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What does it mean to be Muslim in America today?
To find out, Professor Akbar Ahmed of American University set off to travel the country. This year Ahmed will cross the US with a team of graduate students, interviewing Muslim-Americans and their non-Muslim neighbors. This ethnographic study has a research component, of course -- Ahmed intends to put together a book of their findings -- but also a publicity one. How does a minority community find its voice in the American cacophony? And will anybody else notice? As Dr. Ahmed and his team were planning the trip, they thought a lot about TV. Wouldn't it be great to have a camera crew capture their travels? But the networks weren't interested. Neither was PBS. And so the team did what we all do when the networks turn us down. They turned to YouTube.
With a little of our help (a camera, a Mac, some training), Ahmed's team began producing videos for their "Journey Into America YouTube channel". Little by little, folks have started to notice. Their most popular video, Dr Ahmed's interview of "Hamza Yusuf" (embedded below), shows over 3500 views. Mainstream media has taken notice, too. Several of their stories have appeared on CNN:
- Islam and Hip Hop with Q Boogie
- Interview with Noam Chomsky
- Somali Americans fired in Grand Island, NE appeared live on CNN
- And the "BBC has reported on the journey" itself -- which is a great (and brief) introduction to the project
You can follow the Journey through their Journey Into America blog or the Journey Into America YouTube channel. I'm watching to see how social media -- fueled by great stories -- can help change hearts and minds.