Noor Tagouri’s Playboy Interview: Asking Bigger Questions

Photo credit: Gratisography

Over the last few days, there’s been quite the internet storm over the recent Playboy Renegade Spread which featured Newsy reporter Noor Tagouri.

Reactions have been extremely polarized, ranging from outright vitriol and condemnation on the one hand to blind and irrational support on the other.

While it’s easy to hop into debates like these, guns blazing, we all need to step back, assess the situation, and address the bigger issues.

But first, a gut check to the Muslims on both sides of this debate:

To all the Critics

Before you eagerly condemn a fellow Muslim’s actions, here’s a quick reminder of some pointers form our tradition when it comes to the basics of communicating dissent:

1-Judgment: You cannot judge or guess at another Muslim’s intention, and if someone clearly states a good intention, you have to believe in the sincerity of their statement.

2-Backbiting: You cannot gossip or backbite behind someone’s back or accuse them in their absence where they can’t defend themselves.

3-Verification: You cannot form and enforce an opinion based on an unverified or warped perspective or account of a bigger situation which you don’t understand.

4-Person vs. Action: While you can choose to disagree with someone’s actions, you must separate between the person and the action and can’t treat both as one and the same.

5-Oppression: You cannot oppress, harm or insult another Muslim who has done no injustice, for even if they have made a mistake, on the day of Judgment, you will be asked about your actions, not theirs.

To all the Supporters

Before you zealously defend a fellow Muslim’s actions in the murky world of Mainstream American Media, here’s a friendly reminder of some pointers from our tradition when it comes to the basics of responding to dissent:

1-Differentiation: Differentiate between defending someone’s right to choose and the actual choices they make, and do not defend both wholesale as a reactionary impulse.

2-Consequences: Do not reinforce actions such as this one that have mixed or ambiguous consequences . At best, this causes confusion, and at worst it sets the precedent for far less guided imitators.

3-Dilution: Do not mix unrelated causes and subjects with this one in an attempt to make or defend a point, this only opens up bigger debates instead of addressing the real problems we’re facing.

4-Empathy: Have the wisdom and understanding to empathize with those negatively affected or understandably confused by this move, shunning them to maintain your opinion is as bad as those who prematurely judge you to maintain theirs.

And to both sides:

It is ill advised to broadcast your opinions or stances haphazardly to everyone everywhere, for you will surely be heard, but not necessarily understood, and such a spiral of miscommunication will only cause more harm than good.

Asking the Bigger Questions:

As the Millennial Muslim generation steps up to the front lines of representing Islam in the Media, Muslim Media Professionals have to deal with a few foundational challenges.

There is a clear knowledge gap when it comes to how Muslims should approach and partake in media, especially in the western world. Due to this gap, many resort to a form of trial and error that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

Consider the a few of the many problems that Muslim Media professionals in the West deal with on a day-to-day basis:

1-Identity: The Muslim communities of the west have not yet formed a representative bottomline Muslim identity and produced a large enough pool of relevant and diverse role models to reinforce that identity. This means more confusion and less cohesion, and makes one of the fundamental jobs of Muslim media professionals -representation- much harder.

2-Industry Reference: There are no Islam-based media, marketing or journalism play books for Muslims to rely on or reference.

3-Academic Authority: There are no muslim media ethics committees or industry professors dedicated in part or in whole to media as an industry, which means there are no professional publications or courses on the matter.

4-Mainstream Media Networks: There are no mainstream media networks or infrastructures with a dominant Islamic ethos. Which means, like it or not, Muslim media professionals must either build those from the ground up (Which is already happening but will take years) or have to work within and end up partially capitulate to an existing mainstream media network’s agenda/paradigm.

5-Investment in Media: The Muslim community in the west has not yet heavily invested in media as an industry. While this is bound to happen eventually, it still puts muslims in media today at a massive financial disadvantage.

6-Narrative: Other than the near century-old Palestine narrative, or the more recent fending off of a deliberate barrage of negative “Terror” mongering, an inclusive narrative that encompasses Islam’s universal principles and unites its many communities has not yet fully matured.

To conclude, I simply wish to point out that this post isn’t for or against Tagouri’s interview, but rather it’s an attempt to identify the real challenges that Muslims in media are facing today and the opportunities that come with them.

As many young variant media outlets such as Ummahwide, AJ+, MuslimGirl, Mvslim, and many others venture in part or in whole into this unexplored territory, let us remember that, as with any new path, we are all bound to trip, stumble and fall at one step or another.

So long as we can help each other up and keep moving in the right direction, then that is when (insha Allah, :D) we get somewhere new.

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