Turkey, Pakistan, and Malaysia to launch an English TV channel to fight against Islamophobia

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A trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, and his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad resulted in a decision to launch a new English language TV channel which will focus on fighting against Islamophobia.       

World leaders took part in United Nations pressers including Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who spoke out against issues concerning Palestinian Muslims:

I think it is about time that we sit down and plan this campaign to get back Palestine for the Palestinians or at the very least for them to be able to return to Palestine and reclaim all their properties there.”

The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, also addressed the issue of Islamophobia, stating: “Islamophobia since 9/11 has grown at a pace that is alarming. Human communities live together. There should be understanding amongst them. But Islamophobia is creating a division.”

In a series of tweets he said: “Misperceptions which bring people together against Islam would be corrected; issue of blasphemy would be properly contextualized; series and films would be produced on Muslim history to educate/inform our own people & the world; Muslims would be given a dedicated media presence.”

According to Anadolu agency, there was a roundtable discussion on ‘countering hate speech,’ which was co-hosted by Pakistan and Turkey. President Erdogan stated that hate speech is among the worst crimes against humanity. Khan also commented that marginalising communities could inevitably lead to radicalisation.

This new channel aims to give Muslims a more diverse media presence, however it has already been met with some backlash on social media, according to Sputnik News, with many Pakistanis believing Khan should focus on extremism instead. Many sceptics have questioned whether a media presence on this scale will prevent Islamophobia in the West,  given there are already many Islamic channels worldwide. 

“The issue is much deeper, and merely a TV channel cannot be sufficient,” said Muhammad Amir Rana, the director of Islamabad-based independent Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS). “Without a robust intellectual foundation, a TV channel would have no worth, except a reactionary propaganda tool.” But this move could still  be an interesting one with diverse countries such as these combining their resources, especially as TRT World is a dominant news force despite being a state broadcaster run by the Turkish government.

This new channel could also secure political ties between the countries, as Pakistan is keen to strengthen its relationship with Malaysia, who is sheltering controversial Pakistani Islamist preacher Zakir Naik, who is facing money laundering charges by the Indian Enforcement Directorate.

Prime Minister Imran Khan also said that Western leaders were not solely to blame for contributing to Islamophobia, as Muslim leaders had failed after the 9/11 attacks to explain that “no religion preaches radicalism.” Khan believes that he knows “how the Western mind works” when it views religion. Perhaps with Khan’s own Westernised background, he will be able to use that experience and insight to help create a channel which will persuade an audience to abandon their Islamophobic views.