The media has the capacity to shape public opinion and change public perception on critical issues. Nonetheless, the primary goal of the media is to inform, criticize and educate the recipients (public) on different subjects rather than exploit the sentiments of the public with the intent of deriving commercial and political gains.
Journalism, which is a core element of the media, is a discipline of collecting, verifying, analysing and presenting the stories in a fair and neutral manner to the public. While global media plays a major role in providing timely information and knowledge on current affairs using modern technology; the misuse of technology is also crossing the ethical limits of journalism.
Exposure to faiths, cultures and other elements of human sociology through global media and social media have demolished the territorial boundaries among people of different backgrounds. In this multimedia age, the digital contents of the media are playing an imperative role in societies through breaking news, attracting stories, and talk shows. The revolutionary change in the media industry, means that a journalist can make a difference on critical issues and sensitive matters through their professional work.
In this situation, what is the role of journalists, writers and academics? It is commonly these groups work in the common interest of the public which is the pursuit to live peacefully and respectfully with others.
Therefore, it should be the role and responsibility of journalists that, when they write stories, especially related to someone’s faith, extreme care must be taken in investigating and validating the contents of the stories. Any content that may create high ratings and profit for media outlets but create unrest among the public should morally have no excuse to be published.
Talking about Halal food, I find Muslims in the western world, like in Australia are confused about the authenticity of available Halal products due to opinionated or interpretational difference between Islamic leaders representing different sects and ethnicities. On the other hand, a common Muslim looks for knowledge on Islam as genuine, simple and according to Quran and Sunnah.
In this context, journalists, writers, and academics within the Islamic world have more responsibility to work closely with religious leaders and scholars and convince them to come out and provide messages of unity and harmony on divisive matters especially issues related to Halal affairs.
They can play a vital role in providing valuable service to the Muslims and everyone through publishing information like interviews of Islamic scholars, knowledge-based articles, reporting on Islamic/Halal events and other such content especially in cyber space.
The word Halal however, isn’t limited to aspects of eating alone. Islam as a religion has principles to conduct every act of life from eating, drinking, washing, dressing to the activities of businesses and professions. Thus, activities like banking, financing, loan, insurance, and superannuation must be according to the Islamic Sharia, that is it must be halal.
Muslim writers, journalists, and academics can play a leading role in creating awareness on the importance of Halal practices based on facts and figures. Subjects like interest free superannuation, interest free house loans, and financing are required to have prominent space in the media so that the people have more knowledge and adequate information on them.
Periodicals should include interviews and articles of Islamic Scholars and Muftis on Halal Products & Services. The Islamic satellite TVs should hold debates and talk shows on Halal affairs.
More efforts are required by the Halal industry players, Islamic scholars and academics. They should work closely, establish communication with their local governments and related authorities to form a regulatory body. As I mentioned, in Australia, there is no regulatory body that can assess and issue a permit to Halal businesses.
In Australia, there are many Halal Certification bodies operating, some are prominent and some not but they all are running under various Islamic organisations and groups. Yet, their output is limited to only Halal certification dealing with Halal meat and food.
These certification bodies need to do more work focusing on educating common Muslims about Halal and Haram and educating non-Muslims why Halal is obligatory to Muslims and Halal is not harmful to non-Muslims.
Syed Atiq ul Hassan based in Sydney is an international journalist, writer and editor-in-chief, Tribune International Australia. He is the founding director of Halal Expo Australia and International Halal Conference Australia.