Beware of The Pied Piper

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Life & Society Topics: Children, Television Views: 8507

During a typical in-flight neighborly conversation, a Frenchman sitting next to me protested, "Too many American made programs are being shown on French television." To a casual observer this may sound strange. After all, what is the difference between French and American television? True, the French consider the Americans 'uncultured', but the matter goes beyond culture.

The Frenchman argued that American television series were undermining their values and that the effect of American programs, which depict and glorify violence, would impact French society. Even when sharing common philosophical roots, people are concerned about preserving their own values. Imagine the situation when people approach life from very different perspectives.

The Islamic value system is rooted in the belief in One God, Allah, and the belief that the Qur'an is the revelation of Allah communicated through Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam). Muslims, also, believe in family values. This means no premarital sex; an abhorrence of violence and waste; no drugs, including alcohol; love for honesty and justice; respect for the rights of all; respect and caring for elders; and love for young ones. 

Often, what has come to be popularly identified as the "Western value system" stands at odds with Islamic, and other faith-based, values. Popular culture in North America, including television, is overwhelmingly produced and controlled by those who believe and indeed enjoy popularizing what they believe is the "Western value system." This raises the question: are Muslim parents in North America aware of the challenge facing them?

Like all youth, Muslim children are, also, subliminally assimilated into the American society through one of the most powerful tools, television. Television with its overwhelming presence offers "processed thinking."

A parent's worst nightmare is a six year old to thirteen year old television addict who watches television in the morning before going to school; fixes himself/herself in front of the box as soon as he/she gets home in the afternoon; and has another dose in the evening. Today, electronic gadgets like DVD players have turned favorite shows and movies into an endlessly repeatable pastime. Computer and video games have added to the home box's allure. The popular 'Sesame Street' , nothing more than a highly amusing business filled with cute critters and special effects, offers a type of learning that consists solely of watching. A child may learn the alphabet, but will never learn to think. As a result of the indoctrination by television, children have little patience to pursue anything that requires a steady stream of thought or the linking of one thought with another. Television is potentially so addictive that it can undermine the child's imagination. 

The passive experience, also, crowds out other, more active endeavors, such as congregational prayers at home, playing indoors and outdoors with family members, reading, etc. These traditional forms of interaction are most definitely not passive. They are all physically, mentally and spiritually active. A child watching television cannot simultaneously build a model or let his/her imagination soar with a good book. Instead, they are cut off from participation, imagination and the rest of the family. The child's facial expression is transformed; the jaw is relaxed and hangs open slightly, the tongue rests on the front teeth (if there are any) and eyes develop a glazed, vacuous look.

Television, also, reveals to children the "backstage" activities of adults, exposing them to behavior that adults have spent centuries trying to hide. The average child who watches television routinely sees adults hitting or killing each other or breaking down and crying. Revealing the "secrets" of adulthood has virtually destroyed the notion of childhood as a discrete period of innocence. There are now more adult-like children and more childlike adults!

RealVision, an initiative to raise awareness about television's impact on America, is a project of the Washington, DC TV-Turnoff Network. This year, its 10th annual TV-Turnoff Week was observed April 19-25, 2004. According to RealVision, an average child will have watched over 2,000 hours of television by the time he/she enters first grade and over 20,000 hours by the end of high school. This is more time than he/she will spend in a classroom. They will spend 28 hours a week watching television, more time than they spend doing any other single activity except sleeping. These 28 hours do not include time spent watching DVDs, videotapes, playing video games, or listening to records, audiotapes or CDs.

Research by RealVision has shown that prolonged television viewing by children is associated with more aggressive behavior (a.k.a. violence); excessive commercialism; sedentary lifestyles; and lack of creativity, patience, imagination, participation, and physical, mental and spiritual development. So who will correct it and how?

No institution plays a bigger role in shaping the attitudes of children than the family. The ultimate responsibility rests with the parents. It is necessary to strictly limit TV watching time and other electronic amusements and to continually monitor children's behavior. At the same time, the influence and impact of the short time they spend watching television should be counterbalanced with other healthy activities such as Qur'an, seerah, lessons in Islamic history, and other indoor/outdoor activities with the family. In this way, TV can be put into proper focus, if not completely out of the picture, Insha'Allah.

Talking with children, also, helps: 'Not to them, but with them'. Encourage them to share their thoughts and ideas and to think things through. Let them know that both logical reasoning and creative thought are wonderful accomplishments. Encourage children to read books and to consider their significance in the larger scheme of things. Avoid 'drilling' your children or forcing them to 'listen' to you. Rather, you should listen to them!!

