One of Dr Kalim Siddiqui's key objectives after the Islamic Revolution in Iran was to help to turn the idea of the global Islamic movement, which he had hypothesised even before the Revolution took place, into a functional reality. This depended, he realized, on facilitating contact, communication and the exchange of ideas between Islamic movements and activists all over the world.
The World Seminars that the Muslim Institute convened in London in the 1980s were designed for this purpose. He and other members of the Muslim Institute, notable Zafar Bangash, also traveled the world attending local conferences, addressing meetings, and establishing contacts. However, the reach of such personal contact was obviously limited.
In an age before the Internet, therefore, the key instrument of this work was the Crescent International newsmagazine, published from Toronto. This had been established as a local community paper in the 1970s, and by the end of the decade, was edited by Zafar Bangash, a member of the Muslim Institute preparatory committee in London, who had moved to Toronto after completing his studies.
In 1980, Kalim Siddiqui proposed that the paper be converted to an international 'newsmagazine of the Islamic movement', and over the next few years, Crescent became essential reading for Islamic movement activists around the world. Even today, over 30 years later, many activists of a certain age remember Crescent as a key influence shaping their thinking in their youth.
Produced by a small editorial team led by Zafar Bangash, under the guidance of Kalim Siddiqui, Crescent International published incisive current affairs analysis charting the impact of the Islamic Revolution on the rest of the Muslim world, and the West's response to it. It was also the first platform for the publication of many of Kalim Siddiqui's own writings. Annual compilations of its articles were published as 'Issues in the Islamic Movement', every year from 1981 to 1988. An Arabic edition was published under the name al-Hilal al-Dawli, and the same team also ran a news syndication service, under the name 'Muslimedia' for several years.
Despite the radical changes in the news and information landscape brought about by the internet revolution, Crescent International continues to be published to this day, as a monthly magazine, still promoting a global Islamic movement perspective on current affairs based on the ideas of Dr. Kalim Siddiqui. It also has a major web presence, with a newly added section, daily news analysis.
It is now managed by an editorial team consisting of Zafar Bangash (who is also now Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought - ICIT), Imam Muhammad al-Asi and Afeef Khan.
We are a magazine that attempts to reflect the global Islamic movement's perspective on current affairs through deconstructing imperialism, exposing shallowness of relativist/secular and materialistic thought and confronting oppression within the Qur'anic legal and philosophical framework. Nothing more, nothing less. We are a publication not working within the secular/Western narrative of what journalism should be.
We refuse to be taken in by the Western academia's narrative of simplistic explanation that all journalism should be a 50-50 affair, similar to covering a soccer match.
Our understanding of journalism is perhaps best reflected by veteran journalist Robert Fisk who eloquently stated, "We must be neutral and unbiased on the side of those who suffer, would we give equal time to the stories of the slaves and their stories of those slaves thrown overboard with the slave-ship captain and interview him for 50% of the report? Our job is to have a moral conscience when we are reporting; the occupier and the occupied should not necessarily have an even playing field."
At CI, we do not compromise with imperialism and those who want to subjugate Islam to imperialist and secular norms. We are open to every reasonable disagreement and perspective, but we will never peddle the Zionist and imperialist narrative, even if it comes from sincere, but misinformed people.
We reach out to people from all walks of life and all continents and religions. Nevertheless, we do realize the odds we are up against and are realistic in our expectations. Our frank and honest message is hard to digest for many. Why? Al-hamdulillah, we are the complete opposite of news organizations like al-Jazeera and Islamonline, who demonstrate little conscience when it comes to the dirty activities of their sponsors. While it is an honor to be in this position, it is also a monumental challenge because of our very limited resources vis-à-vis the vast pool of money available to others. We fully realize that we cannot please all the people all the time. We do not aim to do that anyway.
Our message is mainly for those who after taking a deep look into their own souls see it as an obligation to reverse the gross injustices worldwide, be they Muslim or non-Muslim. Perhaps our biggest challenge is the Muslim audience obsessed with rituals and mundane fiqhi matters. We have little to offer to dogmatic secularists and literalist Muslims for whom Islam is an intellectual and spiritual entertainment.
Our most valuable assets are the committed 'ulama providing guidance for our work, dedicated and competent journalists and activists writing for us from all parts of the world, and our management team led by Br. Zafar Bangash without whom the magazine perhaps would have ceased to exist after Dr. Kalim Siddiqui passed away in April 1996.
We consider our terminological policy to be the most effective technical and editorial tool that allows us to project an authentic global Islamic perspective on current affairs. Our well thought-out and thorough terminology is our brand.
We are also super thrifty/efficient with our limited capital and other resources. We have to be, and this is what allows us to stay afloat. All of these aspects allow us to provide the global public with cutting edge analysis and in-depth evaluation of current affairs.
We dedicated the entire January 2011 issue of CI to the inventible and sudden change that we anticipated would sweep the region. The material was put together in the month of December 2010 for the magazine to go to press before the Christmas holiday shutdown. A few days later, the Islamic Awakening started in Tunisia; we were not surprised.
The Crescent International staff consists of Muslims from different schools of thought; even non-Muslims actively participate in our work allowing us to be exposed to different perspectives of socially committed and active people who refuse to take the "blue pill."
