Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Mediated 'Ummah' In Europe

Yasmin Ibrahim- The Mediated ‘Ummah’ In Europe: the Islamic Audience in the Digital Age

Yasmin Ibrahim researches new media technologies and explores their cultural dimensions and social implications. Her interests include globalization, visual culture and memory studies.

Ibrahim explores how broadcast technologies (ICTS) such as TV, the radio and the Internet help transcend spatial boundaries and time constraints by analyzing the mediated Ummah (the global Muslim community/a community of believers bound by the tenets of Islam) and its role as a dialectical space. She finds that new media technologies such as the Internet “reduce if not obliterate geographical limitations, as well as challenge traditional methods of learning and accelerate pluralism in Islamic political activity” (117) because it allows the common man to articulate their beliefs.

Ibrahim finds that the mediated Ummah provides a cultural space for identification and connection between Muslims and reinforces the notion of community particularly between the young and diasporic Muslims. The media provides civic participation and the possibility to re-contextualize Islam according to differences between local and global Muslim communities and contemporary needs.

She explains that due to media, “the immediacy of a crisis happening far away can be experience through technology” (114). Marshall McLuhan made a similar argument about the role of technology in texturing the experiences of the mind where he explained that technologies can become “an extension of the media where a medium is instrumental in shaping the perceptions and experiences of its audience” and thus “mediates our environment and our perceptions of the world (114). Silverstone described this process of mediation as a “transformative process” where the media is essential in ordering the every day and has a capacity for meaning-making.

Ibrahim argues that the mediated Ummah is therefore connected to the ‘globalized nature of contemporary existence’. The ‘globalness’ of the Ummah is constructed through mediated representations and hence creates an “‘imagined community’... that is reinforced through the Islamic ideal of a united global community of believers as well as one recreated through media representations” (115).

Ibrahim examines how the media has reinforced the ‘Otherness’ of the Muslim World and how it has associated derogatory terror themes that associated with Islam. The 1979 revolution in Iran is identified as the starting point of the association of Islam with danger and anti-Western sentiment. Ibrahim states that world events (ex: the Gulf War, 9/11, the Bali bombings and the invasion of Afghanistan) and their mediated representations have consequences for Muslims at a local level by creating a ‘culture of blame’. As a result the mediated Ummah is a dialogical space for Muslims to counter the representations of a western-centric media and show the Muslim community in a different light through mediums such as Channel Islam (a digital radio station based in South Africa where people are asked to call in with concerns) Al Jazeera (a pan national broadcasting sphere) and the Islam Channel (a satellite channel based in London). These mediums are “a necessary platform by which to bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims and also to renegotiate Islam and Islamic practices of foreign soil” (119).

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