Indian Muslim media of 2007
A review of English publications
By Kashif-ul-Huda, TwoCircles.net
Last year, after much contemplation, I decided to publish a review of major Indian Muslim magazines in English. Some of the people associated with these magazines appreciated the review and a neutral assessment of their publication’s strengths and weaknesses. So I will continue the tradition and present my review for the year 2007.
First thing that strikes me about the people behind these magazines is their dedication. These unsung heroes are toiling hard to produce these weeklies, fortnightlies, and magazines because they believe strongly in the profession and mission of journalism.
Most impressive is the fact that all these magazines are published on a regular basis without delay or any interruption. They cover a wide spectrum of topics and the articles presented are usually of high quality. Yes, there is a strong anti-US and anti-Israel tilt when it comes to international issues but on Indian issues their analysis and coverage are well-written and well-argued.
A regular reader of these magazines will surely appreciate the effort that goes into producing each issue but there is lots of room for improvement. Production quality can be improved; they should also try new type faces and formats to make it more attractive to the eye. Also attempt should be made to make them available in major book shops to reach a wider audience.
Another area that needs serious attention from editors of Indian Muslim magazines and newspapers is to put some resources in reporting from the field. Most of these magazines are nothing but opinion pieces and analysis articles; without reporting from the field you are letting someone else set the agenda.
Absence of field reporting cannot be explained simply by lack of resources. One example will suffice; Radiance Viewsweekly interviewed Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, editor of The Milli Gazette, when he became Mushawarat president. Radiance’s office is a stone’s throw from Mushawarat and Milli Gazette but still they chose to interview Dr. Khan through email.
The Milli Gazette should be appreciated for sending their journalist Nadim Ahmed to Shravasti in UP which saw a whole village of Muslims attacked by some upper caste Hindus. He brought valuable report along with documentary proof of the attack. Nadim Ahmed was sent again this year to cover riots in MP which landed him in the MP police custody. This shows the dangerous environment and pressure that these Muslim journalists work in but somehow continue to serve the community without much appreciation.
Also, there seems to be an obsession with either politics or religious issues. For women readers, we seem to offer nothing more than stories of women converts to Islam. Indian scholars and Islamic traditions of India find no regular place. No serious attempt to find grass root level Indian Muslim heroes.
Now let’s review individual publications. Since no other alternative was suggested to me, I will continue using the five moon ranking system that I had devised last year.
The First moon is for the publication quality, cover, design and paper, just the overall look and feel of the magazine. The Second moon is for magazines which mostly use original articles in their publications and do not copy and paste from articles floating around online. The Third moon is for the overall quality of the articles, how well the writer engages the reader, addresses the issue, and what kinds of issues are covered.
Advertising continues to be the major source of revenue for any publication, even if it has good subscription figures. For a publication to stand on its own feet it is important that it doesn't depend on the charity from some wealthy individuals but funds its expenses from the advertising revenue. It is possible that some of the magazines are financially viable through subscription dues but in the absence of any way for me to check that, I will award a fourth moon on how much advertisements they have.
Finally the fifth and most important moon is for community news. If a magazine claims to be for Indian Muslims it should have room for the community news that does not find a mention in the major media.
Magazines are listed in alphabetical order:
Eastern Crescent: = 3.0
Started in 2006, EC has made a mark for itself for its quality of articles in just two years. It covers broad range of issues that is a mix of religious issues and current affairs of India and the Muslim world. Quality of writing and choice of topics are impressive. On a business side, it has a decent amount of ad in each issue suggesting that it is in financially good position.
Islamic Voice: = 4.0
The year 2007 saw no change in the format of the Islamic Voice magazine. Of course it already looks attractive so why change it? But, abundance of advertisement on the front page gives the impression that the magazine is more concerned about revenue than readers. In fact, most of the glossy pages are for ads.
Majority of news and articles in IV are on Islamic and world issues and most of them are not original. News and articles about Indian Muslims are usually original and very good, especially written by Maqbool Ahmed Siraj and M Hanif Lakdawala. Well-written editorials add value to IV.
Probably strangest feature is that IV on every issue publishes commentary on Quranic verses written by Syed Qutub. I am not sure why they couldn’t find any Indian scholar for the same commentary. Same is the case with other publications, they have failed to find Indian scholars’ writings or show glimpses from the history of Indian Muslims. So, none of the Islamic or Muslim magazines have any way to connect their readers to Muslim India.
The Milli Gazette: = 3.0
The Milli Gazette continues to be the best in print for the community news and news makers sections for Indian Muslims. Cartoons by Yusuf published in each issue of the MG is what sets it apart from other publications. They are on current affairs and from a Muslim perspective and very well done, MG should put it in the front page. Another hidden gem of MG is ‘Speaking Out’ column by Nilofar Suhrawardy.
MG covers variety of topics affecting Indian Muslims. Advertising is an issue that MG needs to work on. A much compact magazine without the international section where most of the articles are not original will make it more attractive and useful for Indian Muslims.
Muslim India: =2.0
Muslim India started publishing again in 2006. It published for all of 2007, mostly due to single handed effort of Syed Shahabuddin. Except for Syed Shahabuddin’s editorials, almost all the content in this magazine are already published before. Still, it is useful for being a collection of articles that the editor thinks somehow advance the issues and concerns of Indian Muslims. MI regularly publishes some data on Indian Muslims.
Radiance Viewsweekly: = 4.0
Radiance saw a gain of half a moon for improving their advertising score. Their Special and Focus issues have considerable number of advertising which hopefully supports them for their regular weekly issues.
Well-written and well-argued editorials set the tone for each issue, this also indicates that much thought goes into the planning and the weekly publication is not simply a collection of articles. Special and Focus issues are dedicated to particular topic, Islamic or otherwise and are illuminating.
Radiance cover artwork is very attractive and wins full mark for creativity.
Last year we gave Nation and the World, a monthly magazine, 1. 5 moons. There is not much change in 2007 and it continues to be a disappointment.
Once again, these reviewed magazines continue to impress with the quality of their publication given very limited resources that they have to work with. Only way to make them even better is for English speaking Indian Muslims living in India or abroad to subscribe them and support them.
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