​​​Exploring Media in Muslim Contexts: Satire, Social Taboos and War

​The importance of the media in informing the world, as well as in shaping rapidly changing events in the Muslim world and beyond, was the subject of a timely and lively conference at the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations’ (ISMC) and Graduate School of Media and Communications​’ (GSMC) conference on 3-4 November​. 
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With around 40 papers presented and over 100 participants, the conference brought together academics, journalists and other media practitioners at the Aga Khan University’s UK campus.

A broad range of topics, such as satire online and in publications such as Charlie Hebdo was discussed; as were subjects like the representation of men versus women; government control of the media; and the changes in social media and their impact. The conference was both topical and insightful, exploring recent and historical events in various countries with Muslim societies, from Kenya to Egypt and from Syria to Pakistan.

Among the many speakers, were:
  • Dr Marwan Kraidy, author of The Naked Blogger of Cairo: Creative Insurgency in the Arab World
  • Christa Salamandra with her paper ‘The Past Progressive: History and Belonging in Syrian Social Drama’
  • David Harrison from Al-Jazeera presented ‘Muslims and Media Freedom: Friends or Foes?’ drawing on his experience of training journalists abroad and the obstacles faced by the media in some countries
  • Hafez Al-Mirazi, a broadcaster on numerous outlets including the BBC, Al Arabiya and Dream TV, presented ‘Image Wars: Arab Media Dilemma Abroad and at Home’
  • Bahaar Joya, a specialist on women’s rights in areas of conflict and a BBC journalist,  spoke about how social media helped to reduce violence against and exploitation of women in a talk entitled ‘Impact of Social Media on Afghanistan’s Social Taboos’

“Discussing and understanding how the media functions in Muslim societies and in the world at large; as well as the transformations in media and in society are an important part of our work at the ISMC,” said Dr David Taylor, director of the ISMC.

“We are in a unique position in the UK to bring together a broad range of expertise and invite people to understand the relationships between digital, print and broadcast media and the perceptions of those within and outside Muslim societies and contexts.”

“In western countries, particularly, there is a tendency to see Muslim societies as somehow one-dimensional – where they might stand on a scale of global extremism. In fact, Muslim societies are as diverse as any other and their media perhaps even more so. At the Aga Khan Graduate School of Media and Communications in Nairobi, we not only recognise this diversity, but celebrate it,” commented Michael Meyer, founding dean of the GSMC.