Tunisian and Egyptian experts push for balanced religious message
By Mona Yahia for Magharebia in Tunis – 18/02/09
At the conclusion Tuesday (February 17th) of a joint Tunisian-Egyptian seminar in Tunis entitled "Religious Information and Challenges of the Era", participants highlighted ways to improve religious programmes to provide balanced discourse to combat extremism.
Experts proposed offering training to producers of religious programmes, and equipping satellite networks with talent capable of keeping young people away from fanaticism and promoting rational criticism and thought.
Over the course of the two-day conference, participants tackled a number of topics like "The Image of Islam in Written Religious Information", "The Impact of the Ideological Dimension in Religious Programmes", "Religious Thinking in Arab Satellite Channels", and "Areas of Divergence in Addressing Religion on the Internet".
Dr. Touraia Snoussi of the Institute of Press and Information Science in Tunis said that the Arab world's 43 public and private satellite networks devoted to religious programming do not present a uniform Islamic discourse.
Snoussi called for a revitalisation of the mechanisms of religious discourse, engaging people more actively with a message more closely related to people's concerns.
Tunisian Minister of Religious Affairs Abou Baker Okzouri called much of the Arab world's religious programming "absurd, with the backward and abominable fatwas they deliver".
In an address entitled "A Glimpse on the Intellectual Background of Western Prejudices on Islam", Egyptian Waqf Minister Mahmoud Hamdi Zakzouk stressed the need to support Islamic research centres and to promote co-ordination between them and Arab mass media, in order to produce enlightened religious discourse.
Zakzouk also sought greater co-operation between Arab media and the Arab League, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and the Federation of the Universities of the Islamic World.
Dr. Mohammed Fehri Chalbi, General Manager of the African Centre for Training of Journalists and Communicators, delivered a lecture entitled "Religious Information in the Tunisian Press".
At the start of his address, he said the religious message published in the Tunisian press is based on moderation and tolerance, which are two deeply-entrenched values in Tunisian society.
Tunisia broadcasts Hannibal Elferdaws and Radio Zaytouna, which first went on the air in September 2007.
Mohammed Saker Materi, owner of Radio Zaytouna, said that allowing his radio station to go on air "underlines a keen desire to give the utmost attention to Islam".
Materi concluded by saying Tunisia strives to provide "fruitful dialogue and interaction among cultures and civilisations".
At the end of the seminar, attendees laid down the initial framework for a future meeting of Waqf and religious affairs ministers and media in the Islamic world, to be held under the auspices of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO).
Subscribe to our newsletter and get Magharebia's latest articles delivered to your inbox.