Friday, October 7, 2011

Guest Speaker

This past Thursday in class we got the privilege of hearing from some religion and media scholars about the research that they are currently doing. One of the speaker that I got to hear from was Nabil Echchaibi and he spoke on framing religious identity through the internet. His main religious identity he spoke of was that of the Muslim world. He started off by talking about how the media was a big platform, or prime stage, for defining Islam and that it is becoming a more complex definition. For most people Islam is regarded as a backwards religion that shies away from the modern, but Echchaibi is looking at modernity as something to engage with, not fight. He does however agree that there is a complex relationship between the Muslim world and modernity. He states that the internet can become an example of modern social imaginary, which is simply a way to bring many Muslims together to act simultaneously. It is not easy to answer the question “are you Muslim?” because of just how complex the Muslim reality has become and all the options that you know have inside that one word. The media has become a source of reference point to draw from. Echchaibi is arguing that Muslims are trying to challenge that past and understand and localize modernity. He mentioned a doll that has come out that is the “fulla doll” in place of a Barbie doll for Muslim little girls. This is an example of how the toy industry has been modernized in a way not harmful to the Muslim identity. He used another case study on the website altmuslim. What was once a political forum where Muslim columnists in the west came together to talk about how life was for a Muslim in the west became more and more religious over time. Echchaibi was making the argument that it is possible to bring modernity into the religious identity of Muslim but still “navigate the world of consumption in a disciplined way”.

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