cardiff) and our natural inclination is to turn to the kettle rather than the gun. However, if extremists interpret our way as weakness, if they think that our secular society can be taken over or our hard-won freedoms removed, they are making a huge miscalculation.

      I’ve focused in my previous posts above on the negative aspects of Islam because, in the light of recent and current events, that’s where it’s happening public perception wise. Western Islam must mount a strong counter offensive and they must do it now.

      Demonstrations calling for an end to ‘insults to Islam’ are not going to cut it; they just add fuel to the fire. Imans of ‘moderate’ mosques telling the BBC that ‘they’ve been moderate so far‘ (with regard to the cartoon fiasco) are similarly not good enough. No f*cking way.

      Islamic leaders must condemn all aspects of Islamic extremism. Are British Muslims tired of ‘apologising’ for extreme actions that are nothing to do with them? Tough. They must condemn them, condemn them and condemn them again. No excuses, no saying that they were ‘provoked’, or insulted, only condemnation. Violence or threats of violence are unacceptable, period. Condemn and by their condemnation isolate. Extremism is like a cancer that must be isolated and cut out.

      What else? They must reach out, to secular society, to Christians, to Hindus and particularly to Jews. For Muslim leaders to act as they have done with regard to Holocaust memorial is a fucking disgrace. Nor should they wait until they are approached by leaders of other faiths and then, in the case of Jews, refuse to form alliances with them because they fear the response of their own community. That is both weak and terribly destructive. Let’s not pussyfoot about. The problem lies within Islam and it’s the leaders of Islam who must reach out to others.

      Finally, Muslims must examine their own religion in the light of modern society and our widely held ethics and morals. Word of Allah? OK. But that was for then and this is for now. Christians and Jews no longer consider it acceptable to stone people for adultery or take an eye for an eye. Why should Muslims? Similarly the role of women within Muslim society must be reviewed and reformed.

      All religions can decide which aspects of their books they empathise and which they consign to history. All religions must.

      That’s it for now guys. You really got me going there. Perhaps I’ll come in for some criticism here for what I’ve said but I don’t give a damn. I hold these views strongly because I think that this question is vital. I believe that the alternative to the emergence of a modern Islam and the isolation of the extremists would be defeat for the extremists. But it would be a costly, horrific and bloody, bloody war. Let’s say “no” to that.

      All people are equal and must be held equal. All doctrines are not.

      Now I’d better go and put the kettle on and have a nice cup of tea.

    26. Refresh — on 31st March, 2006 at 1:37 pm  

      Steve M, calm down. Maybe we all need a cuppa.

      A deft move to ideologies with capitalism as a sign of modernity? Perhaps I shouldn’t have poked that little fire.

      The question I posed was whether - the animators (non-muslim, westerners) who came up with the concept, they had developed the idea themselves.

      So really it was more about what these animators thought. And then it would follow that view may have more supporters than we know.

      But in any case can we not get some more feedback on the program itself?

    27. raz — on 31st March, 2006 at 2:44 pm  

      Steve M’s rant really shows just how hysterical people have become these days. I grew up in the 1980′s, when the threat of nuclear war and the destruction of humanity was still ever present, and yet people were able to get on with their lives as normal. Fast forward to today, when the world is a safer place than ever, and yet a few bombs go off and people think the sky is falling.

      It’s worth noting the South Asian perspective here. Many of us on this blog hail from India or Pakistan, nations which, over the last 25 years have endured terrorism on a FAR greater magnitude than anything the UK saw last year. Despite being poor and unstable, neither of these countries has ever submitted to the will of these terrorists - all these fanatics have done is murder thousands of innocent people and shown up the futility of their causes. People in India and Pakistan have to put up with such violence on a regular basis, and yet never have the terrorists succeeeded in forcing people to give up their way of life. Really, I think the British people would do well to follow the example of the subcontinent. If a bomb goes off in India/Pakistan it’s shrugged off and forgotten within days. If a bomb goes off in London, the whole thing becomes an ‘event’, complete with saturation media coverage, hysterical ranting, etc. Hell, the bombing even gets immortalised with its own name ’7/7′. Why give these terrorists assholes such importance? Even third world countries like India and Pakistan can stand up to these bullies, so you’re telling me that the most advanced societies on earth like the UK can’t?

      It’s time to get a sense of perspective here. A bunch of backward, medieval terrorists will NEVER be a threat to the Western way of life. All these idiots can do is kill innocent people and whine about ‘persecution’. They are so pathetic and weak they can’t even subjugate poor Muslim countries, let alone the infinitely more powerful West. In any military confrontation, they get smacked down without any problem. So let’s stop this ridiculous comparison with Nazism and Communism, two of the most powerful economic, scientific and military forces the world has ever seen. We hear a lot of words about the strength of the West and its hard earned freedoms, well it’s about time that those words were put into action. A little less whining and a little more backbone please. Treat these terrorists with the contempt they deserve, instead of elevating them to mythical status.

