Year by year the many ways of communicating with others, both friends and strangers, increases and become easier. Likewise the media has an increasing impact on our lives, to the extent that it can now introduce serious and challenging problems. I want to talk about four areas, that are increasingly overlapping:
- The Television
- The Internet
- The Mobile Phone
- The News
Surat anNur, 24:30-31 – “Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what they do.”
and in the next ayat:
“And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed”
Here I’m talking about video content designed for mass consumption. Until recently this has almost exclusively been viewed in the home through the television, but this content is now available through many other channels such as the internet and mobile phones. It is largely paid for by advertising (the content producers and broadcasters are selling eyeballs to the advertisers) or by subscription or tax (such as in the UK with the TV licence).
With the many changes in attitudes in recent decades, firstly in the sixties with the so called ‘sexual revolution’ and more recently with the widespread consumption of pornography, the images and story lines being presented to us are further and further from Islamic norms. If we allow ourselves to consume a steady diet of this type of programming we become accustomed to such debased material and our standards can, internally, sink to the same level.
On a more mundane note, but also very serious, we can end up wasting large amounts of time in front of these programmes, gaining no benefit whatsoever.
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
“Take benefit of five before five:
your youth before your old age,
your health before your sickness,
your wealth before your poverty,
your free-time before your preoccupation,
and your life before your death.”
My advice regarding the TV and related programming:
- Try to watch less and less TV, replacing it with reading. The ultimate goal is to stop watching these types of programmes altogether.
- Avoid watching programmes that contain sexual content – this information is now available in the TV guide so use it.
- Be very conscious of the younger members of the household, you’re giving tacit approval to them of the behaviour that you sit and watch on TV for entertainment. It’s no good condemning something to them and then paying rapt attention to the bad behaviour on the TV that you condemned before.
- Don’t watch the adverts – I achieve this easily by only watching recordings on a PVR where I can skip the adverts with the touch of a button. If you can’t do that the turn off the volume when the adverts are running. It’s amazing how the effect of the advert is reduced when there is no sound.
We all know the obvious dangers of the internet.
- Marriages have broken up when spouses create new relationships on the internet with strangers they have never met physically. Men and women in particular can mix much more freely and easily, and inappropriate emotions can develop unexpectedly. Chat rooms and instant messaging make illicit communication simple and quick.
- The internet is choc-a-bloc with images that are totally forbidden for a muslim to view. It is so prevalent on even ‘everyday’ web sites that it is very easy to become accustomed to seeing men and women in many states of undress, and ultimately become totally mentally saturated and desensitised to these images.
There are other privacy related dangers too:
- All the web sites that we visit, and searches that we conduct, are stored by the ISP for a few years, in case the police request access to it. You can be prosecuted now for simply reading some material, and what you viewed can be taken out of context and used against you, especially if you are a muslim.
- Such data is also routinely intercepted by GCHQ and the NSA, together with, no doubt, numerous other spying agencies. Some of the largest data centres in the world are maintained by these people.
- As we know from the PRISM scandal much of our data such as private emails that we trust to Google, Apple, Microsft, Yahoo etc., is available to these same agencies. The SSL certificates of these organisations are almost certainly known to the main spying agencies, meaning that even when we are supposedly engaging in encrypted transactions (where the URL starts https:// instead of http://) the spying agencies can read it clearly.
- Social media posts on sites such as Facebook can’t be really deleted and can prove a source of future embarassment, or even can cause problems with future employment as prospective employers seek out your social media postings.
My advice regarding the internet is:
- Protect everyone in the family from inappropriate browsing and chatting on the internet by keeping the main internet device such as the PC in a place such as the lounge, where doors are not closed and the whole family can see what is going on. The default policy for waht we do on the internet is Public – we should not be ashamed for anyone to see what we have said or (harder) seen on the net.
- Don’t maintain email or messaging accounts that your spouse cannot see. Keep these easily viewed by the spouse, and it protects you and your spouse from even thinking about sending inappropriate messages.
- Install plugins such as AdBlock and FlashBlock that cut out adverts, both static and dynamic. The web site will load much more quickly too. You can also disable the loading of all images if you wish.
- Think very hard before posting social material on the internet, could it pose a problem or be embarrassing to anyone now or in the future?
The Mobile Phone
- The mobile phone, or smart-phone, has become a route to the TV programmes and internet activities such as chat and messaging that I have already mentioned. Because the phone can be carried to private places it presents all sorts of dangers. Be alert to those for yourself, spouse and children. One brother said to me, when I warned him about it, ‘but muslim kids wouldn’t do that!’. I don’t agree that being muslim gives us invulnerability to such things, so be vigilant, particularly for ourselves.
- There are also the same privacy issues as with PCs on the internet. Recently it was discovered that software called CarrierIQ was secretly installed by mobile phone operators (on over 140 million phones) which can send all sorts of private information (user keystrokes, telephone calls, text messages) back to the carriers (http://www.engadget.com/2011/12/01/carrier-iq-what-it-is-what-it-isnt-and-what-you-need-to/)
“O you who believe! if an evil-doer comes to you with a report, look carefully into it, lest you harm a people in ignorance, then be sorry for what you have done.”
We should be aware that the western media tends to pick up stories about muslims, and then casts an anti-Islamic stance over the story.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the news (as excellently expressed in the original article http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/apr/12/news-is-bad-rolf-dobelli) :
- News misleads – A car drives over a bridge, and the bridge collapses. What does the news media focus on? The car. The person in the car.
- News is irrelevant – Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business.
- News has no explanatory power – Will accumulating facts help you understand the world? Sadly, no. The relationship is inverted. The important stories are non-stories: slow, powerful movements
- News is toxic to your body – It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones (chronic stress)
- News increases cognitive errors – News feeds the mother of all cognitive errors: confirmation bias
- News inhibits thinking – Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes.
- News works like a drug – As stories develop, we want to know how they continue. With hundreds of arbitrary storylines in our heads, this craving is increasingly compelling and hard to ignore
- News wastes time
- News makes us passive – News stories are overwhelmingly about things you cannot influence
- News kills creativity – Finally, things we already know limit our creativity. This is one reason that mathematicians, novelists, composers and entrepreneurs often produce their most creative works at a young age