Thursday, 7 November 2013

Australia takes the lead on religion journalism

Anika McMahon, Arbiter, November 4, 2013

A DIRECTOR of a Griffith University Multi-Faith Centre believes Australia can make an important international statement on religious tolerance by engaging in meaningful dialogue with leaders of all faiths.

The International Religion Journalism Symposium provided students an open space for discussion and understanding of the events that happen in our community involving religious journalism.
Religion journalism has become an issue in today’s society as journalists are unable to capture the true nature of faith communities within their reporting.

Dr Navras Jaat Aafreedi, Assistant Professor at the School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Gautam Buddha University in India believes that the biggest issue lies with a generalisation of religions through a journalist’s lack of knowledge.

A key topic that Dr Aafreedi covered was the importance of accepting other religious beliefs and the need for the international community to understand the different traditions and issues within each faith community.

“It is as important to understand the beliefs of others as one’s [own] belief to be able to develop harmonious relations with people around us. It is the overly literal interpretations of the polemics in religious texts and the out of context readings of passages that lead us to misunderstand religions.”
Co-ordinator of The International Religion Journalism Symposium Casey Crocket went on to emphasise the importance of accurate reporting in religion journalism, mentioning the constant connection between faith and worldwide conflicts.

Ms Crocket stressed the need for fair and balanced reporting to allow communities exposed to religious news stories have a better, more accurate understanding of their global environment.
Director of the Multi-Faith Centre Brian Adams stated that Australia has acknowledged the need for more in-depth, balanced reporting in the area of religion journalism.

He believes that by holding events such as the symposium, an opening for further development in understanding varying religions’ and other similar issues will occur.

“Australia on the federal level has made a statement that inter-faith dialogue and issues of religion and challenges of that need to be better addressed in the media.  So, it’s a good opportunity for Australia to be seen as taking the lead in this, it’s an important statement.” he said.

The International Religion Journalism Symposium was held at Griffith University, South Bank campus last Tuesday and Wednesday with much success.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


Perhaps no scholar has worked harder in recent years to understand and publicize the overlapping of Indianness and Jewishness in general, and Jewishness and Indian Muslimness in particular, than Navras Jaat Aafreedi. Aafreedi’s efforts have included organizing readings of the work of many of the writers featured in Chapter 4, advocating the establishment of Jewish Studies as an academic discipline in India, promoting Holocaust awareness, and developing both in person and online forums intended to foster contemporary Muslim-Jewish solidarity and friendship, among many other activities. He has proven to be a controversial figure and has been accused, quite outrageously , of being a radical Zionist and/or a Mossad agent; he sees himself as a “secular humanist”. His work, and its success, offers hope that the cosmopolitanism so wistfully lauded by many of the texts analyzed in this monograph need not be regarded as a thing of the past. But the misunderstanding, and even hostility toward, Aafreedi’s work, is evidence that optimism for a syncretic future must remain guarded.

…While the other issues Aafreedi has championed – Holocaust education, celebrating Jewish cultural contribution to India, recognizing shared Muslim and Jewish history – may be underappreciated in India and elsewhere, they are not, as this book has made clear, entirely unknown or novel and have been embraced, to varying degrees, by other Indian writers and scholars.

-          Anna Guttman, Writing Indians and Jews: Metaphorics of Jewishness in South Asian Literature, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2013, pp. 169-170

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

WEEKLY PRESS PAKISTAN to be the centre of attention in Australia

Anonymous, Weekly Press Pakistan, October 9, 2013

Editor International of the English Section of the Weekly Press Pakistan and Indo-Judaic Studies scholar, Dr. Navras Jaat Aafreedi would be Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Asian Studies in Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, from 27th October to 5th November, 2013, during which he will present Weekly Press Pakistan as a case study to explain how press can be used as a tool for achieving interfaith peace and reconciliation, at an international symposium on religion journalism, scheduled to take place on the 30th and 31st October, 2013, at the Multi-Faith Centre of Griffith University there. The symposium will examine how journalists can better report on faith and how faith leaders and opinion makers can encourage the inclusion of religious perspective in the news. The symposium is being jointly organized by the Griffith University Multi-Faith Centre and the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ). Founded in 2002, the Multi-Faith Centre is a place where people from diverse faith, religious and spirituality traditions can deepen their understanding of their own faith and actively participate in inter-faith dialogue, education and action. The International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ) is a global network of journalists promoting excellence in the coverage of religion and spirituality. It provides services and resources to strengthen and support the work of its members. It engages media leaders, educational institutions and communities on the importance of accurate, balanced and ethical religion coverage to foster understanding. 

