Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Channel 4 reinstate impartiality

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Magda Ali On behalf of the whole country, I’d like to thank Jon Snow


Silently, the world watches. Two worlds watch. One, a world for the first time exposed to an unseen coverage of a brutal war. The other, a world disturbed, a world that sees this coverage every day, and wonders why this coverage is only ever exposed in their world.

Channel 4, supposedly the savoir of ethical war corresponding aired the dispatches, Unseen Gaza programme last week after a disappointing three week coverage of the conflict in Gaza. Frontier Channel 4 news broadcaster Jon Snow’s attempt to uncover the realities of reporting in Gaza, attracted viewers across the nation, though probably unseen by many due to its late screening, it revealed the compromised second-rate Western coverage of the Gaza strip.

Snow compared the coverage of the conflict in the UK, with the rest of the world. It seems that the western coverage bore one similarity – it was all being covered from one hill, that hill being the hill of shame, or as some like to call it, the hill of same. As the programme unfolded, Snow argued the Muslim and Western worlds have seen two very different accounts of the invasion.

So two worlds saw two very different conflicts, think for a moment about these two worlds. It’s an epic accolade, is it not? Disregard for a moment the thousand of thoughts going through your mind. Now picture a 6 month, tainted lifeless infant, scorched to the bones. It may not be what you want to see whilst watching the news, but it is what is rampant in Gaza right this moment. A third of the death tolls in Gaza are children, though due to Western coverage of Gaza much of the British populace will not know it, many Muslims will.

In any case, before we can ever get deciding on how many dead babies on television is too many, we need to know how many there actually are. Except nobody seems to know, a number is just a number, a picture speaks a thousand words, but most news agencies are not even giving a thousand words of the story, most of the times.

First we see Al Jazeera widely watched by Muslims in the UK, the unedited bona fide horrific images coming out of Gaza have been above all upsetting for Muslims around the world.

This leads us to the real point of Snow’s critique. These are certainly difficult times for those that are exposed to the truth. Those that have access to the most scorching images, and see a vastly different account of this war from that which the average person only exposed to the filtered party lines. As Snow argued in his critique: it presents a dangerous dynamic for the future, to what extent does the choice of news outlet effect opinion of the conflict?

Well to a great extent. What’s more, this failure is due, in large part, to the fact that the Western coverage has been far too deficient, as Snow argues. In fact, the coverage, or should one say the lack of coverage of the Gaza Strip is spurring anger and frustration from many.

But it isn’t just Channel 4 getting complaints about their lack of coverage. Everyone, it appears, is petrified of the very “impartiality” penetrated within this inner circle. Because journalists are of course impartial observers, deliver the truth without any spin. Yet we see Western mediums reduced to Israeli mouthpieces, as Snow argued the Israeli PR machine is slick, their side of the conflict was constantly fed to journalists but balancing an account with Hamas’s version of events, that was impossible. At this point says Snow, the isolation of the war machine from the correspondent is almost without precedence and the first casualty has inevitably been the truth.

Snow poses an important question in the documentary that still remains: “if the world had known more sooner, would efforts to stop the conflict much earlier have succeeded?”

Snow illustrates in the documentary the absence of real reportage and exposure at the top level, which connects directly to the failure of journalism as a whole. The sheer magnitude of what exactly has been compromised and lost as a result can really only be guessed at.

The coverage of Gaza on channel 4, has been frustrating. But on this showing, Unseen Gaza has shown to be oddly impartial of a war that has been purely partial, one-sided and disproportionate. Jon Snow’s report was indeed an astonishing piece of television. Snow is good at quarrel, he doesn’t lose his cool, and he is a man who knows he’s right. In his pursuit of fulfilling his role as a journalist, he restores hope for many, that perhaps one day journalists will fulfil their roles as journalists.


