Saturday, May 30, 2009

where are the Muslims?

Earlier today I was at the NYC Grassroots Media Conference. I was only able to attend one workshop and had to table the rest of the time, but I enjoyed myself and met all sorts of interesting people. Over the last couple years or so I've gained a strong perspective that independent media is vital and crucial, and that more people from marginalized communities need to make such media. Going to this conference gave me more insight and knowledge into what other people are doing in the broader alternative independent media movement, especially with what's going on in NYC.

When I go to these kinds of progressive spaces, of which I hope to go to more, I find that I'm usually the only visible Muslim, if not the only Muslim or one of the very few Muslims. So what did I see today at the NYC GMC? All sorts of people from all sorts of communities, which is fantastic. But as far as Muslims, I only met one other Muslim, and I was perhaps the only visible Muslim. My guess is that there weren't more than a handful of Muslims present at the conference, if even that.

I find this to be really frustrating. First and foremost, the alternative media movement is extremely relevant to the Muslim community, and Muslims need to be a part of it. Media has the most influence in our society today. It is all about cause and effect. For example with Muslims, for many years and especially in the last 8 years, Muslims have been vilified, defamed, misrepresented, and stereotyped in mainstream media - in all media. Come on, we know this. Talk radio, national TV news, local TV news, newspapers, crazy right-wing websites, movies, etc etc - the list goes on, and on and on. My classic example is Glenn Beck who used to be on CNN, primetime every weeknight at 7pm, and is now on Fox. Beck is the kind of guy that convinces ignorant TV viewers that Muslims are Islamofascists - and he had a prime spot on CNN.

Then you look at the alternative media movement. The folks doing this kind of work understand the misrepresentation and stereotyping of people of colour, including Muslim folks, and their work aims to rightly represent these communities to counteract the damage done by mainstream media. The alternative media movement aims and wants to accurately represent Muslims! So why the hell aren't more Muslims engaged in this kind of work? Why is it that I saw very few Muslims today at this conference, when many of the media groups present at the conference discuss Muslim communities and Muslim issues?

This is part of a bigger issue of Muslims groups and institutions not being involved or connected with the wider progressive movement. The true progressive movement talks about Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, Kashmir, Chechnya, and so on and so on. What about domestic issues? The prison system, Guantanamo, labour rights, immigrant rights, institutionalized poverty and racism and cleavages, all affect Muslims as well. My point is that the progressive movement is engaged with issues that directly affect Muslims. Therefore there is a crucial need for Muslims to become involved with these groups or at least to connect with them, to work together. Note, I'm only discussing spaces that have people of colour at the forefront.

I'm tired of Muslims only talking to themselves. We're such an insular and fragmented community. We need to connect to those who are already looking out for us.

In terms of looking forward, I'm going inshallah to the Allied Media Conference July 16th-19th in Detroit. I hope that Muslims turn up.

Friday, May 29, 2009


From Representations of the Intellectual by the late great, Edward W. Said.

page 107:
"I had certainly become used to being peripheral, outside the circle of power, and perhaps because I had no talent for a position inside that charmed circle, I rationalized the virtues of outsiderhood. I could never completely believe in the men and women, for that is what they were after all, just men and women - who commanded forces, led parties and countries, wielded basically unchallenged authority. Hero-worship, and even the notion of heroism itself when applied to most political leaders, has always left me cold..."

I put this up here because this passage made me think right away of course, of Mr. Barack Obama. I wonder what Said would have said about him...