Islam Today: New Media and Youth Culture in the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia" is a new collaborative program being organized by UC Berkeley's Centers for Middle Eastern Studies, South Asia Studies, and Southeast Asia Studies, with funding support from the Social Science Research Council, for 2009-2010.
The main goal of this program is to examine how Muslim youth in the countries of the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia are using new media, politics and popular culture to explore their identities, seek out and create "virtual" communities, promote new agendas and develop and promote new images, (including new self-images), while at the same time confronting harmful anti-Muslim stereotypes that have emerged in the post-9/11 era. With young people under the age of 24 forming a significant proportion of the populations in these regions, Islam will become more and more defined by the interests and interpretations of younger Muslims in the years ahead. And as technology continues to evolve, and as these three regions grapple with the changes wrought by modernization and by the effects of changing patterns in political alignments, young Muslims will find ever more opportunities to make themselves heard. What this emergence of new voices may suggest for the future of Islam, for the futures of their home countries, and for the U.S., will be explored through different events in this year-long program.
Three events were organized as part of this program. They are:
- Politics: On how Muslim youth are using various forms of new media as a way to network with like-minded individuals, find answers to difficult questions, and challenge commonly held attitudes and stereotypes about Islam, particularly in the post 9/11 era.
- Social Networking: Networking has been significant for these youth, as many who feel isolated have come to find solace in these virtual communities, as well as a place where they establish their own presence and express themselves. Our second forum will explore the ways in which young Muslims use the media for creating virtual communities.
- Arts & Culture: This festival will involve a series of events designed to focus on Muslim youth and some of the forms of popular culture and expression that are being used to establish a new Muslim identity and change negative attitudes. The last few years have witnessed a rise in comedians, music groups, and filmmakers exploring the struggles Muslims have been facing around the world since 9/11 and examining commonly held beliefs about Islam. Young people are using these various mediums to creatively and subtly challenge perceptions and ideas.