Strength and weakness is often dependent on perspective. The world witnessed the inauguration of Barak Obama as the 44th President of the United State with enthusiasm and hope after enduring the Bush years filled with darkness and arrogance. With the new president, his biggest strength maybe seen as his biggest weakness. Obama takes office as an outsider and a new voice. With a new perspective, he brings a breathe of fresh air to Washington ready to “change” the direction of our nation. However, his lack of experience can be seen as weakness and may suggest that his new approaches maybe a reflection of his naivety rather than a well thought-out executable plan to regain America’s glory. Hence lies the importance of perspective and the framing of arguments an art in the media that is often applied to perpetuate opinions and influence conversation.
Muslims as members of an open and democratic society are not only privileged but in many ways obligate to present a perspective and to enhance the multicultural and pluralistic smorgasbord that our society aims to be. There are several ways to perceive the multiviews presented in the media. The first, a cynical view, emphasizes that conversations in our society is constantly being controlled by a group of people through the media with an agenda to advance their selfish aims. Different views are in constant competition in the evolutionary sense and “you kill or be killed.” To “win”, you have to out compete your competition. Here winning can be defined as eliminating different perspectives by either overwhelming them or undermining them. An example would be the Gaza crisis. There were groups in the US who wanted to drain out the Palestinian voice and only present the Israeli side. The Israel perspective out competed the Palestinian perspective and therefore a lopsided presentation of the situation flooded the media. The second view, or optimistic perspective, is that conversations in our society are enhanced by participation and that diversity of views influence the conversation irrespective of their impact. Different perspectives enhance the conversation in general and there are no winners or losers but more informed participant. Everyone wins with diversity and lack of diversity is to the detriment of society. The model in biological sense is more like an ecosystem. The more diverse the ecosystem, the more likely it will thrive. Each component of the ecosystem contributes uniquely to it. Using the Gaza crisis, although those supporting the Israel perspective flooded the media with their view of the crisis, it could not overwhelm those supporting the Palestinian perspective because it made an impact on the conversation.
Both of these views, would suggest that Muslims need to participate in the media. From the first view, we have to heavily invest to compete with those who would like to present our religion incorrectly. Similarly, our participation in the media will have an impact irregardless of the effort, so no one has an excuse not to participate.
Investing in student media is like investing in seeds that will produce fruits, rather than buying the fruits. Although, it takes time, nurturing and resources to maintain, our community will benefit exponentially when harvest time comes around.