The Quote That Will Change Your Life

I read this quote years ago but it came to me today, in an unsuspecting way. Words come to you by way of the Highest Truth exactly when you need it most.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”  -W. H. Murray

FWD MVMNT and the Future of Marketing

Hello beautiful readers,

I have exciting news for you. Just if you were wondering where this little bird was, I’ve been working on projects to help support social innovators. Launched a digital marketing and design agency for social good called FWD MVMNT.  *Happy dance!*

Read more below

What is the future you imagine for a more sustainable and just world?

For those of us committed to disruptive innovation and social change on both a macro and micro level, how to make the world a better place structurally is something we think about daily, on an obsessive level.

Many of us can go about that in different ways, whether that’s being an activist, a writer or an entrepreneur.

Undoubtedly, the future, as we believe it to be, is one the corporations and institutions committed to social change will win. Not superficial change but one where the values of sustainability are deeply routed in the companies business model.

And the data proves this to be true.

According to a piece in the Guardian by Tony Pigott

“The vast majority of people, in fact, well over 80% of consumers from Shanghai to London, New Delhi to New York feel strongly that companies and brands must actively lead social change.”

On a consumer level, we see a deep, cellular shift where companies harming the people and planet can no longer win and where shareholders can’t be the only beneficiary.

If the majority of people who are buying social good products, an estimated 220 billion dollar market in the US alone, only want to continue buying these products, why do major corporations still exist and operate at such a vast level?

Marketing.

They’ve mastered the ability to tell a story and get people to connect with that in whatever creative capacity there is.

You may have thought it’s because of money, but it’s not. Many large organizations and movements have been well-funded but tanked. Why?

They did not connect themselves with people on a deep, one-on-one level thus ensuring their survival.

Paul Polman, the global CEO of Unilever says it best:

“In any company, you have to go back to what drives people…Brands with a purpose and that are values-led over time are going to be more successful.”

Part of that success comes from being able to effectively communicate your message in a precise and engaging way.

People are inundated with about 10 ooo messages a day. How do you break through that? How do you compete with companies with bigger budgets, bigger staff and customer base?

The Secret

It’s about selling a lifestyle- your lifestyle-and proving to them that what you have is better than what they have.

The one group of people who tend to ignore this aspect the most are those with the most to say: social innovators, socially-oriented and sustainable organizations. If anyone is to benefit from high-quality design, online engagement, community building, it’s them.

It’s people with revolutionary ideas that are driving humanity forward and it’s always sadden me to see that many don’t realize that the outward marketing of one’s ideas are nearly as important as what you are saying.

When you have the ability to reach at least 2 billion people on earth, it’s shocking how little regard many people put on how to attract and engage those people.

In the same way people have been conditioned over time to accept over consumerism into their lives, it’ll take that much effort and time to get people to full commit and engage with the ideas that truly matter in our world and are begging to be heard–ideas you want to amplify most.

Just to illustrate this, watch this incredible campaign:

British charity The Pilion Trust decided to see just how caring and compassionate Londoner’s were about the plight of their fellow countrymen. They hire a brave actor to walk around the cold wintery streets of the UK’s captial, with large sign that read “F**K THE POOR””

William Falkner says humans have in them great capacity for good and great capacity for great evil. In other words, we have the same ability to over indulge on content and mediums that harm us as we do to want to do good and be better.

As social innovators, we can’t expect that people will pay attention to the causes that we need them to pay attention you, we must pull them in, just as the video above demonstrates.

They key for social innovators is to effectively employ high-quality marketing and design principles as primary considerations when trying to create more demand for your work, create and build audiences online or offline and even create a memorable organization that people can’t forget.

So, *drruummmmm rooolll please *

Introducing my newest company, FWD MVMNT, a digital marketing and design agency for the greater good.

Our company name symbolizes a paradigm shift currently happening in society. One where we all strive to build a sustainable world living in their own truth. The winners of this paradigm shift are those that work to build a world that can work for everyone. Corporations, brands and organizations that will win are those who build entities that consider how everyone is effected and how it impacts society as a whole, not just their shareholders.

