We Must Make Film and the Media Work for Us
  • Sun, 01/19/2014
Printer-friendly versionSend to friendPDF version

The Muslim world is a long way away from making films and television programs that can compete and make an impact on the international market.

However, even work that falls short of the mark can have a positive effect. Dramatic works with a marked national, historical, or cultural dimension can provide a refreshing alternative to what is on offer, even if its quality is somewhat lower than what the international film industry provides. At least it would be something positive, something to counterbalance the one-sided situation we presently see.

The controversies from an Islamic legal standpoint and the rulings pertaining to drama will continue unabated. They will serve to critique, concur with, censure and influence the production of Muslim dramatic works. However, these controversies should never result in bringing Muslim drama to a standstill, waiting indefinitely for a resolution to every question before anything can be done. There are those who believe that all drama is unlawful, since they see it as constituting a kind of lie. This was the opinion preferred by Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Baz. We must acknowledge that on this opinion, even stories and novels are prohibited, unless they accurately recount true historical happenings.

His view is at odds with the opinion of the majority of Muslim legal scholars who see drama as lawful in principle, but who differ widely on what they consider to be appropriate. They do not regard fiction as constituting a lie, since parables and hypothetical examples are not lies. The context makes is what matters.

The controversies will continue, and we should not try to silence them. Nevertheless, life is moving forward in economics, politics, technology, communications, and electronics on a vaster scale than the Islamic legal scholars are addressing.

It is possible to make corrections even after works are produced. Development, improvement, and the dynamics of choice are continuous processes. Abject refusal, on the other hand, produces nothing. Disparaging the present state of things does not provide any alternative, and an alternative is what we need.

We do not need people’s unanimous agreement before getting to work. There will always be conflicting views. There will be those who prefer to close all doors, while others will see those doors wide open. They will want to make a positive contribution rather than sit around and complain about what they do not like.

Debate is fruitless if it does not lead to any practical outcome, at least a call to virtuous work. The great jurist al-Shātibī said: “There is nothing in Islamic Law to attest to the value of questions with no practical value.”

Likewise `Umar said: “Speaking the truth without acting upon it brings no benefit.”

Our drama need to respond to the changes taking place in our societies . They must address the dreams aspirations of the people. Our media must provide positive a positive record of every aspect of people’s lived reality, both through its artistic productions and its journalism. The individual life needs to be depicted and its genuine problems need to be presented.

The absence of this kind of work is one of the reasons our people are so easily deceived and led astray by the media. The most despicable people are presented as being the best, sincerest representatives of our societies. Those who are decent and true are depicted as terrorists, belligerents, imbeciles, and backwards. As long as religious people are presented in such a distasteful guise, as the brunt of jokes and ridicule, our societies will have problems.

Even the principles of faith and decent moral values are disparaged by media productions that are viewed by millions, many of which simultaneously present the Western way of life in the most glowing and appealing terms.

We will not succeed in reaching the people of the world with our point of view, nor of changing their negative stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs, nor of correcting the gross misrepresentations of our history, unless we break into the global film industry and commit our money and our best talents to it. This is better than squandering our money on futile advertising campaigns that barely affect the most impressionable of people.

It is possible that a lot of people will abandon negative social customs and bad personal habits if they see the ugliness of such things presented dramatically in a quality television production. It might otherwise be impossible to convince them to change, or to even acknowledge their bad habits in the first place.

The world today is one great video screen that every young person keeps in a device in their pocket through which they reach whatever and whoever they want.

Will we be able to put the imprint of our beliefs and heritage on it and communicate our beliefs and values through it? Can we convince our own children at least, even if we cannot convince others?