Muslim Women, YouTube, and Third Space

This post was written by guest contributor Deonna Kelli Sayed.

Media technology and the Muslim world are interesting collaborators.  Cassette tape propagation of Ayatollah Khomeini’s sermons provided important precursors for the Iranian Revolution. Likewise, Facebook and Twitter offered political leverage in the Arab Spring developments. For observers, social media, in particular, is potentially changing the dynamics of the public sphere in the Muslim world.

New media technology provides a “Third Space” where some Muslims who are using social media to contest gender assumptions, normative aspects of religious practice, and cultural experience. In this context, YouTube offers such a space as an informal meeting place to create community and to express new identities.

Muslims around the world are familiar with YouTube as a source of religious information from well-known Islamic personalities. Now, rather than YouTubing for religious instruction from Dr. Zakir Naik, for example some are uploading for creative expression, a small number of Muslims are contributing to a new aesthetic of Muslim videography to express personal creativity and observations – mostly through satire or parody — on issues they face in daily life.

One of the more interesting dynamics is the emergence of Muslim women taking to YouTube to “talk back” on issues of identity and Western assumptions concerning the female experience.   [Read more...]

Women in the 2011 Arab Media Forum

There was something quite exciting about this year’s Arab Media Forum (AMF), which recently concluded in Dubai and was attended by over 2,000 media leaders from around the region. This year marked the tenth anniversary of the forum, which has served as an annual platform for debating Arab media issues and concerns for the past decade.  In addition, almost all of this year’s panels have echoed ongoing transitions in the Arab world and their implications for the media landscape.  I thought many of the discussions were highly stimulating when it came to the convergence of youth demographics and new media in triggering the current unrest.

Arab Media Form

Panel on Local Content in Arab Media, from the AMF's website.

There is ample evidence showing that women in this part of the world have made impressive strides in a wide range of professions, including media. At universities, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) female faculty members in media and communication departments have been on the rise and so has their integration into the media market.  As a former student, at both the American University of Sharjah and the University of Sharjah, I was fully aware of the huge Emirati female attendance in communications programs at undergraduate and graduate levels.  In the media profession itself, there are bright examples of GCC women serving as impressive role models for females in the region. They have excelled in different fields: some in film making, such as Emirati producer Naila Al Khaja; some have taken their achievement to global levels, such as foundation director Muna Abu Sulayman; while others have emerged as powerful figures in  social media and cyberspace, such as Saudi writer Sabria Jawhar.

Unfortunately, such presence seems to have made little showing in female contributions to public discussions of media issues. Traditional research has generally focused on female representation in media content and media professions, but more attention needs also to be given to women’s contributions to public forums of media developments like AMF. What I found most worrying about the event was the underrepresentation of female media leaders and practitioners from the Gulf region in the AMF panels.

[Read more...]

Announcing “The Future of Islam In the Age of New Media”

Muslimah Media Watch is a proud partner for The Future of Islam In the Age of New Media, featuring 60 speakers in 60 seconds each, for a total of 60 insightful minutes. This is an unprecedented online event and audio seminar happening in May.

Billed as “the shortest conference on Islam ever,” it brings together many names and faces you’ll recognize including our very own Editor-in-Chief, Fatemeh and Contributor Sana, along with several prominent female Muslim voices, such as Zeba Khan, Sana Saleem, Nesrine Malik, Asma Uddin, and several more!

We’ve all seen the power of digital media and how it played a key role in the recent uprisings that toppled the Tunisian and Egyptian dictators. And while there has been a lot of talk on that subject, there has hardly been any discussion on perhaps an even more important topic, and that is the impact of new media on Islam.

Islam permeates all aspects of Muslim life including education and politics. Therefore, any evolution and new trends that emerge within Islam and Islamic thought, even in cyberspace, have the potential to influence important matters beyond Islam itself.

This isn’t theory. It’s factual and it’s already happening.

How and in what ways this is happening is precisely what will be explored by the 60 speakers comprised of Islamic scholars, new media experts, academics, journalists and activists.

Join us, along with thousands of participants who will be tuning in and contributing to the conversation in the blogosphere and on Twitter using the hashtag #IslamNewMedia.