Our Obsession

Enabling anyone solving a social problem in a socially positive manner to do so in a way that is more profitable, more competitive and get more attention than those who do not.

We are out to redefine what marketing and advertising means. Long a domain of corporation selling us lifestyles on consumer goods. Powerful marketing creates demand. Your mission is to change the world. We want to help you to communicate your ideas through high quality design, creative marketing programs and superb branding just like corporations have done for decades to sell us on products many of us don’t need. “We’ll tell your story in a way that moves the people you need to reach—and gets you the attention you deserve.

Who won’t FWD MVMNT work with?

Companies and organizations that exploit misinform, or harm  people or our planet in order to increase profit.

Feel free to check it out here: FWD-MVMNT.COM and follow us on Twitter @FWDMVMNT.

I’ll be writing more articles on marketing, digital marketing strategy, branding, community building for anyone trying to start a business who needs help.

Stay tuned,

 

Big love,

Hodan

 

 

25 Things I’ve Never Told You (or, How to Re-Introduce Yourself)

I’ve been writing on this blog since Jan 2012 and I wanted to thank every one of the thousands people who’ve read my words, shared my words or sent love my way. To kick off this new chapter in my blogging life for 2014, I’m going to start by sharing 25 things I’ve never shared with you before. Hopefully you’ll know more about the real me after reading this.

1. One of my dreams is to be an organic farmer and making run a berry farm(is that even a job title?) I’m obsessed with raspberries. Love blueberries and would bathe in them if I could.

2. I’m a hybrid entrepreneur and artist. I create my companies like an artist would approach painting a blank canvas.  Focus, love and passion is the fuel. I believe most entrepreneurs are like an artists. You are compelled to create. There is no way to explain it. You just have to.

My goal is becoming an independent lifestyle entrepreneur, working from anywhere and having the freedom to pursue all my creative and intellectual pursuits.

3. I’m a former spoken word artist. My team and I came in 2nd at the 2010 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in all of Canada and have spoken in front of thousands over people. I was the only woman to make it to the top 8 in the finals. What’s spoken word you ask? It’s an addictive, therapeutic art form taking the world by storm and changing lives through storytelling. Check this out(my favourite)

4. My first time travelling abroad was done by myself. Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist was the reason why. Often, I felt like I was Santiago. Interestingly enough, I ended up in Egypt, like him, unintentionally.

5.  I’m ambidextrous. I taught myself how to write with my left hand growing up because the kids in my class were breaking their arms from swinging on the monkey bars so much and I, as a  kid, thought it was something that happened to everyone eventually.  I was so terrified that I started to prepare for what I thought would be the inevitable(thank God it never happened!)

6. My passion is helping solve tough social problems in whatever capacity I can.

7. My two obsessions in life are entrepreneurship and international development. These are my tools for point #6.

8. I will never pursue a 9-5 job. The reason came during a meeting I had for a Hub Impact that was being built in my city. I sat on a planning meeting and I had mentioned that I am an idea generator. One of the girls next to me looks at me and says: “Yeah, I used to be like that until I got a 9-5 and now I don’t get nearly as many ideas as I used to.” *Gasp*

9. I started Disrupt Magazine because I wanted to make doing good and being conscious dope.

10. I was born and raise in Ottawa, Canada.

11. Current reads: Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

12. I believe entrepreneurship is the future and I want to help as many people get there as fast as possible

13. I’m a self-taught online marketer and digital strategist for the last 5 years

14. I was suppose to be a doctor growing up but after being forced to “dissect” a pig in biology class, that was the end of it.

15. My first 6 best friends growing up came from 6 distinct nationalities(the perks of being Canadian). They were as follows: Russian, Haiti, Cuban, Lebanese, Jamaican, and Somali.

