The News Minute| October 7, 2014| 9.20 pm IST
On Monday, journalist Tufail Ahmed took to Twitter quoting headlines and articles from Urdu magazine Nai Duniya run by journalist Shahid Siddiqui, and accused Siddiqui of playing a role of a 'secular' nationalist in English but a Hindu hater in Urdu. Tufail Ahmed told The News Minute (TNM) that he did not expect his tweets would become an expose, and that his was a 'normal journalistic response.'
Ahmed says he has been following the Nai Duniya for years and was shocked to find recently that the magazine 'hasn't changed over the course of past few decades and continues to inject into Indian Muslim mass consciousness a sense of global Islamic victim hood and stereotypes that are detrimental to the interests of unsuspecting common readers.'
According to Ahmad, Siddiquiâ€™s Urdu magazine carried many headlines that were against social fabric of the country. He tweeted stories from Nai Duniya which had headlines like Taslima Nasreen is â€śShaitan ki Betiâ€ť (devilâ€™s daughter), Salman Rushdie a Shaitaan (devil), Muslims will take revenge for Ishrat Jahanâ€™s death, why is the world against Muslims and how long will you test the patience of Muslims? (with regard to the Sania Mirza daughter-in-law of Pakistan controversy).
Siddiqui told TNM on Monday," â€śFacts have been misconstrued and misinterpreted. I have been misquoted."
Tufail Ahmed's statement to TNM.
As director of the South Asia Studies Project of the Washington DC-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), it is my routine work to monitor Pakistani and Indian media outlets. However, Shahid Siddiqui's Nai Duniya weekly has been on my mind since the 1980s when I went to high school. I knew that it sells mass fears and conspiracy theories among Indian Muslims. I just googled to find out if the magazine is available on the internet.
As I went through its recent issues available on the internet, I was stunned and horrified to see that the magazine hasn't changed over the course of past few decades and continues to inject into Indian Muslim mass consciousness a sense of global Islamic victimhood and stereotypes that are detrimental to the interests of unsuspecting common readers. It is also horrifying that in one issue, the magazine went on to insinuate that the intelligence agencies of both India and Pakistan were working together to make Narendra Modi the prime minister of India and in another issue it argued that the RSS had developed an "antakwadi" (terror) plan to make him the prime minister.
Shahid Siddiqui is known as a moderate face for the non-Muslim audiences which is in direct contradiction to his image among the Urdu audiences. The articles, images and headlines he publishes in Nai Duniya as its chief editor will not be acceptable to Indian citizens if these were in English or Hindu languages. However, even a cursory review makes it clear that Siddiqui's magazine undermines the Muslim self-confidence, harms the social cohesion of India and democratic ethos of the Indian republic, and creates an intellectual environment in which jihadist viewpoints thrives.
I am convinced that the magazine is promoting divisive forces instead of helping Muslims understand the changing ground realities of India. Indian Muslims are unique in that India is the only country in which a Muslim population have had sustained democratic experience over the past half a century and more. There is absolutely no Muslim country that can match the political and religious freedoms, or economic and educational opportunities that India offers its the Muslims of India. This is an extraordinary democratic experience that no Muslim society has experienced anywhere. It is unfortunate that Nai Duniya and other Urdu media outlets continue to inject a sense of mass anger and grievance against the Indian republic and the world.
I didn't think much before tweeting. It was just a normal journalistic response. I began tweeting more like every other person present on Twitter begins to tweet. I never thought that my tweets would turn out be "expose" in the journalistic sense but it seems they were taken as expose by Twitterati because Shahid Siddique has presented a different, moderate face to the non-Muslim audiences in India in contradiction to the venomous images, headlines and articles his magazine publishes routinely. There is indeed a need for a serious study of Nai Dunya's issues over past four decades and what kind of message it feeds to Indian Muslims.