Shakeel Syed, a freelance writer on sociopolitical issues, lives in California with his 4 pre-teen children in a TV-free home.

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Life & Society
  Topics: Children, Television
Views: 8507

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Older Comments:
this articles is right...even the media in my country are influenced with this matter...seem like theres nothing to stop it

May Allah continue to ennoble the countenance of the author. It is not only the tv that is being abused but also, the internet. One can start to appreciate their concept of liberalism and globalisation. This is nothing short of wholesale exportation of western values to the other unsuspecting and gullible world. Of course, these values are at complete variance to the dignity of humanity as they relish in nothing but sensuality and sheer materialistic amusement.
The beauty of this article lies in the depth of statistics provided and the solutions proffered as a way forward.

Assalam A Laikum - Very well written article. I truly believe TV has become a big interference between parents and kids. it takes away the bonding time and family time. Not to mention, it no use watching news these day as 95%, in my opinion is purely made up and biased.
Thanks for the great article

I think that TV is a tool for education. The use of Tv has to be guided by parents. Select the best for children but do not condemn the TV for something which we cannot control.

Yes, TV is bad. Yes, it is something to be consumed with moderation. I am TV addict and now live TV-free too. But there's no way you can be razzing Sesame Street like that! I mean, c'mon! SS is one of the first steps in learning about the vast world out there. Lets get things straight as to what to ostracize and what not to. SS should compliment the parents teachings. SS teaches knowledge whereas it is the parents who instill values. The onus is entirely on the parents and... I guess I'm just rehashing the 'agree' comments now. But I disagree with the SS bashing. Sesame Street Rules!

Assalamu Alaikum from Sunny S.A. I totally agree with the article. As a teacher, I have noticed the marked difference between pupils I taught before T.V was fully introduced into our country. Parents are using the "box" as an "electronic baby sitter". Also a number of my pupils are now being diagnosed as ADD or ADHD and on Ritalin as a result of prolonged exposure to the box. We also have a problem with the lack of imagination and colour concepts with pupils. The box thinks for the pupils as a result they have become very lazy to think for themselves. They are also becoming desensitized from watching too many sci-fi movies and as a result the true horror pictures of Iraq and Palestine rarely affect them. Keep up the good work. From Farha and a totally Box [shaitaan] free household. Was Salaam

Parents should'nt make it a hobby for their children to watch everything on TV. Like in my country, there are drama plays I dont allow my children to watch because of the nudity contained therein.


SARA said:
It is a very important topic to discuss.. and I agree blance is key. There are some good TV programs on like PBS and public television stations. and it often helps if you do watch to watch with your children.

Hello - Readers who want more info about the effects
of television on our minds, and children, may want to
visit this anti-TV web site:
Whether you agree with their perspective or not, it
offers some interesting links and information.

I see that some readers are trying to balance the
educational benefits of TV, against the negative

As an addition to my previous posting, I'd like to clarify
how my family handled this problem. We got our first
TV in 1963, two weeks before Pres. Kennedy was killed.
We were amazed to see him shot, and then watch his
funeral, simply by 'watching a box'. During the same
time period, I remember a TV show where a man was
flying a plane and it was going to crash. I cried,
thinking it was real, and wondered why no one would
help this man. I had to learn what was real or not real
on the TV. (By today's standards, these things may
seem naieve. But life was not always so dominated by
visual media.) My parents quickly realized that TV had
the ability to overly stimulate our minds. We would
watch some programs together as a family. After
homework and prayers, we could watch 1 hour alone,
like Star Trek or an animal/Nature show. But we spent
most of our time doing other things - going to the public
library, walking, doing projects to repair our house. On
summer evenings, our family would sit on chairs outside
and watch the sky grow dark. I still remember listening
to the adults talk, and looking up to watch the stars in
the sky. Sometimes a plane would fly over and I would
wonder where it was going, and I'd dream about
traveling some day. I can't remember the plots of TV
shows that I've watched, but I'll always remember
these times with my family.