Written by Magda M Ali

January 25, 2009 at 11:14 am

My love for the legend: Robert Fisk

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Robert Fisk is renowned globally as a diligent and honest journalist, one of a dying breed. For those that don’t know Fisk, he is a British Middle East correspondent for the Independent and is arguable one of the world’s most experienced and most acclaimed western reporter. He has won the British Press Awards’ International Journalist of the year honour seven times. Amnesty International and the United Nations have given awards to Fisk who speaks often at Harvard, Princeton, MIT and other prestigious American universities.


Fisk has lived in the Middle East for 30 years, has engulfed the problems of the Middle East and writes what he experiences firsthand. Robert Fisk is distinctively pugilistic and holds nothing back; never hesitates to fingerprint in stories. In his own words: “Surely there must be a way in which a reporter is honoured and privileged to absorb so much information, to express what he thinks about it.” 


I was speaking to one of my lecturers the other day, and he asked me a question about my ardour for Fisk. He asked: “What’s this love for Fisk about, is it his journalistic competence, or just because he tells you what you want to hear.” For some reason it took me quite a while to respond. Then it came to me. In many ways I would say that my admiration for Fisk stems from his journalistic dexterity, and it proliferates to his ongoing battle to expose what we all want to hear: the truth.


For every journalist to say something positive about him, there is another with a handful of negatives. Some critics complain that he is not objective and detached; he is subjective and engaged. But what exactly is wrong with that? Is the purpose of Journalism not to challenge the centres of power, and to describe with our own vividness the tragedies, injustices and viciousness of the world?


Journalists are there to make people think, Fisk lives and writes by this principle. He may not always be objective, but he exemplifies opinions that many people hold and we can agree or disagree. Fisk reports a fresh, unique and human dimension, and is not afraid to say what he really thinks; he is a profound writer and knows he is right. He may come across as being quite arrogant. Naturally, journalists are people who are insecure and have huge egos, which is a dangerous cocktail. I think a fair few good journalists are slightly arrogant – you need to be to get the story and to have the bottle to write it.


In his work, it is clear that Fisk goes to great lengths to side with the perceived victim. And what’s wrong with siding with the victim anyway? Just say you cover a rape trial, you’re not going to give equal space to the rapist as you are going to give to the victim, you’re not going to stand there impassively, and you’re going to write more about the victim and what s/he has suffered. There comes a time when journalists cannot be impartial. Of course we cannot stand in the middle, and the time has come when journalists must stand on the side of the victims and we’ve got to stand up against injustices and give a voice to people who wouldn’t ordinarily have a voice.


Orwell once said: “Telling the truth becomes a revolutionary Act.” Fisk brings this reality home. Journalists shouldn’t be completely ‘neutral’ – most journalists I have spoken to accept this. I for one don’t read his work for a “balanced” account. I read his work for his account, the account of a man who has heard both sides of the story, has been actively engaged in the middle east for 30 years and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. This is far more than can be said of the news desk team reading off the teleprompters. Sadly these very critics who condemn Fisk would like to believe that these mediums are the holy source of all truth.


Fisks work can be found on this link.


Written by Magda M Ali

January 24, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Comment, Features, Heartland

Obama needs to reach out

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The velocity of speed in which the ball of religious influence has been rolling in the American Presidential elections is quite remarkable. Temples, synagogues and churches were all part of Barack Hussein Obama’s campaign to become President of the United States, but in tandem with headline grabbing anti-Muslim rhetoric, Obama chose to steer well clear of mosques during his campaign.

 Obama cynics on Left and Right seized the opportunity to paint him as a closet Muslim. The willing mix up of “Obama” with “Osama” is for the most part, a sordid example of how a mould has transpired much of the electoral campaigns. To have to pronounce your faith, be confronted and then accused of being a Muslim, almost like a dirty, uncouth disqualifier. To feel that you must defend yourself, of the accusation by completely distancing yourself from one sixth of the world’s population is lamentable. Nothing sets back the eradication of Islamophobia more than the very president being so fiercely timid at the thought of being associated with the Islamic faith. Our times really are obstinate.