16. My favourite ’90s show growing up was Wimzie’s House. Throoooowbaaaacccck. It was a really good show.

17. My goal is to help increase the talent and entrepreneurial  and creative capacity of underdevelop ed and marginalized communities world wide

18. I’ve been a writer for 7 years

19.  I believe in the power of spirituality as an essential component of developing human potential. The process of understanding how and where we fit in this world should be at the core of any education model.

20. It took me a long time to understand that you don’t need to live your life the way others expect you too

21. No matter how many times I see an airplane take off, I will always be in awe and humbled by the sheer fragility of the mankind.

22. As a child, I had two hobbies. One was collecting rocks and two, I was obsessed about eating clouds. There was nothing I wanted more than to trap a cloud in a jar. This was before I learned anything about meteorology.

23. I’ve had 3 failed start ups. Only I didn’t know that they were start ups. I’ve had the business gene for a while. To me, it was experimentation and play. Nothing more.  I learned a few things. My first start up was a blog that I intended to make money off of advertisement. I learned you couldn’t do anything without passion. The second was personal development seminars. I learned that you need to understand and listen to your customers. My third was in real estate, where I worked with property managers and investors to find them properties for a commission. I learned that I could succeed at it but that no one can succeed if they don’t see themselves in that start up for at least 5-10 years.

24. One random skill I want to learn: Pottery

25. I define success as a pursuit of a worthy goal. Many people who society admires as successful are not successful in the same way that many “rich” people are quite poor because all they have is money.

And there you go! 25 random facts about me :)

If you liked this post, please subscribe! You’re support means the world to me x

Follow me on Twitter @HouseofAssouan

Interview with Mohamed Geraldez, Entrepreneur & Investor in Fashion, Technology & Finance.

Interview with Mohamed Geraldez, Entrepreneur & Investor on Increasing Entrepreneurship in the Muslim community

Growing up, I, like many others, were never educated that entrepreneurship was a viable career path to take. The lack of job opportunities for the young Muslim generation(and most grads) has a lot of people asking for alternative ideas. Our parents brought us up believing that going to school and getting a job is what we needed to do with our lives. It’s increasingly clear that young people want more than that. They want fulfillment, meaning and to want to contribute significantly to our world. Economic imperatives are also pushing people to find non traditional forms of employment due to global competition and technological advancements.

I stumbled upon entrepreneurship after doing a few “entrepreneurial activities”. I had no idea this was entrepreneurship and that it could prove useful as a mechanism to help solve community issues. What’s worse, everyone treated it like I was pursuing a hobby rather than trying to live out my natural inclination to create things, as if that was a bad thing and it got in the way of ‘normal’ things I should be doing.

Resources don’t just refer to capital but also knowledge. Unfortunately, the lack of community leaders, role models and discussions were a big part of my lack of knowledge. Our thinking is in need of innovation before we will ever see community leaders who embrace the idea of entrepreneurship.

Many of our parents came half way across the world leaving their assets behind. Even though you may not have assets like land, real estate, owning major infrastructure(much of it has been destroyed by way of war and conquest) there is one asset that you can build from scratch: build your own company. And while you may not want to own a company, the principle of entrepreneurship comes down to this: creating value by solving problems. Something that, regardless of the argument, we are in desperate need of.

I really believe a strong case needs to be made in order to ensure that entrepreneurship is a key component in shaping the future of the Muslim community in the modern world.

I had the great pleasure of speaking to and interviewing Mohamed Geraldez, an inspirational and successful Muslim entrepreneur.

Mohamed Geraldez is an American Muslim entrepreneur, motivational speaker and investor in a few companies in different industries like the first and largest vegan necktie company in the world www.JaanJ.com, and www.GeorgeCharlesAndSons.com – a men’s custom suit maker in New York City. He actively invests in various commercial arenas including technology with startups like www.TheTechBlock.com, a curator of tech-related content, and is a strategic adviser to www.Pivotshare.com, a digital media distribution and monetization startup.

