This is a blog about social issues, be they political, economic, religious or cultural . It aims to create awareness especially on those issues that the mainstream media will ignore, and will provide useful insights on how to produce a better society. All views expressed are strictly personal.
Wednesday, 30 October 2013
(77): Killing the lice on your eyes
Kashe kwarkwatar ido
(literally translated as killing the lice on your eyes) is a common Hausa adage
which can perhaps be explained in English as satisfying your curiosity. Travelling
around the world is one of the greatest opportunities to kill the lice on your
eyes. People tend to like hearing stories about other places. This time around
my destination is Washington DC, the United States which I visited in the
middle of October 2013. It is my third visit in five years. To many people,
among the famous places to visit in order to kill the lice on your eyes would
include the White House, the US Congress etc, especially when the country was
engaged in the debate over the government shutdown. For me the most interesting
places to visit could actually be outside the famous symbols of power which we
see on our television screens almost on daily visit. In fact the best places
for me are the bookshops; where you will find series of publications, even on
topics you never think someone will write about.
a portion of the Berlin Wall displayed in the museum
Before departing for
Washington, someone posted a book review on the Nigeria Muslim Forum discussion
list. An eye catching review on a book recently released, entitled “Thomas
Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders” written by Professor Denise A
Spencer. According to Professor Spencer, “by the time Congressman Ellison was
elected and swore his private oath of office on Jefferson’s Qur’an in 2007, I
thought as a historian that I might have something to contribute”.
You might recall that
in 2007, when Mr Ellison was elected as the first Muslim into the US Congress,
there was serious controversy when he suggested that he wants to take his oath
with a copy of the Qur’an owned by former US President Thomas Jefferson, the
author of the declaration of US Independence, first Secretary of State and
third President of the United States. As someone who is interested in the study
of multiculturalism and representation of identity, this is definitely an
important literature. It is a book that explains the role of Islam and Muslims
in the evolution of the United States. But my curiosity does not end in getting
a copy of Jefferson’s Qur’an, I already have list which I was eager to
purchase, and gladly I did.
As I settled in my
hotel, and checked my email, I saw a message from my good friend Malam Habeeb
Idris Pindiga, the Editor of Daily Trust Newspaper. Habeeb was a year
ahead of me at Bayero University, Kano. He was responding to an email I sent to
him earlier. You know as a Public Relations Practitioner, you have to be
friendly to journalists, it is even much better if the journalist is already
your friend (I am sorry Habeeb, I know your paper has strict rules over brown
envelop, so let me exonerate you quickly, this is not a bribe).
correspondence we agreed to meet outside the World Bank headquarters. I told
Habeeb about the series of books I purchased, and the ones still on the line. I
knew definitely that I will learn something from him, because three years ago,
it was him and Bashir Saad Abdullahi who recommended another book to me, Flat
Earth News written by the investigative journalist Nick Davies. It is a
book I will suggest everyone who reads the news or watch television must read.
If you do, I assure you, you will never be the same again. Because it will be
clear to you how journalism has been penetrated by vested interests, and how
stories are planted in the media to mislead the public.
Do you trust the press?
But Habeeb’s gift to me
this time around, was not a book. “Have you been to the news museum?”, he asked
“No, in fact I never heard about it. In my previous visits to the US I never had
time to come to Washington”, I said. The following day we visited the News
Museum owned by USA Today. It is an important information hub for anyone who
wants to kill the lice on his eyes. There is a record on almost every important
story that happens around the world. The museum has a section that features the
front pages of other newspapers around the world. In fact, they even brought
the remains of the Berlin Wall, part of the antenna at the top of the World
Trade Centre, destroyed on 9/11/. A section is dedicated to the pictures of
journalists who died on the front line. Other sections simply feature the front
pages of key global stories, think of any?
Habeeb has mastered
this museum; he took me to every section and explained the historical artifacts
in the museum. There was an interesting quotation in the museum I found
interesting, it says in times of disaster, everyone runs away, except
journalists and emergency workers. But the one I keep thinking about was a
poster with the following bold inscriptions: CAN THE PRESS BE TRUSTED? What is