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Thursday, May 23, 2024

ASU’s Center of Muslim Experience receives ACLS grant for ‘Muslims in the Media’ program

ASU's Center of Muslim Experience wins ACLS grant for 'Muslims in the Media' program, empowering youth voices and fostering understanding

In a world that is becoming increasingly diverse, it is crucial to amplify the voices of marginalized communities and provide a platform for their stories to be heard. The Center of Muslim Experience at Arizona State University (ASU), nestled within The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is taking remarkable strides in advancing public understanding of Muslims and Islam in the United States. With a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), the center has launched a groundbreaking program titled “Muslims in the Media: Empowering Youth Engagement through Global Perspectives.” This initiative seeks to bridge the gaps in knowledge about Muslim lived experiences, particularly focusing on youth, while also fostering collaboration among students from ASU, India, and Sweden.

Shifting the Narrative

Yasmin Saikia, the co-director of the Center of Muslim Experience, emphasizes that the center’s mission is to document the history of the Muslim community in the United States. The newly initiated program, generously supported by the ACLS, aims to catalyze a paradigm shift. No longer should Muslims be mere subjects of stories; instead, they ought to be the creators, authors, and narrators of their own narratives. Saikia states, “It’s helping shift the narrative to where they are no longer just the subject of the story but the creators of the story as well.” This program aligns with a broader goal of empowering communities to take control of their representation in media and other public spheres.

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Growth of American Muslims

A 2017 research study by the Pew Research Center shed light on the presence of American Muslims. With an estimated population of 3.45 million, American Muslims constitute a significant and vibrant minority. The community’s growth has been exponential, with a staggering three in 10 Muslims having arrived in the country between 2010 and the time of the study in 2017. Projections point toward Islam becoming the second-largest religious minority by 2030. This demographic shift underscores the importance of fostering accurate and empathetic understanding of Muslim lived experiences.

Education and Empowerment

The collaborative nature of the “Muslims in the Media” program is a shining example of international cooperation. ASU students join hands with counterparts from universities in India and Sweden. This partnership creates a platform for cross-cultural exchange, where diverse perspectives merge to create a richer understanding of the challenges and triumphs faced by Muslim youth across the globe. By pooling their insights and experiences, these students are better equipped to navigate the complexities of media representation and challenge stereotypes.

Toolkit for Responsible Reporting

One of the program’s central components is the creation of toolkits for responsible reporting. ASU students are taking the lead in producing these invaluable resources. Designed to serve as a guide for journalists covering stories related to the growing Muslim American population and Islam in the U.S., India, and Sweden, these toolkits encompass a range of themes. From countering Islamophobic narratives to sharing the stories of Muslim youth and highlighting their social and cultural contributions, these resources are a beacon of accurate and respectful reporting.

Youth Empowerment

Chad Haines, co-director of the Center of Muslim Experience, echoes the sentiment that empowering youth is of paramount importance. In both a global and local context, youth are the driving force behind societal evolution and progress. Haines notes, “Giving voices to the students as the makers and creators of these toolkits is extremely important.” By entrusting young individuals with the responsibility of shaping narratives, the program not only empowers these students but also paves the way for a more inclusive and understanding society.

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The inception of the Center of Muslim Experience in 2022 marked a significant milestone for the Muslim American community. Co-directors Chad Haines and Yasmin Saikia envisioned a platform that would celebrate the diversity, creativity, and contributions of Muslim Americans to American society and culture. With the “Muslims in the Media” program, their vision has taken a tangible form, fostering a dynamic environment where stories are shared, narratives are challenged, and understanding is nurtured.