Mr. Geraldez also serves as an advisory board member to several entities like the Information Technology Consulting Firm, GeniusCo, and the American Muslim Consumer Conference group that hosts the most important yearly gathering that connects leading American corporations with American Muslim entrepreneurs, companies, businessmen/women and investors.

wief_sitting

I asked him some questions around the theme of increasing entrepreneurship in the Muslim community and wanted to share the incredible answers and an inside view into the mind of a successful Muslim entrepreneur.

Hodan: “What were the main reasons why you become an entrepreneur? Where any of those reasons inspired by Islamic principles?

Mohamed: “I wanted to be my own boss. I didn’t like working for people and wanted to have more control over my life . I got fired from 4-5 job, so I figured the job path wasn’t working for me . As a kid, I liked selling. I was always a doer. I just didn’t like making other people rich, I wanted to have say in my life . For example, I couldn’t join happy hour in the work place. All my co-workers would go for a drink but because I was Muslim I didn’t participate. I couldn’t rise in the rank because of the barriers that prevented me from doing so due to my adherence to my faith.

What are two hurdles you faced and how did you overcome them?

When becoming an entrepreneur, I faced a few things. Two things would be:

One I never had a mentor in the space. I couldn’t get one. There were a lack of practicing Muslims and the few that are practicing weren’t not scrupulous about entrepreneurship. And those who are good at business weren’t good at Islam. For example, there are Islamic prohibitions that many don’t adhere to such as I couldn’t go to the bank and get one due to interest.

The way I overcame this that was to become one.

Secondly, there was a lack of support. Unfortunately, there is always lots of backbiting, doubting and people bootlegging my products. What they needed to realized is that someone winning isn’t going to take away from the bounties offered by Allah(SWT).

The only way to overcome people wanting you to fail is just telling them: I’m going to show you.

Hodan: Considering that Islam has a strong tradition of entrepreneurship and business, what do you feel is the main reason for not many young Muslim wanting to tread this path?

Mohamed: I believe it comes down to ethnic problems and the way entrepreneurship talked about. There are cultural pressures to work hard at taking jobs such as doctors, engineers or higher paid employees. Being an entrepreneur being looked down upon . Typically, we have the idea that only poor people become entrepreneurs. Those who can’t find a ‘real’ job take on jobs such as selling bread or clothing. They’re forced to create economic opportunities for themselves.

Hodan: What are some tips and pieces of advice on the way we can start helping increase entrepreneurship in the Muslim community, particularly in North America?

Mohamed: WE need a culture that allows for failure. If you don’t fail, you can’t succeed. We need incubators in big Islamic organizations like ICNA and ISNA. In terms of funding , it first starts locally with Imams in our communities discussing the benefits of entrepreneurship in our community. The fact of the matter is, big companies people want to work for today came from the entrepreneurs .

I remember one scholar saying: “In terms of impact, I would take 1 successful businessman than 10 doctor.” That’s how powerful the impact of an entrepreneur is.

We need to support each other and be able to receive feedback , and not support the very factors that keep us stagnating. Ultimately, we need to take pride in entrepreneurship as a tool of value creation.

Hodan: What are some tips and advice for young(often isolated and under resourced) Muslims who want to go this path?

Mohamed: I would say don’t be afraid to fail. Step up and stand out.

Embrace your identity and use it to your advantage. Be courageous. Follow your heart. Listen to your parents and don’t be disrespectful. It’s important that you serve them. Prophet Ibrahim(as) engaged his father when he(as) accepted Islam. He was respectful and kind.

If your parents disagree with your life choose, just tell them: “believe in me, and all I want is for you not to say anything against my decision. Don’t hurt me with your words. ” Try to make them understand it is not for everyone but it’s the right choice for you. It’s difficult. Try to find your lane and be faithful to your Lord. Your parents may be wrong but you should understand.

But overall, prepare for a hard journey because it is not easy.
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To learn more about Mohammed, visit his website or read his unique personal story in the book by White Cloud Publications “All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim.” The book can be ordered at Amazon.com.

yahya-book

Is Social Entrepreneurship the Rich Saving the Poor?

