UK Course on Islam and the Media

In the last few years, there are have been several laws passed in different European countries that relate to Muslim communities. For example, in France and Belgium, laws were passed banning the niqab and in Switzerland a law was passed to ban the building of minarets. Many Muslims considered these moves to be a sign of an anti-Muslim sentiment. Occasionally, however, there are stories that indicate positive change.

This past January, the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom introduced a new class on Muslim women and the media. The first of its kind, the course will examine the role of women in Islam and how they are portrayed  in the media. The class will look at various issues that include wearing the hijab, marriage, and “honor” crimes and how they are addressed in film, television, and the media in general. Continue reading

Does Comedy Help?

Can comedy defuse an increasingly Islamophobic atmosphere in the west? Or do short films, sketches, and new media actually solidify preexisting bigotry and reinforce stereotypes through caricatures of Muslim people?

In the wake of the Lowe’s controversy, some comedy sketches have poked fun at the ridiculousness nature of fearing Muslims and Islam. In one sketch (below), two men of presumably South Asian Muslim descent, visit a Lowe’s Superstore to shop for “materials.” The epic background, set by what is meant to be “Islamic-sounding” music, presents an ominous mood, preparing the viewer for the culminating, climactic event. I don’t want to spoil the ending, so watch the clip to see what happens.

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Representations of Muslims in Video Games

From the game "Battle in Sadr City"

Stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims in the media are not new. They have been a persistent part of discussing the Middle East, terrorism, and Islam. Jack Shaheen, a professor at Southern Illinois University, traced these images of Arabs and Muslims in Hollywood movies. He found that Arabs and Muslims are often conflated so that it appears that Arab equals Muslim. Also, Arabs and Muslims are either portrayed as exotic, as if they all live in 1001 Arabian nights, or as violent. Obviously, these images do not reflect the reality of over 1.57 billion Muslim. These stereotypes are not restricted to Hollywood films or news media broadcast but also occur in video games. Continue reading

New Media = New Dynamics?

Amir Ahmad Nasr, aka Drima from The Sudanese Thinker blog, recently created a project exploring new media—a source of information that altered his life many times. From fundamentalism to heartbreak and disillusionment, and finally to his current spiritual practice of Sufism, Nasr says he was greatly influenced by the internet and the different kinds of religious resources that he read throughout his Islamic spiritual development.

His new project, The Future of Islam in the Age of New Media, highlights the perspectives of 60 academics, scholars, and bloggers on how access to new media has shaped Islam and Muslims around the world. While most contributors see the internet as a “democratizing force,” some warn of the dangers that arise with equal access and speak about the potential hazards of providing a platform for anyone and everyone to offer their voice. Continue reading

Conference on Muslims and the Media

On March 23rd and 24th, Muslim Voices, an organization that “aims to increase intercultural dialogue and understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims,” held a conference at Indiana University titled “Re-scripting Islam: Muslims and the Media.” The conference explored the multiple narratives of Islam and Muslims in the media.Various panelists spoke about different avenues that Muslims and non-Muslims are using to engage in discussions about Islam.

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Increasing Gender Barriers in North American Mosques

Zarqa Nawaz

The role of gender in Islam is a topic that has been debated since the time of the Prophet Muhammad by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I recently posted pieces about mixed-gender prayer and female religious leadership in Islam, looking at various aspects of the complex question of what sorts of interactions between men and women are appropriate. Is the separation between men and women encouraged more in a mosque than in other public settings? Where in the mosque should women pray?

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A Jewish, White Woman’s Perspective on Islam

Lesley Hazleton

This fall, author Lesley Hazleton gave a TED talk in Seattle, offering her own interpretation of the Qur’an as an agnostic Jew. Hazleton’s nine-minute presentation, attended by a predominately white, middle-aged, non-Muslim American audience, stemmed from extensive research on the Qur’an and her experiences with Middle Eastern Bedouins. Her raspy, light British accented voice seemed to perfectly complement her academic vocabulary and witty sense of humor, and the audience quickly warmed to her style and intent in countering common negative stereotypes of the Qur’an.

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A Different Hate

Neil Padukone recently completed a visiting fellowship at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. He is currently writing a book on the future of conflict in South Asia.

Image by RIDZDESIGN

A number of recent posts on the Inside Islam blog have highlighted the rise in xenophobic attitudes towards Muslims. The latest Inside Islam Radio Show spoke with Robert Wright, who discussed the latest wave of Islamophobia in the US and the parallels it may have with the history of homophobia.

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Can Humor Ease the Fear

The last month has seen an array of humor to counter the wave of Islamophobia that has been growing in the United States and other western countries with significant Muslim populations. A week ago, Comedy Central hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear that drew an estimated 200,000 people, and featured many jokes poking fun at the ridiculousness of Islamophobia within the United States.

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Where Are the Violent Muslim Extremists?

A photo of a Christian, Muslim, and Hindu child holding signs representing their respective faiths

India’s secular democracy was tested with the latest ruling from a regional High Court dividing up the land of a religious site holy to both Muslims and Hindus. The disputed area lies in the center of Ayodhya, a sleepy north Indian town that normally sees more cows in the street than cars.  But it hasn’t always been sleepy.

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