Our focus on cultural topics was deliberate. In our efforts to break down stereotypes about Islam, our strategy was to humanize Muslims by showing them engaged in activities non-Muslims could relate to. Popular culture has always cut across cultural and geographic borders, so we focused heavily on the medium. Continue reading →
Amna Ahmad, New York City high school oral historian, This is Where I Need to Be project
The old saying “children should be seen, but not heard” still rings true today. Although the majority of the population in many countries is younger than 25, youth perspectives are rarely, if ever, taken seriously. This is especially true for those under the age of 18 and those who come from minority groups such as people of color or Muslims. This Is Where I Need to Be: Oral Histories of Muslim Youth in NYCattempts to break these barriers by providing a platform for diverse young Muslims of color living in New York City to voice their perspectives. You can watch a video clip of Palestinian-American Amna Ahmad’s reading of Bengali-American Taseen Ferdous’s contribution to the book.
Maplewood, New Jersey, fencing star Ibtihaj Muhammad was recently named International Sportswoman of the Year by the Muslim Women’s Sports Foundation. In an interview, Muhammad, the third of five children in an athletic family, said that she initially began fencing because it easily allowed her to be fiercely competitive while maintaining her ability to wear hijab and present herself in modest dress. If her upcoming Olympic trial performance matches her world ranking, she’ll be one of two American women to fence in the London Olympic Games this summer. Although it cannot be confirmed, as the U.S. Olympic committee does not survey athletes’ religious backgrounds, Muhammad is probably also the first practicing Muslim woman to represent the U.S. in any Olympic event.
Professor John O. Voll. Photo: Georgetown University
This past weekend academics and journalists from around the world gathered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the Inside Islam-cosponsored conference Islam and Democracy. The changing political landscape of the Middle East was a central focus of the event in general and was the main topic of a keynote by John O. Voll, Professor of Islamic history and Associate Director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. In tune with perspectives expressed on Inside Islam by Reza Aslan, Marc Lynch, and Tariq Ramadan, Voll stressed that the desires of the people have largely stayed the same—peace, justice, economic stability—but that the ideologies and particular models of making these demands, have shifted. Continue reading →
We as Muslims should all be working together to counter radicalism… There are many within the [Muslim North American] community that are in denial. You bring up the word ‘radicalism’ and people immediately become defensive. If you’re silent, you’re just as guilty.
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 →
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.”
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.
Muslims have used fiction, poetry, and music to relay to the world the message that Islam is about peace and does not condone violence. Fashion is also a medium on that list. Melih Kesmen began Style Islam, an Islamic-themed clothing line, in Germany three years ago and now it is in high demand in Europe and the Middle East.
Kesmen began the project after the Danish cartoon controversy. He wanted to challenge the stereotypes of Islam that were being circulated. Using hip clothing style, Kesmen introduced a new way to expose people to the core messages of the faith, at the center of which is peace.
Some of the designs read: “Terrorism has no religion,” “Hijab. My right. My choice. My life,” and “Jesus & Muhammad: Brothers in Faith.” The clothing line shows that Islam is about more than what appears in the media–it can be hip, too.
What do you think of these designs? Is clothing a good way to relay a message? Can a tee-shirt change people’s minds about Islam? Please share your thoughts below.
Religion doesn’t just live in sacred books or buildings. Religion lives in people. Therefore, I believe that one of the best ways to understand Islam is to get to know its people. Knowing few Muslims, I set out to find some and ask each of them a simple question: If you had only three words to describe Islam, what would they be?Continue reading →