When I met Dr. Shahid Masood, his humility amazed me. Sitting across from me at a table in his office in ARY television headquarters in Dubai, Dr. Shahid was the first to ask a question: “Why do you want to interview me? I am just another ordinary mortal.” He seemed unconvinced with my contention that he is more than that to Pakistanis and Muslims around the world. He, however, had his feet squarely on the ground, an important quality for a media personality. “I just tell people the facts.” That was exactly what I wanted from him — the facts of his life and experiences.
Nostalgia was in his eyes when I asked him about his childhood memories. “My father was a civil engineer in Saudi Arabia and he worked there for 15 years. I spent my childhood in Taif and Riyadh. For seven years, I went to the Pakistan International School in Riyadh. Two of my younger brothers were born in Saudi Arabia so the country is close to my heart.”
By training he is a medical doctor and Dr. Shahid fondly remembers his years of successful practice in Pakistan, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Why then had he changed? “Even as a medical student, I was interested in the world around me. I took an active part in the students’ movement for democracy. I knew that unless voices were raised against tyranny, nations would achieve nothing.”
It seemed that in addition to his medical responsibilities, he was also aware of his social ones. “We are morally bound to help the sick. The same applies to social ills. That is my social responsibility. I went into this field primarily because of this sense of duty.”
I was eager to talk about the TV show ‘Views On News’ that has made him and ARY television channel famous across the globe.
“Well, it is the first-ever show in which a current affairs discussion is handled by one man. Maybe this is the show’s ultimate selling point.” He was eager to talk about the program and he told us that it was Asia’s longest-running current affairs TV show. “Even though it has been called controversial, ‘Views On News’ tries to deal with a variety of themes and personalities. I feel overwhelmed when international media appreciates the show’s content.”
I wanted to find out how he would answer those who say that the program promotes extremism and hatred. “I have not come across anybody who says I spread extremism. My program is a dialogue. If it is the voice of the voiceless, then it is an opportunity for us all to release our frustrations. Dialogue is precisely what is needed to counter hatred and I am all for dialogue.” He paused for a minute and then was off again. “On the question of extremism, Khalil Gibran once said, ‘I am an extremist because I am extremely in favor of truth against lies, extremely for justice against tyranny and extremely for humanity instead of inhumanity.’ I am not an extremist but I believe that there are times when one should not compromise. Again, as I said, I believe in dialogue.”
I asked about the media in the Muslim world. Dr. Shahid seemed optimistic. “The media in the Muslim world has only begun to develop in the last five years or so. The biggest challenge for them is to rise above petty interests and establish credibility so that they represent the true picture of Muslim society.” He made no attempt to evade mentioning the Western media. “When we watch Western TV, we get to know what their think-tanks, opinion leaders, politicians, economists, business tycoons and the general public believe in. They do not report only what is happening but also the way they view the events. Their points of view cannot be excluded from the view itself. The Muslim media should do the same. It should tell the true story as well as what Muslim societies think of the stories.
Even though we are moving in that direction, we are still a long way from arriving there.”
Dr. Shahid does not believe that the Muslim world lacks proper leadership. “The Muslim world is not without leaders; the question is where they are being led to. The basic question is the direction the leaders have taken us. What is needed is a sense of direction which must be well-defined beforehand.”
But are not Muslim rulers far removed from their people?
“Maybe the rulers do not listen closely enough to the masses but
this shows how the masses have not organized themselves to make
their opinions known. The gap increases and decreases and a permanent
solution will come only when we all decide to demand an egalitarian society which truly represents Islamic concepts of equality.”
The war on terror, Dr. Shahid believes, is a tool in the hands of anti-Muslim crusaders. “But this war is not between Christianity and Islam or Judaism and Islam. All three are religions under the same God — Almighty Allah. It is only certain practitioners of these religions who have a vested interest. Muslims must distinguish between such elements and those who are as much victims of this unholy war as Muslims are. Nevertheless, one cannot deny the fact that the rise of religious extremism in Western societies is alarming.”
As the meeting ended, it was time to look to the future.
Dr. Shahid seemed eager to tell me. “I am producing and hosting another show called ‘The Hidden Truth.’ Besides, as the head of the ARY One World channel, I am responsible for all the news content that is broadcast on all ARY channels.”
As a parting shot, Dr. Shahid asked to pay a special tribute.
“My mother is a teacher and she has been the biggest influence in whatever I am today.” And what else do we need to know about Dr. Shahid’s family? “I am happily married with two lovely daughters. There is nothing in my life that is as important as my two daughters. My wife has been very supportive and it is because of her that I am able to fulfill the challenges of my profession.”