Muslim MTV?

Can you imagine what an Islamic MTV would look like? Well, Ahmed Abu Haiba did when he launched a new music channel called 4Shbab TV. (“Shbab” means “young people” in Arabic.) The idea behind 4Shbab TV is to offer an Islamic alternative to the other 800+ satellite channels. 4Shbab TV began broadcasting in February 2009 from Bahrain, and according to Abu Haiba now has viewers from all over the Middle East.

For Abu Haiba, mainstream music videos do not reflect Arab and Islamic cultural values nor do they represent the realities of the youth in the Middle East so he decided to launch a channel that would do just that. Abu Haiba also wanted to make  religion more appealing to youth. 4Shbab broadcasts music videos that do not have backup singers, revealing clothing, or anything else that one would associate with mainstream music videos, but that does not mean that musical instruments are not used or that all the songs are about religion. It also features talk shows, variety shows, news, and an American Idol-like program called  “Sotak Wasel,” which translates as “Your Voice is Heard.”

4Shbab TV is part of a growing trend around the Muslim world of Islamically themed projects, like Amr Khaled’s show “Mujaddidun”–The Reformers in Arabic– based on “The Apprentice.” These projects not only offer alternative means of entertainment but also demonstrate the diverse experiences of Islam not only across regions but across the generations. Many of these projects specifically target a younger audience and promote a picture of Islam that is compatible with modern sensibilities.

What do you think about 4Shbab and other religiously themed entertainment? Do you think they have an impact? What do projects like 4Shbab indicate about the diversity of the Muslim experience? Would you watch this channel? Please share your thoughts below.

Support for Cordoba House from the Mayor to the President

President Obama speaking about Cordoba House

On August 3rd, 2010, a New York City Landmark Preservation Commission vote cleared the way for construction of a much-debated Islamic center. The center will be called Cordoba House, after the city in Andalusia where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together in tolerance and respect. I wrote about Cordoba last December, when the plans to build this cultural center emerged. Cordoba House will include a mosque, but it will much more than that–it will be like a YMCA  and open to the community. Although it is frequently referred to in the mainstream media as the “Ground Zero Mosque,” it is not primarily a mosque, nor is it located at Ground Zero. Opposition to the project has received a lot of attention recently, but it should be noted that there is also a good deal of broad-based support for Cordoba House as well.

Among the arguments for the cultural center is the right to build a place of worship and the need to encourage moderate Muslims who are trying to counter the voices of the extremists. These were points that Mayor Michael Bloomberg reiterated in his speech in support of building the center. Mayor Bloomberg emphasized the right of Muslims, as well as other religious groups, to build places of worship and rejected the idea that the government should strip them of this right because some do not like their faith. One of his most important points was that Muslims are part of America, just like other immigrants. Continue reading