- peace to all -


Assalaam Alaikum
I have to applaud the writer's efforts for illuminating us on the bad effects of television which most of us already know to some extent. I agree that most American shows are vulgur and violent. Therefore, my siblings and I have a habit of changing the channel when something vulgur comes up. In this respect, I will say that parents have to teach children right from wrong and instill enough fear that they stay away from evil. I understand that this is very difficult in America so I will pray that Allah bless all parents with obedient children who stay away from the urges produced by Satan.
I have to admit that I watch a lot of TV. TV helps me learn things not found in newpapers such as Globe Trekker on PBS, Home remodeling shows, and graphic news, humorous shows etc. I love clean comedy that helps me forget the stress in my life and the violence around the world. Furthermore, TV connects me to my native culture, which I miss dearly, through movies. While watching TV, my family discusses the topics portrayed and analyze it from an Islamic perspective. Believe me, the television has enabled me to talk to my parents on a variety of subjects which usually don't cross my mind. From this respect, I will not blame the television that has opened up a new horizon for me and helped me get closer to Islam, ironically.

I belive in blance in watching TV,playing and learning. Not control,for when it is forbedden then you want it more!!

This article rang true. It is easy to sit in front of the television and difficult to remember how much television actually influences our thought. At the same time, it is also a good medium. We must remember to filter out things and not just throw them out all together. Although there are very few shows i'd actually recommend other Muslims to watch, television watching can be a great activity parents and children can do together as a learning activity. Because the social interactions on tv reflect what life outside the box is like, adults can point out what's right and wrong for the children so that when they experience it in real life, they can identify the situation and use their parents advice on it. So i'm not entirely against watching television. There can actually be some good that comes out of it.

Assalamu Alaikum,
Alhamdu lillah for this awakening article.As muslims we've been told from the onset that the tv propagators and there likes will employ all methods at there disposal to make us waste our time.A muslims time should be used in acheiving endless bliss i.e paradise as is clearly depicted in one of the many verses of the glorious Quran that have similar meaning.
On the issue of the articcle writer living with his family in a TV free abode is a great acheivement.For those who cannot acheive such a feat,an alternative which is Islamically oriented (i.e programs) should be provided for the children.May ALLAH protect us from the many side attractions existing in our societies that will make us forget about our primary assignment on earth.AMEEN

The comments made about the invader, TV, is true and more could be said. I do not own a TV. I see the results of not having one. More time to develop my knowledge about Islam. More time to give thought about my repentance to my Creator and more time to like and know me. So many adults do not really know themselves so the children that they produce, will not know them or themselves to the extent of enabling true development into responsible, concerned and inquisitve minded young adults and eventually, in Sha Allah, older adults. And the statement about the adults becoming childlike, it is shocking but oh so true. Thank you for this article.

As Salaamul Alaykum
Sis. Viola Gary of NJ

Very true -- thanks for a good article. I am from Calif.
now living in France and I am too live in a TV-free home.
The Frenchman's comments are true, but many
French-made TV shows are just as stupid, I assure you.
(Big Dil, Sous le Soleil, etc.) I was told to watch TV for
language learning and to "better integrate into the
culture." HA! No real difference in content here, except
for the language -- there are cop shows with violence
(maybe a bit less than US) but lots of nudity, alcohol,
and senseless plots. A torrent of negative imagery and
depictions of evil and violence. I put my TV in basement
storage room. We spend our evenings reading books
(and visiting Islamicity of course! : ), enjoying walks in
Nature, talking with friends and meditiative prayer. TV
brainwashes people in every culture with wrong ways
of living and thinking. Children are especially
vulnerable, but adults must take care too. I work on
my French by listening to the radio, or better yet --
talking to other humans. Much better than sitting in
front of the 'demon box' like a senseless zombie!

I really liked this article. I have limited my son's TV watching but I need to organize his room better so he has access to his games which will build his imagination. Toys that he can use to build things and learn about how things work. This last Sturday we looked at a book of animals for an hour. It is a large book with all animals covered from protozoans to snakes to mammals. I will trya nad do more of this.

Do I believe the French have culture?
Yes, I do. It does not mean that I like this culture.
I respect it. I have a culture of my own and I wish that this culture was to be protected by its people.
Do I believe the US Americans have culture?
No, I do not believe this for one moment.
I also do not respect any of their shortlived "Movements".
However I have respect for and I admire the technology of this Super Power, regardless from where the US stole most of its knowledge.
We only as every time have to go as far as the Quran, teaching us about different languages, different tribes, different cultures.
It is the diversity of life in general that is suffering all around the world.
Most of us demand assimilation by others living in our societies today.
This is the reason why Multiculturalism does not work very well.
I love to see diversity, differences, other countries and its cultures.
At the end I like to come back to my own.
It's called "HOME".
So, to explain to an American (US) how culture feels; the simple answer is: "Think of home" and the feeling of having been away from it a long time.

Excellent article. This is a wake-up call to everyone.