    28. Sunny — on 31st March, 2006 at 3:52 pm  

      Though I agree with you Steve - I’m with Raz on this one.

      One of the reasons why you don’t see many South Asians hysterical about terrorism (apart from the usual suspects on all sides) is because we’ve had to endure this shit for ages.

      Varanasi - a few weeks ago a bomb went off in the holiest of Indian cities in a temple. Before, that, a bomb in Delhi just before the religious festival of Holi.

      Now granted there are tensions in India between Hindus and Muslims, there has been no outbreak of rioting or sustained paranoia like there is here. A few days after the Varanasi bombing a large group of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs etc had a candle-light vigil for peace.

      These people know their terrorists come from Kashmir or whatever. They know its not the Muslim brother next door, so why make a big deal about it.

      So Raz is right when he says:
      A bunch of backward, medieval terrorists will NEVER be a threat to the Western way of life. All these idiots can do is kill innocent people and whine about ‘persecution’.

      Hell - they’ve been trying to get Pakistan for decades now and if anything that country has become more liberal and more open! That may not last forever of course but the point is, the liberals are there… but they’re silent. We KNOW they’re there because we talk to them every day.

      That’s why when I sometimes see the hysterics on other blogs about the clash of civilisations bollocks, I always end up chuckling to myself.

      Sometimes its just not worth it to get that stressed up about it. Even HuT are a bunch of monkeys. I laughed that Dr Nazreen said the Caliphate was around the corner. They can carry on dreaming, I don’t really give a shit. But we give them more succour if we big them up into being a huge threat.

    29. Sunny — on 31st March, 2006 at 3:53 pm  

      On the flip side, I always chuckle at the Islamophobia Watch people too… they really must have high-blood pressure problems too.

    30. Steve M — on 31st March, 2006 at 4:03 pm  

      I’ve taken my medication and feel better now. Better out than in, I suppose.

    31. Sunny — on 31st March, 2006 at 4:12 pm  

      Don’t hold back Steve, that would make for a boring blog ;)

    32. Steve M — on 31st March, 2006 at 4:19 pm  

      Thanks Sunny. I have a sense that you know me better than most.

      Congrats on your budgeoning TV career btw - a fine performance by all accounts.

    33. Steve M — on 31st March, 2006 at 4:27 pm  

      ‘burgeoning’ even.

    34. Jay Singh — on 31st March, 2006 at 6:08 pm  

      Actually I think Britain is quite stoical when it comes to terrorism - thirty year bombing campaign on the mainland by the IRA, hundreds killed in London, Birmingham, Guildford, Warrington etc etc. That was the situation until only ten years ago.

      But the comparison of Islamism with communism or fascism is hysterical.

    35. Roger — on 31st March, 2006 at 8:07 pm  

      ” I grew up in the 1980’s, when the threat of nuclear war and the destruction of humanity was still ever present, and yet people were able to get on with their lives as normal. Fast forward to today, when the world is a safer place than ever, and yet a few bombs go off and people think the sky is falling.”
      Difference in what happens- with nuclear bombs, at least if we go they go too- MAD, remember? Bombs on the tube are perceived as more personally directed. It’s a matter of perspective- you’re more likely to be killed by a motorist than a terrorist, but we’ve factored that risk into our lives.

    36. Roger — on 31st March, 2006 at 8:33 pm  

      Should have added- at least if we go they go too, and they don’t want to go. That’s the problem with suicide bombers- there isn’t a deterrence.

    37. Bikhair — on 1st April, 2006 at 5:57 pm  


      “Really, I think the British people would do well to follow the example of the subcontinent. If a bomb goes off in India/Pakistan it’s shrugged off and forgotten within days.”

      British cant take an example for the subcontinent because they are British and you guys are people from the subcontinent. People have a tendency to value the lives of Westeners, particularly white Westeners more than anyone else. You can see this in the way tragedies are reported in Africa, in Asia, in the West, etc. All lives are not viewed as created eqaully.

    38. bonnie — on 2nd April, 2006 at 3:29 pm  

      hello- i just came upom your site. I find it very interesting and very on target. As a jewish american I follow all news and discussion very closely. My justified fears re the world’s events of late , however, will always be tempered and exist side by side with my fascination and respect for multiculturalism and discussion.

    39. Sunny — on 2nd April, 2006 at 5:07 pm  

      Nice one bonnie. I expect that’s how most of us here feel too.

    40. Zak — on 3rd April, 2006 at 2:43 pm  

      I liked the was practically tongue in cheek and gave out a goodmessage..the opening and closing songs had me in stitches..I wish I could download those and show them to a few people..the time slot was awful..but I think the show was a good effort..I look forward to more from you Nasfim

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