I’ll be frank, I don’t read a lot of news. I accept it is a small compliment. I’d prefer to say I am well-informed. But the burdensome truth is whenever I begin reading BBC, CBC, CNN, MSNBC or Fox News invariably I find myself pursing my lips, shaking my head and muttering inadequacies about retail vulgarity. As quickly as possible I return to whatever I was doing previously. Very often this is reading the similarly disturbing – though more illuminating – “History of England from the Accession of James II” by Thomas Babington Macaulay which registers dismally like an account of current affairs. We appear to have improved very little in the past 500 years as far as human relationships are concerned; specifically, regarding capital, power and religion.
“I PURPOSE to write the history of England from the accession of King James the Second down to a time which is within the memory of men still living. I shall recount the errors which, in a few months, alienated a loyal gentry and priesthood from the House of Stuart. I shall trace the course of that revolution which terminated the long struggle between our sovereigns and their parliaments, and bound up together the rights of the people and the title of the reigning dynasty.”
Thomas Babington Macaulay (1848)
Macaulay’s approach has been criticised by later historians for its one-sidedness and its complacency. Karl Marx referred to him as a “systematic falsifier of history”. His tendency to see history as a drama led him to treat figures whose views he opposed as if they were villains, while his approved characters were presented as heroes. Macaulay goes to considerable length, for example, to absolve his hero King William III of any responsibility for the Glencoe massacre (1692).
Today in an effort to broaden my scope I read Al Jazeera news and analysis from the Middle East.
Qatar| a sheikhdom that occupies a peninsula on the western coast of the Persian Gulf; population 2,200,000 (estimated 2015); capital, Doha; language, Arabic (official). The country was a British protectorate from 1916 until 1971, when it became an independent state. Oil is the chief source of revenue
When Al Jazeera launched from the Qatari capital, Doha, on Friday, November 1, 1996, it was the first independent news channel in the Arab world. Media in the Arab world, till then, was characterised by state-controlled narratives that denied audiences the right to know and the right to be heard. The organization is a “private foundation for public benefit” under Qatari law. While AJMN receives public funding from the Qatar government, it is considered a private company, not a government station. Despite allegations of government control, the organization asserts its commitment to editorial independence.
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Under the NEWS heading, “US & Canada News” on Al Jazeera was an essay published in partnership with the Prison Journalism Project which publishes independent journalism by jailed writers and others affected by imprisonment.
As a Muslim prisoner in the US, I worry I will be cremated when I die
I will likely die in prison, but before I do, myself and other prisoners want a process to ensure Islamic burial rites.
Located in Trenton, New Jersey State Penitentiary is the state’s only maximum security prison for men. Most are serving long sentences, many for life. Before New Jersey abolished capital punishment in 2007, NJSP was home to the state’s death row, hence its nickname, “The Last Stop”. The prison today consists of three large compounds — West, North and South — and houses about 1,300 prisoners. Approximately 400 are Muslim. Except for a few dozen, the majority are converts.
Captial punishment in Islam is traditionally regulated by the Islamic law which derived from the Quran, ḥadīth literature, and sunnah (accounts of the sayings and living habits attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad during his lifetime). Crimes according to the sharīʿa law which could result in capital punishment include apostasy from Islam, murder, rape, adultery, homosexuality, etc.
It must seem odd that my hypnotic experience after having read only a small portion of Al Jazeera was not a take on world affairs, rather the fate of prisoners. The prisoners were to me emblematic of those individuals who have to endure a horrible existence and who in the process are so often overlooked. Yes, I know, many of the prisoners have enacted dreadful crimes. It is not for them I have any sympathy; but I think each of us knows there are people in prison who did not commit or collaborate in the crime of which they are accused; or the so-called crime is one which harms no one but is instead a product of religious, political or cultural assassination. To that extent Al Jazeera was a reminder that we can quickly become isolated from the needs of others. Furthermore the exposure to alternate expressions of existence are both stimulating and enlarging. Anything that can be done to strengthen intellectual depth is in my opinion positive. I am not one who for example promotes the abolition of printing presses. Nor do I counsel the abuse of entitlement to free speech. But certainly having the wider picture of human activity removes the substance of legal entitlement from unscrupulous to ingenuous.
Al Jazeera is a place that lights the darkest shadows and gives the voiceless a voice. Our mission is to deliver captivating content to the world, which informs, inspires and entertains, through our talented, creative and spirited people.
Al Jazeera pioneered a new paradigm for in-depth journalism that was relevant to its audience, giving them a broad and deep perspective on regional and international affairs, putting the human being directly at the centre of the news agenda. The Channel’s founding tagline, “The Opinion and the Other Opinion”, encapsulated bringing multiple angles to a story, informing and empowering its audiences, championing their stories, while maintaining the spirit of journalistic integrity.
Al Jazeera introduced what came to be known as the “Al Jazeera Phenomena”. It was a turning point in the history of Arab and global media that inspired academics and researchers to study and analyse this phenomena for years to come. Al Jazeera is now one of the largest and most influential international news networks in the world.