Syria was another impressive moment. When the unrest in Syria began, some of our contributors who were in the Muslim East and were urging the chief editor to express unquestioning support for the Islamic current in Syria. However, the cool headed approach of Br. Bangash thorough examination of the situation, within a few hours set us into correct evaluation of the fake "revolution" instigated in Syria. Crescent adopted a position based entirely on primary Islamic sources that set us apart from many gung-ho Muslim media outlets. It was a blessing.
Our audience is another major asset. From Asia to North America, many impressive personalities either know Crescent International and follow its analysis or are somehow associated with ICIT and its people. We may not appeal to the Muslim masses yet, but we certainly appeal to the right people.
No organization is without weaknesses. We readily admit we have many. The biggest one is our shoestring budget. We must create a profitable self-funding mechanism. Our presence on YouTube was virtually non-existent and we have to be better organized. (Now we are making good progress in that aspect, Al-hamdulillah). Sometimes we are involved in too many things simultaneously — but, we have to be, because we see it as a divine covenant. Nonetheless, we just have to put in place a systematic and organized process for everything we do. We must actively work in building a strong working relationship with other media outlets.
Why don't you bash Iran? This is a question sometimes asked by those not well acquainted with ICIT's intellectual work and with zero understanding of the media obfuscation within the contemporary global order. The simple answer is that Islamic Iran is getting enough bashing from 99% of the global media and we are not going to join racists and neocolonial designs against the only working Islamic model.
A slightly deeper answer lies in the fact that Crescent International's support is not for Iran per se but for the Islamic system and the God-conscious and moral leadership present in Iran. If a similar system were to emerge elsewhere we would readily support it.
ICIT's scholars and thinkers base their support of the only working Islamic model on the primary sources of Islam and can confidently face anyone in an open debate on this topic.
We readily admit that Islamic Iran has some managerial and administrative flaws, but that does not disqualify it from being the only working Islamic state system that is truly independent of Zionism and imperialism. Yes, there are fifth columnists and unworthy people within Iran's Islamic system as was the case during the time of the Prophet (pbuh). Yet, even its staunchest, but sophisticated opponents agree that it is the most successful representation of the Islamic movement since the time of al-Khilafah al-Rashidah. We will not be part of the problem for Islamic Iran, but part of the Islamic value system that has taken institutional root in Iran, and we will not hesitate to advocate its successes at every opportunity. We want humanity to be free and prosperous; we will not be part of the imposed "solution" on anyone.
No we are not anti-West, East, South or North. Just because we criticize policies of NATO regimes and their proxies worldwide does not mean we are against the societies or the peoples of countries those regimes claim to represent. As Muslims we recognize no boundaries in terms of vice and virtue. Many of us live in so-called Western countries; we have met many nice and well-mannered people who practice Islamic ideals far better than many of those who identify themselves as Muslims. Mut'im ibn 'Adi never converted to Islam, yet Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) held him in high regard and he assisted the Muslims in a far better way than some Muslims by name that were around the Prophet (pbuh).
The reason our opponents try to portray us as anti-Western is due to their superficial understanding of our perspective and conscious or sub-conscious racism. Our motto is that people are either our brothers and sisters in commitment or our companions in humanity. We do not deny that Western societies apply some of Islam's commands far better than Muslim societies. Why? Muslim societies do not have the luxury of nonviolent interference in their internal affairs. The people of Canada have the right to figure out their issues in Quebec on their own through civil methods without Chinese, Russian, Indonesian or Brazilian political manipulations, money and arms. We want the same benchmark applied to Syria, Iran, Egypt and all other states and societies facing natural problems.
As mentioned above, we have Muslims from all schools of thought participating in our work. One brother once exclaimed that "when people working for Crescent speak you can rarely figure out if they are Sunni or Shi'i and that's how you can know who really figured out Islam." This statement is absolutely true. People who are with Crescent are more Sunni than many Sunnis and more Shi'i than many Shi'is.
We work in a very hostile environment. The powers that be can put any label on us and get away with it. They can shut us down under any pretext; the main reason they don't do so is because it would give us the exposure that we currently lack due to our constrained financial resources. Many of our reporters use pseudonyms to report for us because journalistic rights do not apply to them in most countries. We are cornered in a very soft and sophisticated way that is hard for people from the outside to see or fully understand.
Our biggest hope is to create a sustainable and profitable self-funding mechanism. For almost three years now, we have been trying to establish an International Islamic Media Fund (IIMF) that would implement a circular monthly scheme based on the concept of Rotating Savings and Credit Association (ROSCA). If successful, this would guarantee a sizeable financial package to all members of IIMF once a year. We have not gotten far, as there is need for some start up capital, but we have not given up on the idea. We are also hoping to penetrate YouTube in the near future and also expand cooperation with other Islamic media outlets that are not completely within our mindset.
We are working hard and with Allah's (swt) grace will continue working until we can. We want to thank all those who continue to help our work in whatever capacity they are able; and those that read and spread our material. Insha'Allah we will continue to serve the cause of Islam and the global Islamic movement. It is our mission in life; financial considerations are not a part of this equation, they never have been.