In a piece by Martin Montero, “Is Social Entrepreneurship the Rich Saving the Poor? ” he says

“Social entrepreneurship is not about elitist fellowships, conferences, summits, accelerators, coworking spaces, or contests. Social entrepreneurship is not about charity or even about philanthropy, and it’s certainly not about wealth redistribution. Social entrepreneurship is about opportunity and power distribution. “

Social Entrepreneurship is inherently a question of power and politics. Poverty is political. Law is political. Health care and education reform are political questions. In that, doing social good is not neutral. You can’t be neutral about about social issues and that often times means not being afraid to say who is in the wrong, morally, ethnically and socially.

What does that means? Ideas that don’t enhance the overall sustainability of the planet need to go. But on a deeper level, this means reconciling that changing the world is messy, dirty, it’s no different than politics…except the goal is seeing the world change for the better, not for worse. Its’ not the glamorous story of Steve Jobs or Mother Teresa impact on the world. There is a lot more to it than that.

And this is what I believe activists get right–they say what needs to be said without any pretense. They, unfortunately, stop short in the creations of new social systems but they are completely realistic about how the narrative of change should be told.

What this also means that is feel good conversations about disruptive innovations and making the world a better place maybe the refuge of those who don’t really want change. Would it be, perhaps, that social entrepreneurship can accomplish what great revolutions of the past have…without violence?

What is the great social transformation we are looking towards? Can we accept that in that process
of change often leads to chaos and changes far beyond what we would have ever imagined?

The reason I strongly urge people from marginalized and underrepresented communities to seek out
and learns ways to be entrepreneurs is this:

if you don’t solve your problems, people will solve them for you.

Often times people with no real understanding of what it is to be in your own position are the ones with the loudest voice at the table. If you don’t take a lead in showing people the historical and personal consequences and trauma brought upon your community through the oppressive actions of others, it might happen again: people enforcing upon you solutions and ideas that are not yours.

There is a real danger of making social entrepreneurship as another arm of neo-colonialism. It isn’t about believing anyone really has the answers. It’s understanding that even if you have the answers to solving the world’s toughest issues,  you may not be the best person to solve it.

In my quest to democratize the field of social innovation and make the tools of social change accessible to all, it is my sincere hope that this powerful idea be understood for what it truly is: a way to bring opportunity to others and not take it away from those who need it most. And of the many ways to take power, asking permission is not one of them. May that be the lesson to underpresented peoples of the world.

Philosophy behind Disrupt Magazine

Words by Hodan Ibrahim featured-img-01 I run Disrupt Magazine and this piece explains the deep philosophy behind what it stands for. Hope you enjoy it. Social Innovation is an idea whose time has come and though many people haven’t heard of it, you most likely already know what it is.  Social Innovation is about new ideas that work to address tough social and environmental challenges and improve peoples’ lives. It’s about changing social systems, also known as “social technologies”. We support people and ideas who champion developing new theories and models in solving social issues and creatively destroying ideas that don’t serve humanity, not matter how unpopular. In short, it’s about an internal disruption of who we are, how we live, how we work and creating an accessible and safe space to find new models and create the companies and institutions of tomorrow. We believe increasing the range of stakeholders in the field of social innovation as well as pushing the conversations forward. Disrupt is our answer to helping social innovators build a supportive ecosystem for them to thrive. But why Disrupt? Why do we exist? More importantly, what do we believe?

1. Truth is a big business

Everyday corporations sell you things you don’t need. Tell you to do things you know deep down you don’t believe in. They tell you how to be, how to look, what to do for every aspect of our life. Most of us are but mere fragments put together by society. No voice of our own. Just hollow beings. But within us,  we have this natural potential and propensity, when being in our own truth, to be powerful, positively influential and to change the world. Society makes you believe otherwise so that won’t happen. Feeding our insecurities, they’ve profited of off us. But not for long. A paradigm shift in society is happening to build a sustainable world off of living in their own truth, where corporations are not longer going to be profitable telling us we need this to look pretty and that to be happy. The winners of this paradigm shift are those that work to build a world that can work for everyone. Corporations that will win are those who build businesses that consider how everyone is effected and how it impacts society as a whole, not just their shareholders. The future, as we see it, is one where everyone can win and prosper.

