Muslim exclusivism, media and entrepreneurism

Muslims and Media

We have always seen attempts at creating a Muslim alternative to what would generally be considered haram. Starting from muslimmanga.org to create a more culturally and morally relatable alternative to anime to a labayk.com, a WordPress website made using the bbPress themes and plugins, there has not been any end at creating Muslim alternatives.

Exclusivist attitudes such as these always come at immense costs. The most popular shows, games and websites and so on are not created with the intent of appealing to a specific religious or ethnic demographic but rather to attract a wide array of audience regardless of country, belief, culture or religion. A case can be made that conspicuously Christian classics like Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” are not just popular among Christians.

What caused their success?

The shows, despite being religious and very Christian, were distributed by productions such as Warner Bros that have built their franchises upon cartoons and shows that don’t really make the culture, nation or religious values the central themes. Shows like Looney Tunes’s Bugs Bunny in all it’s hilarity and ridiculousness does not strike to one’s mind as something American or Christian but rather a childhood classic that has brought joy to all of our eyes.

These shows are not completely secular and egalitarian either and to an extent, affirm certain stereotypes and represent certain cultures. While these may not be assumed right away, this passive proselytization has morphed Western and Christian culture into what is referred to as pop culture today. Although pop culture today is anything but Christian, it still is a very vivid representation of Western culture. That is, with respect to what they promote and stand for and what we generally perceive as outsiders.

The same pattern is visible when it comes to social media platform. They are not intended to captivate Jews, Atheists or Christians specifically but rather, to ease communication for people regardless of faith, culture or linguistic groups. In fact, India alone has more Facebook users (349.7 million) than the entirety of American population (329.5 million).

The same can be said about YouTube, created by Jawed Karim, who was born to a Muslim father. He nominally appears to be a Muslim. However, YouTube is not known for being tailored to appeal to Muslims or Christians, but rather to anyone that wished to upload videos online. The purpose was to ease access to videos and making uploading content easier.

Islamic shows and Non Muslims

There have been tons of Muslim series and shows that were immense success. Movies like “Lion of the Desert” brought men and women alike to tears. The display of Omar Al Mukhtar’s chivalry and courage in saving the oppressed in Libya from the colonial rule of Italian fascists and the heart-wrenching final display of Omar Al Mukhtar on the execution chamber are unforgettable.

“Kingdom of Heaven” is another among such masterpieces that gave goosebumps. The final dialogue between Balian of Ibelin and the mighty Salahuddin can make anyone feel like a child filled with passionate and mixed feelings of admiration. “I am not those men. I am Salahuddin! Salahuddin!”.

Yet, the directors were neither Muslims and nor Arabs. The actor for Omar al Mukhtar was Anthonny Quinn, who definitely isn’t a Muslim and that too, the movie was commissioned by Ghaddafi some 40 years ago. The Message, the most popular movie depicting the time of the prophet and the Sahabah, was still mostly done by non Muslims.

Successful Islamic shows

There are only a handful memorable shows where the production teams were explicitly Muslim and the productions were done in the Middle East. The Omar Series is definitely the epitome of a masterpiece. It’s intricate plot based on primary sources, the well choreographed scenes and dialogues and the portrayals of the war kept all of us captivated throughout the entire series. The deaths of the prophet’s companions in righteous causes and turning of tables by Wahshi Ibn Harb was amazing attention to detail.

While he is practically unheard of among Muslim youth of today, he played a very composite role in the series. Whilst he was initially the villain that killed Hamza, he later takes vengeance on his old self by killing one of the false prophets during the Ridda Wars. While Musaylimah is known about, not many talk about the person behind his killing. It is said that he killed Musaylimah the liar with the same spear he made Hamza r.a a martyr.

How many of these corporates do you recognise? How many such studios or entities in the Muslim world can you name? Ponder

Needless to say, the show could not be an overwhelming success among Muslims due to lack of an entertainment infrastructure to provide it the exposure it deserves. Instead, shows created in Hollywood where the direction was done by Americans has much more exposure world wide. Despite Muslims in the subcontinent having some of the richest Islamic history and traditions, their primary source of entertainment are hypersexualised movies from Bollywood with cliché plots and sudden rave parties in the bazaar where the poor fruit seller’s shop is a victim to the hero’s fights.

Conclusion

We as Muslims tend to be very exclusive about the idea behind our creations and the audiences it appeals to. We have amazing artists capable of drawing comics, we have amazing actors and shows and we absolutely have an ability to leave marks of our cultural dominance and diversity in the world stage, but are not able to taste the fruits of our visions.

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