Muslim women: the wave of the future

Muslim women are the new cultural world leaders through soft power, through fashion, pop culture and art.

The ego is not often discussed when we talk about world peace, but many of the world's problems stem from selfishness and inability to relate to another in an empathetic way. This is why some Muslim youth leave their families and countries. They seem to have neither a sense of identity nor a firm spiritual foundation to root themselves and keep from participating in death cults. They hijack Islam out of a sense of misplaced justification because their identity is in limbo. Those who abuse their positions of power lure these young people to themselves with clever marketing tools that spread propaganda and bloodthirsty fantasies. Young people are lured to places far away from home, a bright future and the core values of their faith.

In a globalized world where matters of identity are complex, Muslim leaders should be using their collective power to tackle issues of connecting with youth in a more effective way. Due to ineffective communication by Muslim leaders, the responsibility to deal with this phenomena is exported to societies where these modern day problems with identity, religious interpretation and extremism have more room to fester and grow.

With the rise of a new wave of nationalism, extremism and terrorism, minority groups and women suffer the most. In America, the Black Lives Matter movement exists because young black lives are still in danger. Freedom of speech, the environment, human and women’s rights are under threat by the military-industrial complex that profits from pushing young men and women into war. All the while, global leaders are oblivious to this reality, distracted by their political tactics.

Post 9/11 Generation

16 years after 9/11, Muslim youth are shaped by the conditions that nurtured them, be it in Muslim majority countries or as the children of immigrants or refugees in the rest of the world. This generation, which journalist Rachel Aspden calls ‘Generation Revolution’ is dancing between tradition, spirituality and global change.

Muslim youth are looking for a moral compass and intellectual, spiritual guidance. They are a generation raised by Hollywood, Netflix, YouTube and they are in constant dialogue with their online tribes through social media. They base their identity on fashion, makeup and phone brands. They are forced to make choices based on their gender, traditional role at home, modern life outside, consumption and religion somewhere in the back of their thought stream. 

Muslim youth need direction, they need sounding boards, they need stories that they can relate to and they need platforms, open spaces and art to reflect, to criticize and to grow intellectually, emotionally and artistically. Pop culture has always been working in favor of a younger generation trying and pushing forward, -to outgrow, question and reclaim traditional authority. One of the primary victors of the post 9/11 are Muslim women: we have witnessed leaps and bounds in their representation in mass media, and this positive aspect must be emphasized.

The "Hollywood Muslim"

While Hollywood is still attached to negative stereotypes such as the "Muslim villain," "Muslim comedian" or the "oppressed-exotic-secretly-erotic-muslim," more and more positive representations are emerging through social media. Record labels, mainstream entertainment companies and art scenes still seem to have difficulty promoting "overtly" Muslim artists, although the acceptance of pop star Zayn Malik in the mainstream pop scene seems to be changing that. While Malik is accepted, plant labels (from Muslims) are still very cautious about openly supporting female artists from Muslim backgrounds because of misogyny and the ongoing religious debate over whether it is permissible for a Muslim woman to sing or make and perform music. However, this does not mean that there are no Muslim women performing artists. Many women are active in the world music scene, international film industry and predominantly Muslim countries, but on a global scale and especially in the West, their representation is minimal.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling

The safest and freest creative space for Muslim women appears to be social media. Muslim women's agility in combining their online presence with entrepreneurship in the fashion and beauty marketsis a catalyst for positive representation. Major brands and marketing agencies have found a way to reach young Muslim consumers through online influencers and the fashion industry (body-covering fashion) developed and driven by Muslim women. 

By: Rajae El Mouhandiz, September 30, 2017,
An essay for The Muslim 500,
The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center,
Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Center.