Mediating Islam

Cosmopolitan Journalisms in Muslim Southeast Asia

Janet Steele

  • Published: March 2018
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / Southeast Asia; Film and Media Studies; History
  • Bibliographic information: 183 pp., 13 bandw illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: N / A In Asia Except China
  • Series: Critical Dialogues in Southeast Asian Studies
  • Contents

Broadening an overly narrow definition of Islamic journalism, Janet Steele examines day-to-day reporting practices of Muslim professionals, from conservative scripturalists to pluralist cosmopolitans, at five exemplary news organizations in Malaysia and Indonesia. At Sabili, established as an underground publication, journalists are hired for their ability at dakwah, or Islamic propagation. At Tempo, a news magazine banned during the Soeharto regime and considered progressive, many see their work as a manifestation of worship, but the publication itself is not considered Islamic. At Harakah, reporters support an Islamic political party, while at Republika they practice a "journalism of the Prophet" and see Islam as a market niche. Other news organizations, too, such as Malaysiakini, employ Muslim journalists. Steele, a longtime scholar of the region, explores how these publications observe universal principles of journalism through an Islamic idiom.
Janet Steele is associate professor of media and public affairs and international affairs at George Washington University. She is the author of Email dari Amerika [Email from America] and Wars Within: The Story of Tempo, an Independent Magazine in Soeharto's Indonesia.

"Shows that media practice in Muslim societies cannot be reduced into an ideological framework or a structural explanation [but] is a complex entanglement between ideology, political economy, and personal reflection on religious values."
-Fadjar I. Thufail, Research Center for Regional Resources of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences

"Mediating Islam examines the values [the journalists] embrace and the motivations, particularly the religious ones that guide their professional work. A very worthwhile subject."
-David T. Hill, professor emeritus of Southeast Asian studies, Asian Research Centre, Murdoch University

"Simultaneously intimate and sweeping in its scope, Mediating Islam provides us with portraits of a range of Muslim journalists, from conservative scripturalists to pluralist cosmopolitans. The result is a must-read book, not just for scholars of journalism, but for anyone interested in media, democracy, and religion in modern Southeast Asia and the broader Muslim world."
-Robert W. Hefner, Pardee School of Global Affairs, Boston University

"This book represents an important advance in de-Westernizing media studies. Janet Steele investigates how Muslim journalists in Indonesia and Malaysia apply their religious principles. Rejecting univocal, monolithic notions of religion, the book introduces us to a rich tapestry of media organisations and practitioners, showing how Islam has inspired a wide range of ideological stances and professional role perceptions. For journalism studies, the book invites a rethink of secular liberalism as the only foundation for journalisms that value independence, truth and justice."
-Cherian George, professor of media studies, Hong Kong Baptist University

"Steele has written a readable, insightful book about how journalists in Indonesia and Malaysia define professional identity and practice. The analysis is packed with analytical gems and original data that show how journalistic norms, conventionally identified with Western journalism such as truth and justice, are reinterpreted in the context of Islamic culture. With the keen eye of a historian and the sharpness of a longtime scholar of the region, Steele offers important lessons for those interested in understanding the cultures of professional journalism in a globalized world. The book shakes off stereotypes and invites to study the complex nexus between religiosity and journalism."
-Silvio Waisbord, professor of media and public affairs, George Washington University

"With this book, Steele makes a richly important contribution to the study of the international news media, and moves us past stale thinking that the principles of professional journalism are uniquely western. This is a critical read for anyone trying to understand how truth via Islamic news media in Indonesia and Malaysia is determined and projected, especially for diplomats and aid professionals who want to engage Muslim journalists and intellectuals in a more meaningful way."
-Katherine Brown, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University


"A richly-layered overview of the journalistic landscape in Malaysia and Indonesia."
-Peter Gordon, Asian Review of Books