Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Religious Satellite Channels: Closure is Not a Solution | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Anger, hatred, depression, and bewilderment or – at best – sadness and confusion.

These are the feelings that we most usually experience upon watching the bulk of Arab religious satellite channels.

Sunni – Shiite, Christian – Muslim, moderate – hardliner, Arab – Jew, and believer – non-believer; these are just some of the long list of divisions that we use to divide ourselves from others, rejecting them and labeling them as infidels, rousing the emotions of ordinary people, even with regards to the simplest and most ordinary issues in life.

In this digital age, takfirist ideology is completely deficient, for it is clear that this is an era in which nobody is able to monopolize the truth. Even if the isolationist content of religious satellite channels are harming us, this is nothing compared to the religious and doctrinal conflict that is taking place on the internet, especially in light of the fact that this reflects the sentiments of millions of people in the Arab world, and these sentiments are expressed in a more indelicate and direct manner [on the internet] than they are on religious satellite channels.

There has been much talk about religious satellite channels at seminars, debates, and symposiums.

The Egyptian authorities recently shut down a number of religious satellite channels claiming that they were inciting sectarian conflict, which was a step that provoked widespread debate.

Is shutting down religious satellite channels, websites and internet forums, in addition to monitoring mobile phone text messaging, the right way to combat this phenomenon?

The answer is clearly, no.

Closing down or banning [religious satellite channels] will not resolve this problem.

The chaos that has erupted in cyber space and on our television screens is a direct result of a phenomenon that we accepted and allowed to prevail over the past decades.

It has been said that these religious satellite channels have fueled sectarian and doctrinal conflict, and there may be some truth in this claim, however these tensions existed before the launch of satellite television which has only helped us to recognize this unfortunate state of affairs.

These religious satellite channels only reflect the fragile nature of our current political and social situation otherwise how could such channels manage to manipulate – or indeed obtain – an audience in the manner that they have been able to? This would be inconceivable unless democracy and civil principles in our world were in such a weak state.

We have collectively allowed disunity and disharmony to prevail in our countries until interaction and communication between one society and another, or one country and another, has become weakened to this degree.

In some of our countries, political practices were established on religious grounds in a manner that contradicts the principle of citizenship, for political Islam is still unclear with regards to dealing with non-Muslims. Our countries continue to ostracize minorities and fail to recognize women’s rights, however despite this we are now trying to guard against satellite television channels that numerous countries have turned a blind eye to, or even benefited from in some cases!

Sedition will not disappear with the closure of these satellite channels, even if all of these channels are closed down. However those who turned a blind eye to the streams of fatwas and heresies that prevent people from thinking clearly and critically, and which strengthened fanaticism and hatred, are more accountable than the satellite channels themselves.