 2. We want the right types of people to get attention

We find ourselves staring at the barrage of images put up in our faces day after day begging us to care. But we don’t..really, because deep down we just don’t care. And neither should you. Celebrity culture should die, but that begs the question: why aren’t the right people getting attention? Is it because we don’t want it? Why aren’t projects changing the world get the funding or getting the press needed to help increase demand of their product or services? Is it because they don’t have deep pockets to compete with multinational corporations? Whatever the reason, if you are saying something important in the world and your ideas matter, you should be heard. You need to be heard. What needs to be created is the infrastructure that can make that happen.

3. Truth is best presented as a Trojan horse. We believe design, aesthetic and user experience matter in our technological age.

How you present an idea matters. How you craft an idea and bring it to people matters. Did you know that the phrase the “American Dream” was originally a slogan used by Fannie Mae, a failed investment bank, to get American people to try and buy mortgaged homes? Yeah, neither did we. Propaganda works very much the same way. Right-fighters, do-gooders and anyone trying to make the world a better place, understand this: doing good isn’t it’s own PR, it has to look good too. Design is a creatively destructive process. You look at social change in much of the same way: how can we take an important idea, strip it of all the noise and get someone to connect with that? How can make the process of receiving truth and good ideas a pleasurable experience?

4. Being a genius is IN everyone. You’ve been taught to believe otherwise. Everyone can make the world a better place.

It’s much easier to manage a nation of workers than a nation of thinkers. Society employs it’s social mechanisms to make you conform and obey. Why? It’s easier that way. Don’t the masters of the universe have better things to do than manage pesky, critically thinking and independent beings? It’s just too much work. Genius is informed by creativity. Creativity is in everyone. Therefore, everyone is a genius. As Sir Ken Robinson would say, you’ve just been educated out of it. When we begin with the starting point that every person has incredible potential to grow into the best versions of themselves and then add to bettering society, the way we look at our social infrastructure changes.

5. We’re aiming for unremarkable ubiquity

We believe social consequences of our actions should be the first consideration when doing anything that will impact others. It shouldn’t be an afterthought.

6. We are for social innovators by social innovator.

We believe the time where academics, economists, CEO’s and executives dominating conversation are over. We want to see the end to the tyranny of experts  by profiling those doing game changing work and then handing them the microphone thereby increasing the range of stakeholders in this field.

7. Speak Back To Society

Much of our plight is our inability to properly speak back to society when it speaks to us. Much of my inspiration comes from the Society of the Spectacle, a book written by an avant garde artists Guy Debord who so eloquently put that society is a series of fragment images that we are forced to do deal with. This one way communication that never effectively gives anyone a chance speaks to us in fear, telling us what we need or pointing out what we don’t have. It speaks to us with resentment, with spite, with an aggressive viciousness that we would tolerate no other human being to bring into our lives. But when society says it, we listen to it. We internalize it. We hold it within us. And then, it becomes a part of who we are. The very thing we wanted to fight with us has now become us.

8. We believe the development of spirituality and human potential

Understanding the connection between your mind, your heart and your body and how it connects to the world around you is the deep essence of being spiritual. It’s understanding that there is something much greater than you and it’s better to be in harmony with it. Disrupt believes that whatever the way you develop spirituality, it is integral and deeply bound to the idea of developing human potential. It’s the deep introspective process that spirituality brings about that you come to figure out who you are, where you belong in the world and how you will make a difference. Our spiritual needs are rooted in the need to grow and contribute but how can you do that if you aren’t sure of who you are?