 Obama’s final sprint on the 5th of November where the whole world watched with anticipation as he was elevated the 44th president of the USA. Tears of joy in commemoration overflew onto streets on distant continents, people around the globe summoned Obama’s election a victory for the world and a renewal of America’s ability to change.

 Change was Obama’s rallying call, what he has promised and continues to promise. But change for who exactly? Obama’s apparent drawback may be his relationship with the Muslim communities in the United States, and every other continent for that matter. The reasons for the antagonism of the Democrat candidate may be multifaceted. Nonetheless, whatever the reasons, it is clear American Muslims are palpably caught in a backwash from a presidential election campaign where the false notion that Barack Obama is Muslim has been seized on by suspicion and fear of Muslims being used as a political weapon. And Obama just is not identifying himself with the Muslims in America.

Will Obama still distance himself from Muslims, even with the presidency throne? Fact is, with Obama, the issue has nothing to do with whether or not he is a Muslim, rather whether he has the courage to actively reach out to communities, who have been supportive of his pursuit in the presidential elections, albeit for the sake of community cohesion in hope that Americans respond to his intellectual integrity.

 Obama is a refreshing change from the administration America has had for the last 8 years. His diverse background might actually give him the aptitude of healing divides rather than creating them. Obama must reach out, before communities who have been supportive of him, start to think that this “change” is limited to creed and that Mr Obama will do anything necessary to get elected and continue doing it as long as it keeps him in power.


Written by Magda M Ali

November 15, 2008 at 9:41 am

My soul is not theirs to occupy

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The hardest thing in life is acceptance. An acceptance that something so resonantly significant in our hearts will never be — as it once was.  


“They can try to take over my country but my soul is not theirs to occupy.” Maha Omar points at her heart with shroud frustration and sadness. “I have no country, I’ve accepted that but I still have hope.” With those words, Maha distantly reminisced life as a Palestinian before the occupation and her sheer grief was distressing to see. The struggle for liberty for such a long time by a people is both a poignant sight to the human spirit and fatal to the universal hope for freedom. Palestine: suppressed painstakingly and progressively ruined. The human catastrophe deliberately inflicted on Gaza by western policies over the past decade is one of the great crimes of the century so far. 


Maha Omar, now 54, sat close beside me, our direct encounter and proximity in closeness had created a sense of empathy as she spoke with sorrow in regards to her life as a Palestinian. Maha was educated in Palestine, worked in Palestine, and says that she hopes to die in Palestine. I guess that’s understandable, our sense of being and our internal state is often influenced by our heritage, our place of birth and inevitably it’s where most of us wish to be deceased.


Maha Omar isn’t your typical image of a Palestinian woman. She, a mother to two children, happily married, inhabiting in an aristocratic residence right next to Westminster hall, just didn’t seem like an ordinary Palestinian. Lurking beneath this supposed secure peripheral, Maha was a woman of great grief. Her apparent “assets” had not spurred any form of console. “I’m not happy because I’m not at home. My presence might be in the Western world, but my soul is and always will be in Palestine.”


 Maha’s family were originally from Acre in what is now northern Israel. Maha migrated to the UK, four years ago with her husband and the youngest son. She had left her older son in Palestine because quite simply “he just wouldn’t budge.” Maha described her older son as a loyal and courageous man whose only predicament was his life and more importantly its vulnerability.


Maha’s son, Hashim, resided in Palestine in hope that he would be able to make a difference to his country. This hope was soon to be diminished when Maha received a call from the Palestinian authorities declaring the end to what was hoped to be the change factor of Palestine. Hashim died in shooting with Israeli troops two years ago. “My son would have made a difference to Palestine, had he been given a chance to,” Maha regretfully expressed.


