Tuesday 26 February 2008

The Box

Rainbow in the Grey Sky recently wrote on her blog about her struggle to decide whether or not she should have a television in her home.

When my husband and I moved into our first home together seven years ago we thought we should do one good thing that we could stick to in our new life. We decided that this would be not having a television. As my life previous to marriage revolved around school and home only, and my only entertainment was books and TV, this was something very different and (curiously) exciting for me.

I had a number of reasons at the time for deciding this and there have been a number of outcomes.

I felt that a lot of things that are haram – nudity, bad language, music etc just didn’t bother me, because I had gotten so used to them by seeing them on television all of the time. This was despite my parent’s reaction of spluttering and jabbing away at the remote control every time the littlest bit of skin was on show and all of us suddenly finding the ceiling or carpet or our dinner very interesting.

In contrast, my better half grew up in Pakistan and TV was peripheral to his life. TV in Pakistan at that time (Zia al-Haq’s era) also had very strong restrictions against pop music, dealing with taboo subjects, obscenity etc (a woman could not come onto TV bareheaded at that time, nor did male and female actors touch each other), although this is not the case now at all.

Because of this he did not become inured to some of the things I did. Even now these are things that do not bother me in the way that as a Muslimah they should, but do offend him. I worry that this is a dent in my iman.

I believe in this way I have been socialised by the TV to an extent, without my parents even realising. I don’t want the same thing to be thrust upon my children, for them to feel ok about what is haram. Now we have an age where the media in this country has taken to scare-mongering against Muslims at every turn. Sometimes obviously, but more often insidiously in the guise of fly-on-the wall documentaries and programmes with biased editing. I don’t want my children to grow up thinking Islam is bad or it’s weird, that Mum wears hijab, so she can’t be cool or she must be oppressed, that Daddy has a beard so I have to embarrassed around him.

There is also the issue of hayah (modesty). As hubby asked me “Do you think a brother and sister or a father and daughter can sit together and watch TV, even the Pakistani channels, for an hour and not see something that embarrasses them?” I had to agree with him, for those with any sense of hayah; this would likely be difficult - short of watching only Baby TV (addictively watchable actually).

I do worry that they will miss out on part of their childhood/cultural heritage as for my generation TV was big part of that, with the decline of the cinema in the 80’s/90’s and before the internet phenomenon. My age group relate to the A-Team, Punky Brewster, Transformers, He-man and the like, which is incidentally a link I don’t have with my husband.

At the same time I don’t believe in banning something (and making it more attractive perhaps?), but replacing it. Offering an alternative. So we go for long walks most evenings, read lots, go visiting and invite people over to share meals two or three times a month (despite my unpredictable cooking). We also talk, over our meals, during our walks, whilst we cook and I find myself concentrating a tad better during prayers because I don’t have the latest Bollywood song running through my brain in techni-colour. The children spend more time in the park, where they and hubby get exercise, their grandparents make friends and I can read some more.

My children still watch cartoons like demons when they are at my mums and love to see old MGM cartoons on Youtube as a treat. When they are older they may make choices to watch TV, but I hope by then they will have iman strong enough to recognise and withstand what is haram inshallah.


  1. As Salaamu Alaikum Sis:

    I think that, TV, like anything else, can be good in moderation. Adults can choose what to watch, and they can supervise any programs that children watch.

    To me, TV is the same as computer. There is positive and negative about both.

  2. Mashallah sister:

    I applaud your efforts and success! My husband and I are in the midst of making some decisions about TV for our kid(s). Cartoons arent always harmless, many contain some form of controlled violence, bad habits, or adult themes.

    We may keep the TV for the purpose of DVDs and controlled usage (just as computers etc should be in moderation) but I know I will miss some of my favorite programs like animal planet, national geopgraphic, the history channel and discovery times. These are things my husband and I enjoy watching together after a long, tiring day.

    I hope we can come up to a happy medium. I feel very strongly about my son NOT being exposed to unmonitored broadcast TV. With the advent of digital satellite TV, we can literally pick and choose what is available to our family, as well as limit the amount time it can be accessed.

    You have also made a very good point about not making it more attractive by witholding it, but offering alternatives. Brilliant! I love to do crafts, and look forward to teaching my children how to make things, use their creativity and make story time a family affair. Physical activity will most certainly have a place as well (daddy LOVES soccer). I say all this now, not having a child yet- but I see no other way. Moms like you prove that it can work, and there is no reason why I should not give it my best shot.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Assalam-alaikam sisters,
    alhamdulillah, you have both made valid points. I do beleive that computer can be as bad as TV (I always log on with the best of intentions and then end up on sky showbiz or ebay or similar).

    My worry is not so much nudity snd violence which are easy to police against, but things like stereotypes, underlying attitudes or prejudice and the values which are presented to us. The following link gives great examples:
    including an insight into Disney's Aladin.