While you have some interesting points made, you should be wise to avoid the hypocrisy clearly evident in your article. Being, it is advertised on the same cathode tubes that television uses. The responsibility, in my opinion, lays with the parents entirely. Not partially.

I agree, media at home has to find its balance. But beware of demonizing TV just because produces dangerous images and worthless thinking. TV and media is firstly that, a medium. We must to EDUCATE in the arts of using it wisely, for good purpose (information, recreation, thinking, arts, etc). We are facing the delicate job of alerting or even prohibiting some programs according to our Muslim faith and values, but also turning it on when its provides a good source of enrichment and information.
And of course, sitting and watching TV (couch potatoes) should be the last activity for our children. Outdoor/indoor activities within the family and religious community will be always more positive and more natural.

While tv is something I don't care and never have,yet I think we are losing prospective here. I have many close friends of various religions, who spend enough time with their children and exert enough love and care to make even the subliminal moot. So really, the pied piper is not the TV but our own values. Lets stop blaming everyone else for our own shortcomings.

The dumbing down of the media is diliberate. The media are controlled by government. The government are controlled by corporations. The corporations follow the few that actually rule our world today: freemasons, Satan worshippers, and Zionists. Our food is poisonous, our drugs are dodgy because corporations have king rule.

We have to wise up to all this, unite and follow the Sunnah of our Prophet in the way we provide and preach to ourselves and others, and most of all, don't rely too much on the world outside, but encourage ourselves to use our brains which Allah gave us. Most of all, consult Allah as the final authority if none crediable are found in this world. Children are human beings and sadly Muslims are following the kuffar in the way they talk to them like inferiors. They are our future as well - if humanity cannot see this what hope do we have in surviving and standing up to all the evil in the world that persists?
For each (such person) there are (angels) in succession, before and behind him: They guard him by command of Allah. Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls). But when (once) Allah willeth a people's punishment, there can be no turning it back, nor will they find, besides Him, any to protect. (Qur'an 13:11)


TV is ruiling lives,all are becoming its slaves .A slavery we are choosing willingly ,sadly ruining lives.

What a WONDERFUL article!It hits upon every parent's-Moslem or non- duty towards their children. It is not enough to be just a breadwinner;social and educational development,esp.the logical thinking and creative imagination are,if anything,even more crucial.The quotes from secular American organizations on this topic(as brother Shakeel has done) or indeed on any other secular matter is a BRILLIANT idea;otherwise our folks just wont buy it!Kudos to the author!I hope others also hit upon this truth.I am going to print this article for my friends and family and neighbours.I do wish br.Syed had included Quranic verses and Hadiths re:child rearing,not only for authenticity ,but also to reveal to the world the TRUE nature of Islam and the incredible details promulgated 1400 yrs before on this and countless other topics.It is all sitting there waiting for eager minds to explore and profit from the Wisdom of the Almighty!

This is one of the worst nightmare Muslim parents living in N.America are facing. Television has gone into everyones lives and it is in every room of homes.Let us be careful with these new gadgets, they may be fun to have them but not healthy. Muslim parents let's make time to remember Allah with our children together, Let us avoid the punishment hereafter, by teaching our kids the right and wrong instead of giving that job to a television. Remember we are all herdsmen and we are responsible for our herds.

I thoroughly agree with the author about the electronic era and feel that it's Media by-products must be used responsibly. Children are impressionable. It is unrealistic to believe that even with monitoring they will not be exposed to the ugliness of the world today. It is the parents responsibility to raise and teach their children to think ,act and use resources wisely or responsibly,this is an ongoing process to adulthood;when they hopefully can make the right choices for themselves. I take exception to the Western world or America being condemned as the "Bad Guy" of the media world though. In France the media is not so "uptight" so that nudity and self expression are not considered tabu as it is in American society in general. In many countries today (Shar'iah governed included) the media is getting away with itself.It is the thirst of their populations for the specific entertainment which leads them to import the dirtier side of American media.It is PEOPLE,their desires,beliefs and upbringing that allow the indecencies to perpetuate.American TV,Movies, Magazines,etc are not limited to Sex and violence it is the people who are watching those things that are limiting themselves to that genera of media.I am a 40+ American Female,Personally and within the sphere of my associations(who are connected throughout the country to similar interest groups) we abhore violence and inappropriate media for ourselves and our families and work to reduce the exposure and amount of inappropriate programming and advertising available for public display.
To denigrate the American people for a _subculture_ who is poisoning our families minds as well as the rest of the world is irresponsible. To bring attention to the sick perversity in Media today and assist in changing peoples understanding of it or helping to eradicate it,is more responsible.

