Promoting civic involvement: Introducing unitedmuslims.org

Here goes something

As the editor of altmuslim.com, I try to focus our articles on items of interest to Muslims and others alike, in a manner geared towards open discourse and critical inquiry. And even though altmuslim.com is part of a larger Web endeavor through our parent company, Halalfire Media LLC, I don’t usually write about the various other web projects that we work on. But I want make an exception, and give you an early look at a website that I hope will do a lot of good for both the Muslim community and the larger communities in which we live.

After two years of conceptual planning and two months of feverish coding, I’m proud to present unitedmuslims.org – a website designed to aggregate the energy and talent of the Muslim community and actively put it to use in making the world a better place. This week, unitedmuslims.org is launching simultaneously in the US, UK, and Canada, with more countries coming online soon.

There are many things that we as Muslims can do to head off a “clash of civilizations”, but the most effective and dignified way, in my opinion, to “win the hearts and minds” of our fellow citizens is to show that we care about causes important to everyone, not just ourselves. This site was meant to introduce Muslims to causes in their community, and bring a visible Muslim presence to local community efforts.

But it doesn’t end there. I feel that our collective talent and energy is greatly underutilized in the defense of our community. We designed this site to tap into the collective creativity of the Muslim community – not just the “geeks”, but the average Muslim. New ideas, information, and projects can be created by anyone, and site members vote with their membership on what they feel are the best and most effective ones (similar to the popularity mechanism at Digg). Issue-oriented groups (similar to what you may have seen on Facebook) allow participants to not only talk about causes that affect them, but take action using an innovative projects feature that is unique to unitedmuslims.org.

We created this site knowing that users of the site are all busy people and don’t have time to check it every day. That’s why, when you create a volunteer profile on unitedmuslims.org, you will be actively matched to online and real-world projects based on your availability, geographic location, and activist/political preferences. Within minutes, you can be emailed about a project, take action online, and then move on with your day.

The site is also designed with an eye towards the 2008 US elections. unitedmuslims.org can aggregate active voters based on political party, district, and pledged donation amounts (what people would be willing to give should a candidate win their trust). Even if only a few thousand members join (and we already have nearly 10,000 users on altmuslim.com and zabihah.com), we can generate significant donations for candidates regardless of party affiliation. It is our hope that in 2008, candidates for public office will start paying attention to our real clout, in terms of money and mobilized voters, instead of simply using us as political fodder.

The site is built using a modular architecture that will allow it to grow and change based on the needs of the community. If you think of innovative ways to tap into the collective skill set of the online Muslim community, it can be implemented within days.

All of us have causes we care about. Perhaps some are even trying to rally support around a time-sensitive issue, and are having trouble getting others to participate. That’s why we built unitedmuslims.org – built by Muslims, for the service of everyone. I encourage you to join unitedmuslims.org and create groups or projects that can be shared with others, and make a difference in whatever way you can.

Shahed Amanullah is editor-in-chief of altmuslim.com.  He is also the founder of Halalfire Media LLC, the parent company of both altmuslim.com and unitedmuslims.org, as well as other websites serving Muslim communities in the West.