A quarter of a century represents a whole generation. In the world today, advanced technologies have brought a complete revolution in the way people relate and obtain information. The speed of communication and social change has accelerated so quickly in the past twenty five years with the advent of the internet and mobile phones that were only beginning to emerge in 1989. Since then the social media has come of age. In its own field, The Muslim News has been pioneering. It has not only defied all odds to survive but more so, it has stuck rigidly to its original aims.
It cannot be denied that it has been a struggle, being run on a shoestring budget, largely depending on volunteers to retain independence free from corporate influence. With so many difficulties in the newspaper industry, it is a priceless achievement to reach a readership of over 150,000 people from a diverse range of communities and to become the country’s top ethnic minority paper. In addition, over a million and a half hits per month on The Muslim News website has shown just how valuable it is as a news source for so many people from around the globe.
Its record has spoken for itself becoming the leading source of news about British Muslims and continues to do so with rigid objectivity and independence, without favour or fear. Its content has proved vital reading for people in Government and politics as a voice of Muslim communities in the UK. Its uniqueness has been to report original stories neglected by mainstream publications and often providing scoops later picked up by the rest of the media. The paper has influenced politicians, Muslim leaders and community and policies.
When The Muslim News was established in 1989, the British Muslim community was undergoing a watershed moment in its history. Muslims started identifying themselves as a faith community, so did the paper and became a rallying point of the community. For the first time, British Muslims became the subject of the national conversation following the controversy surrounding the publication of the book, The Satanic Verses. Yet that discussion took place without a Muslim voice – the community was defined by others. Muslims were helpless in determining their own discourse, to discover their own priorities and develop their own narrative.
Enter The Muslim News. It became the voice of the Muslim community during challenging times. It was an authentic, grassroots initiative to help the community to identify its own story on its own terms. Renowned for its campaigning, it has placed principle before dividends, funded almost entirely by the goodwill of contributors working for free, as well as a small advertising revenue stream. Its strength is in it being fair, frank and honest to its readers on all subjects and under whatever pressure
The spirit of The Muslim News was spelt out in its first editorial “to provide a forum, a medium, to convey the progress of Muslims to draw experiences from others, and to allow the community to grow and develop from within.” It has been unhindered by narrow agendas and sectional interests, going out of its way to recognise and narrate the British Muslim community in all its diversity. It is non-sectarian and non-partisan and it recognises the community’s wide and shared experiences.
Since 1989, it has reported the highs and lows of the Muslim community. Whether it is the numerous cases of Islamophobia that affect the very real lives of Muslims, or the multitude of Muslim success stories that wider society refuses to acknowledge, The Muslim News often has been the first and only newspaper to tell the story of the Muslim community as it is. Many of its stories have been used by academics writing about British Muslim experience and development.
From campaigning for State funding for Muslim schools to holding the Government to account as it introduced draconian anti-terror laws, it has been a focal point for action within the community and beyond. The positive change it has sought goes well beyond the published pages of the paper and its extensive web site. Since 2000, it has also organised The Muslim News Awards for Excellence, which has become a major feature in the British Muslim calendar, celebrating the contributions of British Muslims to the society. With a view to fostering a sustainable community, it has also organised dialogues between young people and policy makers. Hundreds of young people have done work experience in The Muslim News who later have gone to work in other media and non-media institutions. Additionally, since 2001, it has been pioneering in promoting the role of Muslim women in sport at national and international level.
After twenty-five years, The Muslim News continues to be distributed freely throughout the country, with a growing subscription base and is essential reading for those who wish to sample the pulse of the community. It is humbled yet proud of its achievement as a truly independent newspaper of record.