I have always maintained that parents are responsible for their childrens' behavior and accomplishment. Children must be instilled with "self-worth" and moral values by their parents, not the public schools nor their peers. This article should be sent to the National Education Association (teachers' union) ... all they want is job security!

Yes, we need to be proactive !!
But completely ignoring this medium is not a very good idea. We need to be connected, we need to broaden our horizons and we need to be aware of what's going around us (even if that's violence- like law enforcement prog.)
It would be interesting to hear more from the author about his children's personality, given that he has a tv-free home. How do they react about common issues of discussion (non-serial)...their understanding of local and global society...Let us all strive for success

I am, by the Grace of God, 66 years old, and I think to have noticed entropy at work - in my opinion, TV is a powerful entropy-producing machine, it produces some negentropy of rather uncertain credibility, and overwhelming amounts of trivialities - reflecting the sociological reality of the soiciety that is consuming TV, in the Islamic World as well as outside of it. Or do you think that Saudi TV is so much better than American? It simply reflects a society that is not yet as "free" (also free of morals) as the Western societies are. Children who watch TV participate in an adult world, certainly not the best of worlds, largely because they are not adequately cared for by the adults in their families. If you take adequate care of your children, they will spend little if now time watching stupid soaps. There will still be much exposure to "Western values" - and, therewith, opportunities for talking with your children on these "Western values" als subjects of considerate, philosophical, and humanistic reflection, and possibilities for the teaching of the religious foundation of humanism in Islam. We have to assume our responsibilities and to take more time for our children. If they perceive us as duller as the dullest soaps, they will prefer watching TV than discuss their ideas with us. Children are always not only a moral, but also an intellectual challenge. Let us not only pray to be able to truthfully answer a child's questions, let us earnestly try to live Islamic values in a way that makes them attractive for our children and makes them, too, earnestly think about them. Let us not hide in tunnels and simply park our offspring in front of the TV box to gain time for trivial pursuits. By the Grace of Allah, education of Muslim children in a Western environment will provide the blessings of Jihad on those who convincingly teach and credibly live our Islamic values.

May Allah strengthen you all and bless you all. Peace be upon you.

One of Allah's servants

This is really a challenge to muslim community.We can use this media for constructive purpose.Even in western media, they also show some good programes on Discovery channnel or National Geographic channel, but in general the programmes which are based on arts, films and music can destroy the good atmosphere which an islamic society dreams to establish.In any society unless strict discipline is not followed, the masses and children in particular will go astray.The big question is how to foster islamic values in our lives.

TV-free home is the first thing each muslim family should do.

asalaam alaikum,
the reason i said 'i am indiffernt', is because i did not read the entire article. once i got to the paragraph where i thought the writer was going to the 'extreme' to make a point, i stopped reading. i do not believe extremes are needed to make a point...especially when the example 'does not' seem to be based in any real research, but just opinion. i am refering to the reference about 'sesame street' doing nothing more than teaching the alphabet and doing nothing to help a child learn to think, that it was only cute critters..etc. true, too much of even a good a program can be too much, however, sesame street is actually a valuable program for kids. have you actually watched it? have you done research on it? there is an assortment of problem solving skits where a child has to use logic to choose the correct answer. a child learns about grouping, what belongs in a group and what doesn't, deductive reasoning, friendships, ect. the show also explains different things about the world, different people, and different cultures. point is that it is a 'BIG TURN OFF', when any writer goes to the extreme to make a point...often using baselss statements. i have never liked those tactics. surely, your main points can be made without that sort of tactic.
asalaam alaikum

i agree with it totally, TV is really giving us all negative influences, it makes us feel that, staying at home, staying with your parents taking care of them is silly dorky behavior, but going to pubs, having a multiple relationships, sex are cool, its cool to be in pubs and to enjoy life, and its silly and boring to be other wise, also appearances, seems now days everyone wasnt to look like the westerners... its sad, i hope i could control what my kids watch and restict all this when i have kids

The challenge for Muslims is not to avoid the media, but to make best use of it. No one disputes that the America media is at the bottom of the pail, and spews out the worst examples of behavior, violence, and sexual perversion. It also tends to deceive and lie about things that are inherently political, involve financial interests, or pseudo-religious constructs (Zionism being chief among them). have to acknowledge that the media may have benefits. When one properly produces good content, he or she may expect to properly influence an indivdual's behavior,a society, or the world. This is the challenge for muslims. It is our challenge to do more -- use the media to tell the truth, instruct, and warn.

this is a very good article. i commend you brother for not letting tv influence your family and you.