And what was Maha’s reaction when she heard of her son’s death? “I did not imagine it. It was a shock. But one thing’s for sure. My son died, happy, in his country and departed from this world as a man of his word, a man of courage and a man who will be sorely missed. Which is far more than I can say for many others.”


Maha’s story – and her scorching frustration – has, until now, been undisclosed. Never before had she shared with the press, the sad reality of her state and her disillusionment as to what she considers to be just another Palestinian woman who has no power to do anything, but still envelops hope for tomorrow’s Palestine.


While all the Palestinians who have given their account of life without Palestine. Maha argued “As a first-generation Palestinian descent, I can vouch that nobody is more tired of this conflict than Palestinians. But many of us don’t have the luxury of flipping the channel or ignoring what is happening to our relatives and friends”


Conversations with Maha Omar’s family prove that the Palestinians are not only suffering in Palestine. But Palestinians are suffering right here in this very country. Suffering internally. “I wish I was still in Palestine” Maha’s younger son, Ahmed told me. He agreed that Palestine was far to fragile to live in but nonetheless to him, just like his mother, home is where the heart is. Ahmed’s grief was indeed, engraved into his face. He was a young man but looked like he was 90. ““Sometimes I’m 15 and sometimes I am 200” Ahmed said sincerely. Perhaps he meant that sometimes he’s just the little boy who happens to be having an identity crisis and sometimes he’s the ‘adult’ who, at the age of 10 endured a wretched childhood and now thinks about things that ordinary teenagers just don’t think about.


Maha’s husband, Ali Hussein, who has the mark of the Muslim prayer stone on his forehead, has been a political and religious influence on the family. “The world of justice and truth will prevail,” he says. “If I could give my life in return for hope for Palestinians and security, I would do so in a flash. But the reality is that too many people are obsessed with giving their life and it’s not doing anything for Palestinians or the country.” He says “What we need is reformation internally and our condition will never change until we change it within ourselves.”


 It remains a mystery to both me – and Maha’s family – and to many others – why a situation as severe, unthinkable, and unfathomable for citizens in other parts of the world is to be endured and accepted for the Palestinian people. As frustrating as the reality is. Maha proves that even if Palestinians are out of Palestine, Palestine is not out of Palestinians.





Written by Magda M Ali

October 10, 2008 at 8:59 pm

Posted in Features, Heartland

Dense satire dressed in the finest attire

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There is something quite quarrelsome about the Islam on Campus, Centre for Social Cohesion think-tank ‘study’. I read the report with a collective mood of ambiguity, antagonism and disorientation. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for community cohesion in regards to tackling violent extremism, but what that has to do with the headline-grabbing tactics of groups such as CfSC is a mystery for both you and I. The NUS said “This disgusting report is a reflection of the biases and prejudices of a right wing think tank – not the views of Muslim students across Britain. Only 632 Muslim students were asked vague and misleading questions, and their answers were then wilfully misinterpreted in order to fit this organisation’s own tawdry obsession with Islam.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself.


Let us look at what shapes our psyche. To insist on consistency, transparency and clarity is not a crime. The report is weak and bears no similarity to the reality of Islamic societies in the UK. Not only does the dim ‘study’ disparage the intellectual integrity of British Muslim students, it is quite simply a dense satire dressed in the finest attire.


There are 90,000 Muslim students in British universities, and the report’s findings were based on 632 of them.  Okay, lets do some math, 632/90000 = 0.007% Wait so that’s all of 0.007% of the British Muslim student populace that we’re basing a “study” on? Since when are the views of less than 1% considered the majority? I cannot for the life of me, understand how this flawed report; can have any sort of ‘credibility.’


The reality is that the diminutive extreme voices on campus have little to do with Islamic societies because they are often shunned for their extreme views. Students that join the Islamic societies are the typical, average Muslims, who joins the Isoc for spiritual enrichment, just the same as the Christians that join the CU and the like, not potential terrorist recruiters. Those of us who represent the bulk of Muslims, Christians and Jews have an immense responsibility.