Dr. Aafreedi’s Australia trip will be supported by a fellowship from the American academic organization Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME). It is a not for profit, grass-roots community of scholars who have united to promote honest, fact-based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. Dr. Aafreedi, who currently works as an Assistant Professor at the School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Gautam Buddha University in Greater NOIDA, India, has been involved with interfaith peace activism for a number of years and has researched Muslim-Jewish relations as the first Visiting Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations (CMJR) at the Woolf Institute in Cambridge, United Kingdom. He has to his credit a series of multi-cultural and cross-cultural dialogues he organized at the University of Lucknow and other institutions there involving students from India and more than a dozen countries of different continents. His sincere efforts for Muslim-Jewish reconciliation have been greatly appreciated. Among the fifty-six events he organized in his hometown Lucknow between 2008 and 2010, he has to his credit the first ever Holocaust films retrospective in South Asia, during which forty-six films were screened, seen by four thousand people. He has also been at the forefront in fighting anti-Semitism in the Indian Muslim press. He is also the first person to make any worthwhile contributions to Jewish Studies in Urdu, the lingua franca of almost all South Asian Muslims, the largest Muslim population in the world. He is also a member of the International Advisory Boards of the Jerusalem Press Club and of the Asian Jewish Life and of the editorial board of the refereed Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies. He plans to offer free certificate courses in Holocaust Studies and Jewish Studies under the auspices of his newly established NGO, Society for Social Regeneration & Equity (SSRE) in the coming days and to also get recognition to those courses from prestigious universities. In addition to this, he intends to hold exhibitions and screen films across India to raise an awareness of the Holocaust, combat its denial and minimization and check the rising popularity of Hitler in India.

Besides presenting his paper, “Press as a tool for achieving interfaith peace: The Case of Weekly Press Pakistan”, Dr. Aafreedi will also take part in a panel on “Majority Issues versus Minority Issues”. His fellow panelists will be Florence Spurling of Encounter, ABC Radio National and Rachael Kohn, Producer and host of ABC Radio National’s The Spirit of Things, and it will be chaired by Scott Stephens, Religion and Ethics Editor for ABC Online. 

The symposium will engage with critical issues such as the role of bias in religion journalism, the secularization of religious conflicts and the personal and professional challenges to reporting on faith. In addition to a series of paper presentations and discussion panels, the symposium will feature workshops on developing news stories and using social media to report on faith issues.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Indian Scholar joins the Advisory Board of the Jerusalem Press Club

Weekly Press Pakistan, September 16, 2013

Editor International of the English section of the Weekly Press Pakistan, Dr. Navras Jaat Aafreedi has joined the international advisory board of the Jerusalem Press Club, founded in 2013 to promote freedom of the press and support journalistic democracy in the Middle East. Taking notice of his researches in Indo-Judaic Studies and work for Jewish-Muslim reconciliation, the leadership of the Jerusalem Press Club invited him to join its international advisory board, which is being built to compliment the work of its Israeli Advisory Board and bring global perspectives and a spirit of worldwide collaboration to the Jerusalem Press Club. Its Israeli Advisory Board is chaired by the former Israeli minister Dan Meridor, one of the most respected people in Israel today. Other members of the Israeli Advisory Board include Professor Gadi Wolfsfeld, world-renowned communications expert; David Witztum, leading anchor at Israel Television Chanel 1; Hirsh Goodman, veteran correspondent and former editor of the Jerusalem Report; Professor Eva Ilouz, President of Bezalel Academy of Art and world renowned sociologist and Dr. Tehila Altshuler, expert on new media.
As the first-ever institution of its kind in the Middle East, the Jerusalem Press Club aims to be a destination for local and foreign reporters, diplomats and opinion-makers to convene, share and learn about the most pressing issues in the region. Its goal is to present a diverse and fair view of the Middle East that incorporates all aspects of the political, economic and social components that make up this fascinating region.

The Jerusalem Press Club, a project of the Jerusalem Foundation, was established with a grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, which over the last few years has donated close to $100 million to Israeli institutions, particularly for medical and scientific research.

The club is positioned to support the next generation of media professionals, teaching the complexities of covering news in the Middle East. The Jerusalem Press Club recently hosted a group of journalism students from the University of Miami, in cooperation with IDC Herzliya, one of Israel’s leading colleges. During the month-long for-credit program, the students interned at news organizations in the region and took courses at IDC. The club hopes to expand this cooperation to other Universities in the future.

The club has several state-of-the art broadcasting facilities, meeting rooms, lodging where journalists can stay overnight, and a world-class restaurant. Members of the JPC also have reciprocity at European Federation of Press Clubs and the International Association of Press Clubs.

