Islam, as a religion, has been dealing with one of the biggest PR disasters of the 21st century. Moderate Muslims, the majority, often find their identities under attack in mainstream media due to the actions of a crazy few. Politics, propaganda, terrorism, misogyny, and war are often the keywords associated with Islam nowadays in regional and international spheres. Many young Muslims are struggling to answer existential-crisis-esque questions about what it means to be a Muslim in modern culture, particularly in societies that do not allow for religious ambivalence or open dialgoue.
Yesterday, in part thanks to Snapchat, the world got to see Islam in a different light; a light dissociated from the massacres, lunatics, and hateful rhetoric often portrayed in sensationalistic, mainstream media.
On Leilet El Qadr, 2 million people were present at the Grand Mosque in holy city of Mecca. A Saudi Arabian Digital Marketer, Ahmed Aljbreen, was sharing his own experiences of Ramadan in Mecca when he had the, frankly genius, idea to call for Twitter influencers in Mecca to campaign for and contribute to a #Mecca_Live social media initiative.
He then sent out this tweet:
— أحمد الجبرين (@Aljbreen) July 8, 2015
Tech-savvy, young Muslims seized the opportunity and followed in Aljbreen’s footsteps, getting behind an immense online campaign that prompted Snapchat to publish a video story (a la Tel Aviv or West Bank) showcasing the myriad of experiences, the spirituality, and the unity of a day that is holy to millions around the world.
The story received global attention on mainstream and social media as a unique, first-of-its-kind message from the heart of the Muslim community that did not involve violence, fanatics, and an agenda. The hashtag, #Mecca_Live, has garnered million of tweets from Muslims and non-Muslims alike applauding the change in the narrative, and the move away from the portrayal of Islam as ‘threatening’.
— ucopppp (@Yusofhshm) July 15, 2015
The amount of love I’ve been exposed to since I’ve expressed my feelings on #mecca_live is overwhelming. Islam is so loving and accepting💗💗
— ashley (@ashleyt_41) July 15, 2015
I’m not muslim but seeing #mecca_live made me think twice.Its beautiful 💖💖People have really changed my perspective of islam
— Jacqueline Saleh (@Prince10Roxana) July 14, 2015
Beyond being a visually consuming depiction of Mecca and Muslims, this online initiative has also paved the pay for fostering and encouraging inter-cultural dialogue that can usher in constructive questions about the real definition of Islam – hopefully marking a shift away from perceptions and depictions of Muslims as raging fanatics.