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My Biases by Abu Aasiya


Why write such a column? Well, one of the illusions of our age is the illusion that media, news media in particular, is objective. The fact is that we all have some sort of history, some sort of inclinations - an angle, if you will. If David Duke makes a statement, we know a little bit about what makes him tick. For the most part, we know what he is trying to convey. If Pat Robertson says something, in general, we know his biases. But what if Peter Jennings says something? Or Connie Chung? What are the things that influence what they say? What are the biases of those who wrote their newscast? What are the interests of the editors and corporate executives who choose news items and text? The fact is that we are being duped into thinking that news is unbiased, and in fact, we are being duped into thinking that bias is bad.

Bias is not Bad:

Bias is not bad. On the contrary, it can be quite useful and good...when it is known. In the early history of the U.S., there were numerous independent newspapers, each with their own bias. Those who purchased the newspapers were well aware of the leanings of the authors and editors. If you wanted to know the opinions of Progressives, you picked up a Progressive newspaper. If you wanted to know the opinions of Republican leadership, you picked up one of their newspapers. And when you did, you knew their angle. You knew where they were coming from. And, more importantly, you knew to take what they said with a certain "grain of salt".

Nowadays, however, as media corporations are comsuming every last vestige of media we have left (except the internet :), we are witnessing a change in perspective on media bias. We are told that media should not be biased. It should be objective and out for truth. But I would argue that the conglomerates who bring news to us ARE biased. And for them to claim objectivity is deception.

In an effort to avoid deception, I give you my biases:

Who/What is Abu Aasiya?:

I am a white American male, with parents of remote Italian, German, and Irish heritage. I grew up in the Philadelphia area and went away to college at Cornell University where I majored in Africana Studies. I then went back to Philadelphia for medical school and I have an Internal Medicine practice in Maryland. I became Muslim while in college and I am now married with two children. My wife is also a physician. These are the facts.

What has shaped Abu Aasiya's biases?:

I grew up in a poor urban surburb of Philadelphia on the edge of the white and black sections of town. In my elementary school, resources were scarce, but teachers were deeply dedicated. While in school, however, I was once told that children are pretty much destined to maintain the same socioeconomic stature as their parents. However, when my family was able to move to another suburb, I saw an entirely different resource base and mindset. Having moved only about 6 miles away from my old neighborhood, I was then able to attend a middle school which had a planetarium. Resources were plentiful. Teachers were still dedicated. Parents attended school functions with regularity. And students there were encouraged to seek any profession they wished.

While in high school, I worked three jobs and tended to get along with everyone. My closest friends however, tended to come from the crowd which was popular and smart, but neither from the "in" clique nor from the "nerdy" clique. While in school, I was thoroughly disgusted by the unwritten clique system and, again, tended to get along well with everyone.

I went to Cornell University with an intention to major in Chemistry or Biology and then to pursue a career in medicine or veterinary medicine. However, during my freshmen year I was placed in an English class which had an Africana Studies theme to it. At Cornell, all literature casses had some sort of cultural or economic theme to them - and the one I received was about Black identity.

I was so impressed with my ignorance of the history of the African diaspora, that I decided to enroll in a few more Africana classes. While reading and memorizing facts was part of the discipline, the curriculum was more geared toward learning and applying critical thought. As part of my major, I applied this critical thought to politics, economics, media, history, etc.

Extracurricularly, I applied critical thought to religion. I began to question some of the basics of religion. I first turned to Catholicism, the religion of my family. I then dabbled in other sects of Christianity, attending Bible studies, churches of various denominations, and reading the Bible on my own (a few languages, centuries, and alterations removed from the original prophets, peace be upon them). I began to question things like, why did we celebrate the birthday of Jesus (peace be upon him), when he, himself did not? Mary didn't, the disciples didn't, and members of the early church didn't. Why, if Jesus (peace be upon him) prayed with his face on the ground (Matthew 26:39) did we not pray the same way? Why were there statues in church if the first commandment warns against "graven images of anything in the heavens, on the earthor in the sea"? Et cetera, et cetera.

And rather than recount my eventual journey to Islam, instead I point you to My Journey to Islam. In short, I became Muslim about halfway through my college career - no mentor, no brainwashing - just personal readings and research. Since having become Muslim, I have not lost that element of critical thought. Quite to the contrary, it has been deeply enhanced.

Currently, I am a practicing physician. I entered this profession with deep altruism and love for humanity, science, culture, religion, and spirit. But, instead I have found an oppressive system of healthcare, designed not for health, nor for care. Rather, the system is designed to attain wealth and to preserve itself. I am not disgusted with medicine or with being a doctor, but instead, I am bent on bringing justice and compassion to a discipline which has been systematically stripped of both.

These are some of the things which have shaped my biases. For more, go to Articles by Abu Aasiya.

In Conclusion:

I am a Muslim. I am a married, white, father of two with a degree in medicine and in Africana studies. However, I do not speak for Muslims, men, fathers, or physicians. None of these groups are uniform, and being so, I do not claim to speak for any of them. Many from these groups have opinions quite opposite to mine. At any rate, I give you my biases so that you may have a little more insight into the author of and and so that you may, too, look at my work with a critical eye.

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