Shaping Islam in America: 10 Young Muslim Visionaries – Shahed Amanullah: The Information Entrepreneur
From Islamica Magazine
By JORDAN ROBINSON
The Muslim community in America remains gripped by “analysis paralysis,” argues Shahed Amanullah, editor-in-chief of the online magazine altmuslim.com. But he sees a light at the end of the tunnel, and for Amanullah, that light comes from his MacBook laptop screen. The Internet can be a powerful tool for open discussion, criticism, engagement and empowerment. But few efforts from the Muslim community have leveraged it as well as alt.muslim.
For now, the American Muslim foray into the fourth estate remains in its infancy. Whether it is the print or broadcast medium, according to Amanullah, the Muslim community has yet to develop a fully functioning and vigorous free press that acts as a watchdog and transparent interface between different levels of the Muslim American population. The consequence of this, he says, is a rather static and seemingly monolithic plane of conversation that does little to address important issues affecting Muslims and their role in contributing to the betterment of American society. In other words, we need to get past “Islam means peace.”
Founded in 2001 after 9/11, altmuslim.com attracts 160,000 unique users and 360,000 page views a month. Amanullah and fellow editors are leveraging the power of the Web to plug in and provide media consumers with commentary barely audible in many publishing corners, be they Muslim or not.Topics vary widely, including family and community, art and culture, U.S.politics and gender relations.TheWeb continues to create ripples in Muslim and mainstream media, challenging society’s traditional gatekeepers of knowledge. Amanullah and his alt.muslimcolleagues are riding thewave of Internet-enabled community introspection by creating newmodes of critique and accountability that circumvent not only traditional power monopolies, but also national borders.
U.S. politics and gender relations. The Web continues to create ripples in Muslim and mainstream media, challenging society’s traditional gatekeepers of knowledge. Amanullah and his alt.muslim colleagues are riding the wave of Internet-enabled community introspection by creating new modes of critique and accountability that circumvent not only traditional power monopolies, but also national borders.
With clairvoyance for coding, Amanullah created several Web sites, including zabihah.com, salatomatic.com and halalapalooza.com, in effect establishing the first “consumer reports” for everything Muslim. Salatomatic.com—“Your guide to the best mosques & Islamic schools in your area”—allows worshippers to rate their mosque experiences and provide information about things such as a mosque’s type of governance and the availability of women’s facilities. In the age of Wikipedia, who needs experts?
With the Web’s great democratizing and decentralizing effects, something not lost on Amanullah, alt.muslim is designed to be an interactive forum that includes more than 1,500 registered users with the ability to provide feedback to writers and artists. Interactivity for Amanullah includes using the Web as a facilitator for large-scale collaboration and social networking. Along these lines he recently introduced unitedmuslims.org that will include more tools for project sharing and collaboration. As a dynamic platform for greater Muslim activism and participation, major organizations can use it as a way to plug into the average Muslim whose talents and experiences have yet to be tested or utilized. This enhancement, Amanullah says, will help empower America’s grassroots activists working for change.
While most other Muslim information dissemination organizations take the top-down approach, Amanullah empowers from the bottom up.“I think the lay Muslim can do wonders but has never been given a chance.”