Friday, January 7, 2011

Metro: Oh those ‘jahiliah’ (ignorance) years!

Posted on 7th JAN 2011
In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

Say, (O Muhammad to mankind): If ye love God, follow me;
God will love and forgive your sins,
God is Forgiving, Merciful. (Ali-Imran 3:31)

MY company held a retreat for its journalists in De Palma Hotel in Ampang on 25-26th December. During presentations of some speakers and in our discussions, among the points stressed was the emergence of Harian Metro as the highest circulation newspaper in the country with more than 350,000 copies daily.

Its Sunday publication, Metro Ahad too recorded success story with more than 500,000 copies being printed. Harian Metro hit the streets in March 1991, thus next March it would be celebrating its 20th year of existence. Harian Metro was a successs story; its circulation nowadays double that of Berita Harian, its older sister in the New Straits Times Press (NSTP) group of companies.

During my turn to give a talk about news reporting at the retreat, I mentioned briefly that I was one of the NSTP’s staff responsible for producing Harian Metro in it early stages. I was one in the team that started from zero and had to work hard to see the first Malay afternoon paper survive its early turbulence years. I remember how we worked as though there was no tommorrow; some of us started work at 4.00 in the morning and ended at 12.00 midnight.

Since it was a tabloid newspaper, what more being distributed in the late afternoon, we tried to make Harian Metro totally different from Berita Harian which was a broadsheet, including its news report dan coverage. The presentation was more relaxed and light, the reports more focused on human interest stories. We even tried to have a Page Three Girl, an idea copied from a British tabloid which featured topless model girls.

Nowadays Harian Metro is more adventurous. Its coverage is more daring; many of its stories expose the ill sides of societies especially the Malays. Several days ago I had the shock of my life when I see a front page lead story with big wordings screaming ‘Sakit bang’ (Its hurting, dear) with a strap ‘Diseksa suami ketika di ranjang’ (Tortured by husband in bed). Oh, what is becoming of the paper of which I had a share in its existence.

Twenty years later, am I proud to be part of the team that led to the existence of Harian Metro and now the magnificent magnitude of its growth or what?

Regarding Harian Metro, recently I received this posting in my e-group mail: “Eh, Mr X, the revelation that you actually go out of your way to spend ‘pitih’ (money) on that tabloid Metro is beyond me. Metro, a rag that purely specializes in the excesses of ‘Melayu’ (Malays), especially by highlighting their "sex-obsessed" natures... Am I right or am I wrong? BTW, ‘aku pun kekadang beli jugok...’(sometimes I buy it too) but for my…

“Correct me if I'm wrong. If memory serves Harian Metro was started and edited by none other than our very own Teweng aka LanH aka Roslan Hamid. I'm sure now that as the esteemed editor of ..., our bro will distance himself from that offending piece of pulp that is only fit to ‘bungkus nasi lemak’...(for wrapping cocunut cream cooked rice).

“He had falling out with the editors (NST group?) about the direction the paper was taking and left. Look to the sport pages that also publishes results of "kuda" (horse racing), Toto and Magnum (gaming numbers). Majority of the buyers are ‘Melayu’ (read: Moslems), so I suppose it doesn't sit well with his conscience for "aiding and abetting", ‘apakah jadahnya orang Melayu nak tengok result 4-D’ (for what purpose the Malays have to look at 4-D results)?”

My friend was right in saying that I was unhappy with ‘the nonsense’ that exist in our main stream media including the Malay press that paved way for me to say good-bye to NSTP in 1998. I had left but those nostalgic years or perhaps ‘jahiliah’ (ignorance) period still lingers in my mind. The question is how and what could or should I do to make up for those aimless years and silly mistakes that I had done.

In my search for a solution, I found a passage from a book entitled ‘I want to Repent, But…by Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid (International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh) very useful and helpful.

In a question and answer chapter, it states clearly what I should do. ‘Alhamdulillah’ (thanks Allah) for Your guidance. The book notes:

Question: I used to be a misguided writer, spreading secular thoughts thorough my stories and articles. I used my poetry to spread promiscuity and immorality. Then Allah SWT turned me with His mercy and guided me, bringing me out of darkness into light. How should I repent?

Answer: Anyone who used his words and his pen to wage war on Islam by spreading deviant ideologies, misguided heresies (bid’ahs), corruption and immorality, is obliged to do the following.

1. He should announce his repentance of everything he has written and publicly – through all available means – renounce his misguided writings and refute all his old ideas. Thus, his new stance will become well known, and no one be able to claim that he was misguided by the writings that he has now disowned.

This public announcement is one of the obligations of repentance in such cases, as Allah SWT says in the Qur’an 2:160, “Except those who repent and do righteous deeds, and openly declare (the truth which they concealed). These, I will accept their repentance. And I am the One Who accepts repentance, the Most Merciful.”

2. He should use his words and pens to spread Islam, expending his energy to support the religion of Allah, teaching the people about the Truth and calling them to it.

3. He should direct his energies towards counterattacking the enemies of Islam, exposing them and their schemes, and proving their claims wrong, just as he used to support them before. Thus he will become a sword in defence of the truth against falsehood. Similary, anyone who has previously convinced another person – even in a private gathering – of something ‘haraam’ (forbidden) such as the idea that ‘riba’ is not usury and is therefore allowed, should go back to that person and explain the truth to him, just as he previously led him astray. In this way, he can expiate for his previous sin. And Allah SWT is the One Who guides.

So, to readers and friends; I took the oppourtunity to admit my mistake and repented. Let us fight the evil inside and outside us such as publications that destroy the minds of the young generation.

Instead let us work hard to produce quality reading materials for all, emphasizing Allah SWT's greatness at all times by totally submitting to His laws and orders. Insya-Allah (God willing) we would be rewarded handsomely in this world and in the ‘akhirah’ (Hereafter).

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