“The 99”

On, Wednesday, May 11th, Jean will be speaking with Naif Al-Mutawa, the creator of “The 99,” the first Islamically themed superhero comic. Al-Mutawa created the comics to provide Muslim children with superheroes that they could identify with. The characters come from all over the world, in order to emphasize the diversity of the worldwide Muslim community. Even though the names of the characters stem from the 99 names of God mentioned in the Qur’an, Sunnah, and Islamic tradition and each character represents some of the core values of Islam, the series is not specifically about Islam as a faith but about broader themes like tolerance.

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Pop Goes Islam

With Mubarak gone, Ahmed Abu Haiba no longer has to worry about the infamous SSIS (Egypt’s Secret Police), but his 2-year-old Islamic music channel’s future is anything but certain. Haiba’s Cairo-based 4Shbab TV aims to instill Islamic values in Arab Muslim youth around the world, but some conservative Muslims think that its programming is polluting young minds with “inappropriate” presentations of makeup-wearing women in music videos. A few key Gulf-based financiers have responded to these criticisms by divesting from the channel. A popular Arab sheik even accuses Haiba of promoting “American Islam.”

In a recent Al Jazeera documentary, Pop Goes Islam (embedded below), Haiba explains his reasoning behind the channel’s creation–offering Islamic values in the language of 21st-century youth–and notes that the only women who have appeared on his channel have worn headscarves and occasionally even niqabs. No female musicians or vocalists have ever been broadcast.

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Making It More Difficult for Moderate Muslims

As surely everyone knows, this Friday, April 29th, the UK’s Prince William and Kate Middleton will be married at Westminster Abbey. People around the world will be watching the wedding and participating in the celebration. Not all are happy with the upcoming event. An anti-war and extremist Muslim group in Britain called “Muslims against Crusades” (MAC) made plans to protest the royal wedding and the “English Defense League” (EDL) an ultra-nationalist group said that they would counter-protest.

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An Islamic Version of “American Idol”?

“Imam Muda” (Young Imam), a Malaysian Islamic reality show searching for the next young imam, just began its second season this week. The show, based on “American Idol” and “The X Factor,” first aired in 2010. The show now has a bigger following and has drawn over 1,000 possible contestants from around Southeast Asia.

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Violence Against Women: A New Direction?

In 2010, journalist-actress-writer-director Feo Aladag released When We Leave (Die Fremde in German), an award-winning film that explores the hardships that characterize one young Turkish-German woman’s transition from a suffocating marriage in Istanbul back to a new life in her native Berlin. Despite her intentions of running from her abusive relationship, she endures further physical abuse from her husband, and is unsupported by her family in her decision to run away with her son. When We Leave blends a number of issues into one story–from Germany’s struggles with multiculturalism to the concept of honor in many Turkish families.

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Can Comedy and Religion Go Together?

In a world where religion is part of so many conflicts, some have found ways  to bring people together and force them to address their stereotypes. Comedy is one way to achieve this goal. Laughing together can create a sense of understanding across differences. While some may people may not associate the two terms “Muslim” and “comedian” (or even “religion” and “comedy”), there have been many Muslims like Azhar Usman, Mo Amer, Preacher Moss, Maysoon Ziad, Tissa Hami, who have used comedy as a way to break stereotypes  and to make the audience appreciate their differences.

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Tehran: Capital of Nose Jobs

Yes, Tehran is the world capital of nose jobs. While western news concentrates a disproportionate amount of time on the occasional ridiculous statement from President Ahmadinejad and Iranian nuclear ambitions, other stories seem to be flying under the radar. In no way am I suggesting that homophobia, anti-Semitism, or regional security threats are unimportant, but there are myriad other issues that provide more insight into the lives of average Iranians.

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Extremism Produces Extremism

About three weeks ago, Pastor Terry Jones burned a copy of the Qur’an. Jones had planned to burn Qur’ans on September 11th of last year but was persuaded against it. However, last month, Jones put the Qur’an “on trial,” found it guilty, and executed it.  The consequence of Jones’ action was violence in Afghanistan that left at least 20 people dead and more than 80 injured.

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My Eyes Wide Open

Julia C. Hurley is a human rights advocate and speaker on Palestinian rights. Hurley also works with American Friends of UNRWA, promoting their Adopt a School Campaign, which she initiated in 2010, and she volunteers with the Greater DC Chapter of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Hurley is currently speaking at American universities  on the conditions in Palestine and what Americans can do about it with her talks, “Images of Hope: One Woman’s Journey to Palestine & Back.”

Growing up in suburban New Jersey, I was always exposed to different people and cultures. I was comfortable with diversity and never felt I had to fear or hate another group of people. My parents instilled in me the idea that we should always be concerned for people and do what we can to help anyone, regardless of race or religion, simply because they are our fellow human beings. I never judged based on these criteria before, but September 11th changed that in a way.

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Muslim World Music Day

Yesterday, the ARCive of Contemporary Music organized Muslim World Music Day. The project coordinated live concerts and archived a variety of musical traditions, creating a database of knowledge and resources on music related to Muslims and Islam from dozens of countries. Scholars, artists, and music collectors from around the globe contributed to what is truly an amazing catalog of information on music composed by Muslims and non-Muslims over hundreds of years. There’s even a section of photos of album covers from various decades of the 20th century, showcasing a diverse set of music.

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