9. We believe in advancing discussions taking place in  social innovation, not just reporting about it

Give voice to people from underrepresented and marginalized communities is crucial in advancing the field of social innovation. We believe in giving power to the people with the problem, not speaking for them. Who best to know how to solve prevalent social issues than the people facing it. Social innovation is a lot more than corporate social responsibility, going green, and non-profits. It’s about asking the question: “Can we do this better?”

10. Culture shift is needed.

It’s not just about getting people to “think green” but it’s about creating a new perspective on life where we celebrate and recognize people and ideas that are meaningful. It’s about creating a culture that presents forward-thinking, creative and innovative thought. More than just rhetoric, Disrupt hopes to make these ideas part of our cultural fabric.

11. Everyone  needs to be involved in social innovation.

Tackling social issues is not going to come from the top down. Regardless of what you may have thought, it’s going to come from you. The world has no one else like you, so the solutions that come from you are parallel to none. If any of this make you slightly uncomfortable than we’ve accomplished our mission. It isn’t about doing what’s comfortable, but doing what’s right. And in our world, there is nothing more needed than the need for everyone to disrupt their inner self and in the process disrupt the world. — If you like this post, then you should join us on Facebook and Twitter! If you are really diggin’ this, how about you grab a copy of Issue 01 or Issue 02, email us at disrupt.mgzn@gmail.com for a chat? We’d love to hear from you. And for a limited time only, our amazing manifesto can bring love, and inspiration to your home and office. Check it out!

Review: Can the Muslim World Be Rebranded?

Review: Can the Muslim World Be Re-branded?

In a old yet good article, the New York Times covers the Islamic Economic Forum.

There are some key ideas this piece touched upon that is quite relevant to helping grow innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship in the Muslim world. I wanted to go through each and give some commentary on it from a young Muslim based here in the West.

1. Muslims need a new PR agent: Reshaping the image of Islamic Countries- According to business leaders and policy makers from around the Muslim world during the Islamic Economic Forum, the image of the Muslim world needs to be changed collectively, from one of violence and poverty to vibrancy and prosperity.

Rather than focusing on the multitude of socio-economic problems “they talked about job creation, streamlining bureaucracy and strengthening intellectual property rights”. I think it’s important to focus on these issues but you can’t have a solution without focusing on solving the problem. Public relations can be a good method of reputation management but people will realize the focus should be on infrastructure development and educating the masses rather than superficially trying to develop an exterior that perhaps can not mask the interior problems entirely.

Rhethoric, not Action

The lack of education across the Muslim  world also comes up as an issue.  The piece notes how many of these influential thought leaders believe in investing in education so as to not make their populations vulnerable to misinformation and propaganda.

Education in the 21st century is shifting, and so must the methods with which Muslim countries educate their society.

Universities, 800 year old institutions, are slowly moving away from corportized, credentialism predicated on an industrial model towards the democratized model based on self-initiated learning and growth.  More people are realizing the flaws in the current education model that has, unfortunately, been adopted by most of the industrialized world, including the Islamic world. The future of education in the Muslim world is one where education is FREE and enabled by technology. One where we accept that there are multiple methods of educating oneself whether that  would be distance education, homeschooling, unschooling and other methods. The acceptance of alternative education methods in Muslim countries is virtually non existent as public school is seen as necessary and often time required by law.

Lack  Islamic Training along side Science, Technology and the Humanities 

This is also mentioned as a crucial point of change needed. In many ways, the Muslim population represents their leaders. There are a lot of university-trained scholars. Not many of them are classically trained in Islam or have any rigorous scholastic methodology-based training. This is also reflective in the Muslim community.Inevitably, it’s these people that end up taking on leadership roles and stay confined to discussions around the parameters of Islam alone.

Very few scholars, and there are many great examples, are trained academically or professional in topics other than Islam. And the consequences are not being about to practically engaged with the world around you and adding to discussions on how to solve 21st century issues from a scriptural perspective is a main reason holding us from progress.