Douglas Murray, director of the think tank has written a book entitled “Neo-conservatism: Why we need it” and has openly made comments such as “Abroad we must continue our work at taking the war to the terrorists. We are winning that war, and we should extend that war.”


So much for ‘social cohesion’— our times really are obstinate. The CfSC’s “study” is merely a representation of the right wing think tank and its sister think tank Policy Exchange, using the pretence of societal solidity when CfSC’s true agenda is advocating anything but social cohesion, beneath the thin coating of their virtue a rather distinct lack of integrity emerges, a synonymous with dis-integration. The report has been refuted, so much so that it no longer holds any genuine reliability. Of course, there are those who will still choose to accept this facade as justifiable, but that says a lot about their predispositions as a substitute to their adherence to apt evidences.





Written by Magda M Ali

September 20, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Posted in Features, Student life

The dangerous ideas tour review

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 Art is beautiful. Especially when performed with clarity, sincerity and passion. The dangerous ideas tour was an embodiment of these facets. Poets of different heritages, different stories and most importantly different ideas uniting for change. The title may seem a little peculiar to some. But the sub title leaves one in deep contemplation; peace, love and justice.


How can peace, love and justice be dangerous? According to the poetry slam, the answer to that question is through change. The lucid writers addressed issues of pressing interest and relevance to many. From experiences of rape victims, to near death experiences, to thought-provoking thoughts on our societal malformations. Renowned poets including  Amir Sulaiman, Poetic Pilgrimage and Warsan Shire. Travellers in both the conventional and unconventional sense. Journeys through the boundaries and norms of societal values and defending ones state by explaining that it is a necessary step in order for her to reach the full integrity of one’s soul.


Questions had began to evolve throughout the poetry slam; why do we decide to abide by society’s expectations when we’re unhappy with our position in society? Through the use of poetic prose one becomes more involved in the stories of the poets and develop almost a hunger to listen on.


Each poet had a story of their own, each storyteller able to reach inside a situation and bring out insight and meaning. Common listeners were able to identify with the poets and grasp the essence of their feelings.


The event proved that spoken word whether amateur or professional enables one to express the most troublesome, personal and difficult story in an honest and remarkable poetic prose. Our ability to ignite or defuse tension depends very much the extent to which we recognise its influence as an instrument to change perceptions.


The event ended with Amir Sulaiman and his poem entitled danger. The idea of the poetry slam was to promote dangerous ideas through poetry. Dangerous ideas that are dangerous not because they are treacherous to society but because these ideas have the ability to make a difference to this world, ideas as dangerous, powerful, potent and as immense as Peace, Love and Justice. A tool of compassionate mercy rather than a weapon of hatred. An action taken, to describe the message within. Word!








Written by Magda M Ali

June 10, 2008 at 8:26 pm

Posted in Features, Reviews

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity”

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How can one attempt to reduce a revolutionary 6000 word masterpiece of literary precision without diminishing the essence of its meaning? Here’s my attempted edited version of George Orwell’s masterpiece entitled ‘Politics and the English language.’ After reading you’ll start to realise like I did, why it’s hard to make sense of anything in our time. Ironically simplicity is one of the hardest things to teach, yet Orwell manages to do so with uncanny consistency.

Certainly there is no success in writing effectively unless one writes with simplicity. Orwell counsels to make sense and meaning to what is being said and then formulate the prose, he says to feel or picture the thought before applying its literal definition. Every word spoken can be trapped. Words are just as imitable as identity and can be twisted by those savvy enough to do so. Nonetheless it is clear that propagandas have the power to adapt and marginalise in ways that have undoubtedly surpassed Orwell’s wildest imagination. Yet we as individuals have the power to make a difference through exposing the content of our imaginations with sincerity. Here goes…

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Written by Magda M Ali

February 5, 2008 at 1:18 am

Posted in Features