AAS Annual Meeting

South Asia Session 608

[ South Asia Sessions, Table of Contents | Panels by World Area Main Menu ]

Session 608: The Media and the Message: Muslims in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh - Sponsored by South Asia Muslim Studies Assocation

Organizer: Roger D. Long, Eastern Michigan University, USA

Chair: Theodore P. Wright, State University of New York, Albany, USA

Discussant: Theodore P. Wright, State University of New York, Albany, USA

This panel of focuses comparatively on the media coverage of a number of Muslim movements in contemporary South Asia. The first presentation, “Media and Autonomy Movements of Muslims in South Asia,” looks at the media coverage of the liberation movement in Bangladesh and compares it with the struggle for autonomy in Baluchistan and Kashmir: The second paper, “The Changing Face of an Islamic Religious Movement: Media Perspectives from India” examines the role of the media in describing the activities of the Darul Uloom, the religious seminary Deoband, and how the media has characterized its alleged relations with the Taliban in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province, particularly with regard to the its 2008 “fatwa” declaring terrorism to be “un-Islamic.” How this is viewed in the media in India by both Muslims and non-Muslims is one of the important issues examined. The third presentation, “The Media and the Politics of Trying “War Criminals” and Islamic Militants in Bangladesh” looks at how Islamist and “Islam-loving” parties of the Jamaat-i-Islami Party, dubbed “Pakistani collaborators” in the media, have been arrested for alleged “war crimes” committed in 1971. This has been widely reported both in the Indian and the Bangladeshi press and the presentation will compare and contrast their trial by media.

The Politics of Trying "War Criminals" and Islamist Movements in Bangladesh
Taj Hashmi, Austin Peay State University , USA

Since Islamist and “Islam-loving” parties – stigmatized as Pakistani collaborators in 1971 and still soft-on-Pakistan and anti-Indian by conviction – had been instrumental in installing the anti-Awami League BNP to power twice, in 1991 and 2001, and remain a formidable entity, the ruling Awami League government is determined to clip their wings by implicating them in “war crimes”. Recently the Government has arrested several Jamaat-i-Islami leaders for alleged “war crimes” in 1971 and for promoting Islamist terrorists who killed scores of Bangladeshis since the late 1990s. Some top leaders of the BNP are also likely to be arrested on similar charges. It is noteworthy that the Awami League and its allies, which had no qualms about working together with Islamist “war criminals” in the past, of late have been demanding their trial. This paper is an attempt to understand the dynamics of partisan politics and the ongoing crisis of identity in Bangladesh which are at the roots of dysfunctional governance and economic stagnation in the country.

Media and Autonomy Movements of Muslims in South Asia
Zillur R. Khan, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, USA

The paper attempts to analyze media coverage of the movement for political autonomy waged by Muslims in Bangladesh, particularly before its successful liberation struggle against West Pakistan, as well as in Baluchistan in Pakistan, and Kashmir in India. A major thrust of the paper is an exploration of randomly selected editorials on the autonomy demands underpinned by a six-point program, and the degree to which the media equated political autonomy with the political movement for freedom in its different dimensions (Mukti, Shadhinata, Sharaj, and Sthanio Adhikar) a movement of Bengali Muslims against their rulers, successfully applying non-violent, civil-disobedience strategies, first against the Pakistani military regime under general Yahya and later against the Bangladeshi military regime under General Ershad, the non-cooperation civil-disobedience movement against the Pakistani military regime was so effective that it virtually enabled the Awami League party to establish de facto government in East Pakistan under a military rule for three weeks during March 1971---a new precedent in the history of non-cooperation, civil disobedience movements. To what extent the media coverage of Baluchi and Kashmiri autonomy struggles in Pakistan and India approximate the Bengali Muslim experience will be critically examined.

The Changing Face of an Islamic Religious Movement: Media Perspectives from India
Taberez A. Neyazi, Jamia Millia Islamia University, India

This presentation will explore continuity and change in the ideological trajectory of a religious movement through a study of Darul Uloom (House of Knowledge) Deoband, an influential religious seminary situated in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India and considered next in standing only to Cairo’s Al-Azhar. Darul Uloom, established in 1866, played an important role in the anti-colonial struggle and the Deobandi clergy aligned with the Indian National Congress in their fight against British colonialism. In independent India, Darul Uloom has played a moderate role and confined its activities to imparting religious education and providing spiritual guidance to its followers. After September 11, 2001, Darul Uloom has come under the spotlight because of its alleged role in influencing the Taliban in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and in Afghanistan. In 2008, Darul Uloom issued a global “fatwa” declaring “terrorism as un-Islamic” and has been trying to build a movement against terrorism. What are the factors responsible for the changing role of a religious movement? What is the impact of the proactive role of Darul Uloom on civil society? Has it been able to persuade the Muslim community not to be swayed by militant ideology? How has the proactive role of Darul Uloom been viewed by Muslims and non-Muslims in India in the media? What are its implications for Indian democracy? These issues will be looked at in this presentation as they are addressed in the media.