March 2022 marks an important landmark in Crescent International’s journalistic journey. It completes 50 years of publication, often in very difficult circumstances. The most painful challenge was sabotage from within. Unfortunately, this has been the case with most Muslims throughout their history.
Crescent International has also undergone several changes along the way. The most important of these was when it was turned into the newsmagazine of the Islamic Movement in August 1980 under the guidance of Dr. Kalim Siddiqui (he joined heavenly company in April 1996). It has served the global Muslim Ummah to the best of its abilities ever since.
In many ways, the story of Crescent is also the story of the Muslim world, not in the narrow sense of reporting the travails and tribulations—of which there are many—but the inequalities and difficulties that are so widespread. The Muslim world is endowed with enormous material resources but the vast majority suffer in extreme poverty. So, does the Crescent International.
It has always operated on a shoe-string budget. Many staff members often go without salary for months, or even years. And given the forthright stand that we take on all issues without apologies, businesses are scared to advertise with us. We have no big or small sponsors. Our main support comes from the few hardy souls that passionately believe in justice and fairness that we stand for. They support us with whatever they can spare from their own hard-earned income.
This is not how news outlets are run. The BBC, for instance, is funded by the British Foreign Office. CNN has an annual budget of $2 billion! In almost all countries media outlets either have state sponsorship or the support of big business. We have neither.
The great advantage of this is that we do not have to look over our shoulder in order not to upset a sponsor. The downside, of course, is that we are always very short of resources and our reach remains limited. We have, however, influenced important segments of the Islamic movement struggling in many vital areas.
What we lack in financial resources we more than make up in commitment and dedication. This has been the case with all sincere strugglers for truth and justice throughout the ages. The immense sacrifices that early Muslims around the Prophet (pbuh) made will always inspire our struggle. They not only sacrificed their wealth but also their lives for the promise of a reward in the hereafter (61:11-12). So, whatever sacrifices we make pale into insignificance compared to the sacrifices of early Muslims and the subsequent generations of Muslims.
There have also been major changes in technology over the past 50 years. From punching keyboard on a typewriter or a typesetting machine to punching the keyboard of a computer to upload material on the Internet has revolutionized news dissemination. People born at the turn of the twenty-first century would probably be unfamiliar with the old gadgets: typewriters and typesetting machines.
There is also another point that must be noted. Crescent started publication in early 1972 as a small community newspaper dealing with local affairs. International affairs were not on its radar, apart from news about Pakistan (more on this later). At the same time, another magazine, Impact International also started publication from London, England. It folded in 2013. Both publications were launched in the aftermath of the debacle in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and the trauma most Muslims experienced as a consequence.
Since the East Pakistan/Bangladesh tragedy affected the people of Pakistan most severely, it was people of Pakistani origin who took to journalistic endeavors. Such efforts, however, started outside Pakistan (England and Canada). The media in Pakistan was tightly controlled by the government and it was impossible to put out the truth. Until the very last minute before the humiliating surrender of the Pakistan army in Dhaka on December 16, 1971 (true, faced with an impossible task), the Pakistani media was reporting the ‘great victories’ the troops were achieving on the battlefield. Since the lifting of restrictions on media in Pakistan in recent years, it has swung to the other extreme. Outright lies, vicious propaganda against opponents and vacuous talk shows are the norm on the airwaves.
Back to the Crescent story. In the mid-nineteen eighties, two other publications emerged, both in London: Arabia and Afkar Inquiry. As the name suggests, Arabia, was a Saudi-sponsored venture, or more precisely financed by its then oil minister Zaki Yamani. Once he was removed from office, Arabia collapsed. Afkar Inquiry suffered a similar fate after publishing for a few years at enormous cost.
What has enabled Crescent International to survive where others failed? The major difference is that Crescent International has never been top heavy. Its overhead costs were always kept low. With not enough resources to pay even fair wages to staff, sacrifices were necessary. Such sacrifices have enabled it to survive in the most difficult circumstances.
Today, Crescent International has a strong presence on the web. A new generation of writers and contributors has also emerged. It is for this generation to take this venture forward. The early generation led by the late Dr. Kalim Siddiqui and his immediate successors have done their job.
It is also important to highlight what Crescent International has achieved. Its function has been to not merely inform but to transform the thinking of Muslims. Providing clarity on many vital issues has been its singular achievement. With its penetrating analyses, it has exposed the fraudulent claim to independence of most Muslim countries as well as their dubious Islamic credentials. Without such clarity most Islamic movements would still be stuck in the old mould. For this, we are eternally grateful to Allah (swt) for making us the instruments of His divine Will.
The new generation, guided by seasoned professionals is now carrying the mission forward with the same zeal and spirit of sacrifice and dedication as their forebears. Sincere commitment to the cause of truth and justice will always overcome material challenges, no matter how daunting.