Muslim Community doesn’t really exist

 

Here, I must make a differentiation between the Muslim world and the Muslim community. In theory, there is an organized and  united faith that brings all Muslims together but the Muslim “world” is largely fictitious. In reality, there is a realm of Muslim countries, but communities are localized and rarely does support extend beyond helping the poor in one’s own homeland. This might be different from people from the diaspora who don’t identify with a country, but only their faith. However a lot of people are unfortunately still connected based only ethnic, tribal lines.

Cultural, social and intellectual insulation can be a form of death for society. And we’re already succeeding well at one–economic isolation. Rather than Muslims trading with one another, we are effectively insulating ourselves from one another. The article explains  that “Muslim countries send 51.5 percent of their exports to industrialized countries, compared with just 13.5 percent to fellow Muslims nations, according to the …Islamic Development Bank”. What’s surprising that is 2/3 of the world’s energy come from the Muslim world and we have many powerful resources along with faith to make us successful, such as commodities, relatively young population, strong multi-ethnic and strategic land etc

Need to Critically Examine What Passes for Scholarship

Faith is not defined by rituals and ceremonies, as they are so prevalent now, as the Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia says.

Going beyond dogmatic rhetoric, often is tied to addressing the true purpose of Islamic scholars in our community. They hold a great deal of importance but I do feel they’re real role and results of their work needs thorough neutral critical analysis.

As the piece says, the Muslim world needs to move  away from rhetoric and dogmatism. But how are we to do that and who are the ones at the forefront of this?

Islamic scholarship can be some sort of awe-inspiring position. We give so much attention to these individuals that it has come at price. The price is not being about to properly train, educate and vet the types of people responsible for guiding our communities. And in this process, we’ve accepted less from them. There is less rigidity  for what we accept in our community that passes for a community leader. Like a celebrity that gets a slap on the wrist for a crime or a DUI, we accept what scholars tell us without a rigorous examination of whether we believe in what they are telling us and whether it is in fact correct. Quite frankly, most scholarship is quite lazy.

The idea of work as worship is ingrained in our faith. But few people associate working as worship. In others, many people believe our worldly life and afterlife are completely separate. You need to realize that both are integrated and what you do in your daily life counts. What you do on earth is something you are rewarded with later on. There is no separation.

The solution is to start looking beyond ourselves. We’ve shriveled away, confidence stripped from us  although we have everything we need to make ourselves successful in the world. A sign of a society’s decay is when it no longer interacts with the world around them and leads through a binary world construct. We’re hindering ourselves economically, socially, culturally and it’s going to need more of a makeover to get ourselves to be taken seriously in the world.

The Muslim Women Doesn’t Need To Be Empowered- She Empowers Herself.

Possibly the best quote in the entire piece said: “”We are Muslims and we are women,” she Khalida Azbane Belkady, director of Groupe Azbane, a cosmetics company also based in Morocco,. “But maybe we should stop talking about Muslim this-and-that and just get to work.”

It’s not a surprise that it’s women who have to make this point. The place of women in Islamic is one of strength, power and honour. I hate to make this a discussion of talking points generally set by Western feminists who have no idea of what it is to be a Muslim women, but Women in Islam have been empowered in many ways.  And the ability to lead and given respect for that leadership is one of them. One, they don’t have to spend a dime of their own money when earning anything. It’s the man’s job to be a breadwinner and pay the bill. Two, the men generally turn over their paychecks to women and they handle the family finances. The perspective is that women are always having their hands out begging, but I’m afraid that’s not the case in most Muslim homes. The Western response has been to equate women working outside the home with power but in all honesty, there is more power in the latter.

I have no doubt that Muslim women will be the one’s leading our community through the innovation and creative processes needed to change our condition but it will have to be an active women. One this blog, I call for more Muslim entrepreneurs to arise, sorta of a reverse answer to the West’s women’s liberation movement. Living in your home, working there and taking care of your children seems to be the way of the future for Muslim women, one that I will continue to advocate for.

These are some thoughts after reading this piece. If you had any other ideas to add, I’d love to hear from you!

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