The press club is situated in the historic Mishkenot Sha’ananim neighborhood and overlooks the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, a symbolic location that for decades served as a gathering place for artists, scholars and writers from around the world.  Established in 1860, Mishkenot Sha’ananim was founded by philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore to be the sight of revolutionary thinking and world-changing ideas. 150 years later, the Jerusalem Press Club is building upon Sir Moses Montefiore’s vision to become the new intellectual hub of the Middle East. 

 Over the years it envisions many stories will be shared, formed and broken at its press center. With more than 250 foreign journalists stationed in Israel at any time, it hopes to become a central location for resource sharing by offering state-of-the-art broadcasting facilities and accommodations including Touro, the press club’s restaurant and bar which enables members to relax and hold meetings.

Dr. Aafreedi will provide counsel to the Jerusalem Press Club, attend its annual meetings (or participate in tele-conferences) to help set the yearly agenda, discuss future programming and offer consultation as-needed. He also serves as an assistant editor of the refereed journal The Social Ion and as a member of the editorial board of the peer reviewed Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies and of the international advisory board of the Asian Jewish Life. Assistant Professor at Gautam Buddha University in Greater NOIDA, India, Dr. Aafreedi has been a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations at the Woolf Institute in Cambridge, UK, Graduate School of Historical Studies at Tel Aviv University in Israel, School of Languages and Cultures, University of Sydney in Australia and would be returning to Australia next month as a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Asian Studies in Brisbane.  Currently in the US as a participant at the International Educator Institute at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, (September 15 to 20, 2013), Dr. Aafreedi has been sincerely and relentlessly making serious efforts for years to achieve Muslim-Jewish reconciliation and to create an awareness of the Holocaust in India. The first ever Holocaust films retrospective in South Asia, held in his hometown Lucknow (a major centre of Muslim scholarship) in Uttar Pradesh, India, in 2009, was one of the many events he organized.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Indian Holocaust Educator to attend Educator Institute at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Weekly Press Pakistan, September 3, 2013

Truly committed to raising an awareness of the Holocaust in India and to combating Holocaust denial, Indo-Judaic Studies researcher and Muslim-Jewish Relations Activist, Dr. Navras Jaat Aafreedi would be the only Indian to attend the International Educator Institute at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, when it takes place from 16th to 20th September, 2013. Last year in June, he conducted an educational workshop at an International conference on Holocaust education at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel, on how to educate the Indians about the Holocaust.

Inspired and motivated by him, the students at the Gautam Buddha University in Greater Noida, India, where he teaches as an Assistant Professor, have produced a Hindi play on the Holocaust, which they will enact later during the year. It is the story of the horrors of the Holocaust as witnessed by the soldiers of the Indian legion of Hitler, which had been raised by the Indian nationalist leader Subash Chandra Bose by recruiting soldiers from the Prisoner-of-War camps in Germany which, at that time, were home to tens of thousands of Indian soldiers of the British Indian army captured by Rommel in North Africa. Bose intended to use this army to liberate India from the British rule. 

Thanks to Dr. Aafreedi’s efforts, South Asia had its first ever Holocaust films retrospective in 2009 at the Lucknow University and the Ambedkar University in Lucknow, a major centre of Muslim scholarship, in Uttar Pradesh, India. This Holocaust Films Retrospective becomes all the more significant considering the fact that just three years before, a conference, “Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision”, aimed at denying the Holocaust had taken place in Tehran from the 11th to the 12th of December, 2006. And, now this Holocaust films retrospective got organized, not far away in the Judeo-Christian West, but in close proximity to Iran, in one of the major Shia cultural centres of the world, Lucknow, right in the centre of the Muslim heartland of South Asia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population. Lucknow was also home to the ancestors of the leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, Ayatollah Rouhollah Mousavi Khomeini. His ancestors had settled there in the late eighteenth century and continued to live there till the mid-nineteenth century when his grandfather, Seyed Ahmad, migrated to Iran and settled in Khomein, some 160 kilometres to the southwest of Qom.

While the films retrospective was in progress, the two most popular Urdu newspapers there, Rashtriya Sahara and Aag tried to sabotage it by publishing front-page lengthy stories denying the Holocaust and terming it the biggest hoax of the twentieth century. But this did not hamper the enthusiasm of Dr. Aafreedi, who passionately screened forty-eight Holocaust films in a span of fourteen days and even got a number of Muslim intellectuals to speak against Holocaust denial. He also organized a number of book readings focusing on the Holocaust. He continued with his efforts to educate the youth about the Holocaust even after he moved to Greater Noida, where he joined the Gautam Buddha University in 2010. As a member of its cultural council, Dr. Aafreedi screened a number of films on the Holocaust and gave impassioned lectures on it.

For years he has been building a library of Jewish Studies. He intends to give free courses on the Holocaust and Jewish History under the auspices of the organization he is trying to establish, whose registration is currently stuck in the red tape of the Indian officialdom.