Winning the Public Mind: A Study of the Sabili?s Xenophobic Discourse and its Impact upon the Readers

Diskusi rutin ?Forum Rabu CRCS dan ICRS? yang akan diselenggarakan pada hari Rabu, 6 February 2008, akan mengangkat tema ?Winning the Public Mind: A Study of the Sabili?s Xenophobic Discourse and its Impact upon the Readers?, dengan pembicara Maufur, M.A.. Diskusi akan dilaksanakan di Gedung Sekolah Pascasarjana UGM, lantai 3, ruang 306, jam 13:00-15:00.

Dibawah ini merupakan abstrak dari tema yang akan dipresentasikan: Winning the Public Mind: A Study of the Sabili?s Xenophobic Discourse and its Impact upon the Readers By: Maufur

On June 30, 2006, Human Right Council (HRC) declared a resolution to strengthen and update international standards against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other related intolerance. According to this declaration, religious group are among those that require special protection (The Jakarta Post, October 31, 2007). This is reasonable given the fact that religious intolerance and xenophobia is in increase in some parts of the world after the September 11, 2001. In Indonesia, religious xenophobia, which is the basis of the culture of intolerance, in many cases took its manifestations in violence against religious minority, the religiously ban of pluralism and also the sentiment of anti-West. As war against religious xenophobia is launched and intensified by the government and some activist Muslims, the discourse of intolerance seems to be a common pattern of the publications of many religious organizations.

The global politics that gives a sense of victimization among many Muslim communities give basis for xenophobia. The discourse of religious antagonism, intolerance and xenophobia is especially more apparent in the growing number of Islamist publications in Indonesia. Using mass media is one of the strategies of those Islamists group in spreading their Islamic propaganda to win public public mind. Granted with the freedom of press, Indonesian Islamists groups expand their media components. The Majelis Mujahidin (Mujahidin Council) revive its past banned Al-Risalah magazine, HT is currently preparing a daily newspaper to add it other types of publications (bulletin, magazine, journal, website, book publishers), not to mention many other book publishers, which do not affiliate with any Islamist groups, but propagate radical voices.

The fall of the New Order government 1998, which impacted on the easiness to get Media Publication License (SIUPP) gave an advantage for some Islamist group. Therefore, it is not difficult to find in the magazine shops along the streets Islamist magazines or tabloids whose contents are dominantly occupied with exclusive and xenophobic discourse. The successful story of some Islamist media seems to have broken up the assumption that Islamist media, which are fundamentalist and exclusivist in character, are not marketable.

Among those Islamist media is Sabili which, as it is claimed by its website based on the 2002-2003 Indonesian ACNielsen survey, has been successfully grasped about a half million readers spreading mostly in Indonesia and overseas ( ?The News of Hatred?, which is characterizing the Islamist media (Agus Sudibyo et al, 2001) is coloring almost every pages of Sabili magazine. It is not difficult to find in it how other religions outside Islam, particularly Christianity and Jews, and the West (America in particular) are presented as ?the enemy of Muslims? and accordingly are religiously worth to be fought (jihad in the connotative sense of the term, i.e. religious war). This is interesting to me for magazine like Sabili which disseminates ?the news of hatred? are welcomed very well by the people and gaining more and more readers. Moreover, as the Indonesian ACNielsen showed us, most of the readers are those who are in teenage ages, 15 ? 34 year-old (87%). Therefore, the question this research is going to answer is what are the narrative discourses the Sabili magazine develops that it appeals largely the interests of the readers? To what extent the readers accept those discourses? The objective of this research is to examine the extent to which the ideology of radical Muslims (i.e. religious xenophobia) gives an impact upon the public. Answers to this question will help to explain the strategy of the Islsmist groups to win public mind. By studying both the content of the Sabili magazine and the perception of the readers on it, this research attempts to identify the typical narrative discourse developed by the radical Muslims and at the same time, the perceptions of the readers upon them. Since media is a significant factor in building images and stigma, knowing the narrative discourse of the Sabili and also the perception of the readers will help us to make a counter-narrative discourse presenting Islam in more moderate and original images.


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