Blog piece featured on Change the Script. A campaign led by The Hon Baroness Uddin.
Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter, nearly all of us are using at least one of these if not all and it’s safe to say that the word sharing encapsulates best what these platforms do.“Sharing is caring,” as we all know, but how much of this has been elevating the opportunities of people from minority backgrounds, in particular of Muslim women and how much of it has really been not caring at all?
I decided to explore why social media has become instrumental in putting many Muslim women on the map, working to challenge many of societies preconceived notions about them and about Islam. However, some of the darker realities of using such open and accessible platforms also became very apparent. That doesn't mean to say the downsides have been a deterrent in every case, especially when you look at those building their careers through social media, using it as a podium for their voices to be heard. I mean, even I am getting myself set up and ready to go to ensure that my writing is seen on these platforms. Sadly though, no matter the person, it seems to have a resounding impact on who and how we use them. The recent negative press surrounding Amena Khan’s L’Oréal campaign related to one of her tweets about Palestine in 2014 highlights exactly this. Suffice it to say that due diligence probably wasn't done thoroughly enough on L’Oréals part, it ended up with Amena taking most of the backlash, from both Muslims and non-Muslims. On the other hand, there are plenty of great examples of Muslim women who are going very far with the use of social media like Dina Tokio, Nabila Bee, Zukreat, Habiba Da Silva, Sabina Hannan, Huda Kattan, Nadia Hussain and those are just to name a few.
In order to make the most of these platforms, Muslim women have to create the fine balance between deflecting the negative and actively participating.
We all have a multitude of opinions and social media allows for these to be heard. Working on the campaign Change the Script has given me the scope to understand why some Muslim women are often reluctant to use it nowadays, even if it means being silent. For most, it's largely about the current icy climate blustering in their direction. How can you blame them? When you put yourself out there, it's a given that you will be thrown some kind of abuse no matter who you are. But in their case, it's pretty extreme. The thing is, not everyone you come across in life will like you, and I think that's just the point. We spend a lot of time singling ourselves out because of the current state of affairs, and of course, it makes sense to if the whole world seems to be highlighting the fact to be a Muslim comes hand in hand with being an irate extremist. It's whats always presented on the media for the wider public to form their opinions on.
I believe, in order to create the balance I mentioned before, there are three steps you can try to take. Accept, deflect and utilise.
1. Accepting the negative sides of social media isn't about condoning the abuse you might get, but it gets you a lot further by showcasing your identity just as any non-Muslim would, especially when you take into consideration that it will challenge the very stereotypes which created that negativity in the first place.
2. Deflecting it obviously won't make it go away, but being exposed to it when using social media shouldn't be a reason to stop you. In fact, just use it as a tool to strengthen your determination in whatever it is you are doing.
3. Lastly, utilising the hell out of it is important whether it's to endorse and build your own career or for the bigger picture by challenging the narrative the world has on Muslim women.
It isn't for everybody, and I spend much of my time fighting against it. But, as with anything you do, its about being prepared and rolling with the punches along the way.