Now with 14.5 K-plus “likes” on Facebook, Mipsterz has become an exclusive and idiosyncratic anomaly of youth culture. Created as a safe space for millennial Muslim Americans, a very unique demographic that had their coming of age in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks during the Bush Administration era, where rampant Islamopobia gave way to a disturbing rise of Anti-Middle Eastern sentiment in the United States, these full-bloodied format-revisionists, religious reactionaries and pop culture provocateurs are creating a confabulation on representation, international affairs, foreign policy, globalization and the zeitgeist of the U.S. political climate.
Internationally, significant percentages of Muslims acknowledge not feeling respected by those in the West, according to 2011 Gallup report. In relation to the data, 52 percent of Americans and 48 percent of Canadians say the West does not respect transnational Muslim societies, with lesser proportions of Italian, French, German, and British people corresponding with this kind of sentiment. According to a Philadelphia Weekly interview, Abbas Rattani, a filmmaker and creator of Mipsterz, notes that the movement began as a joke between overeducated Ivy League Muslim scholars living in New York, Boston and other major cities, before it branched out into an e-mail Listserv and Tumblr blog, becoming a source of monolithic awe printed in op-eds and column editorials across a picayune volume of mainstream media outlets.
Soon after, the term he co-invented and popularized through amateur stand-up comedy nights, spoken poetry events, podcasts and a “Mipsterz” hashtag on Twitter began to strike a chord with the masses. The joke shared between them was a paradox of bitter sociopolitical sardonicism and racial satire: “Wait a minute? People hate us because we’re Muslim? I thought they hated us because we were hipsters?”
However, in launching this bold ironic identity into the mainstream, these progenies of immigrant parents were wedged into a religiously pluralist and politically liberal conviction that has made them lepers of the Muslim community and pariahs of the American republic for embracing a novel, progressive way of understanding life and Islam in the West. The outrage began in 2013, amid the colossal recognition of one of its videos featuring young Muslim women wearing chic hijabs.
Filmed in Los Angeles and New York, Layla Shaikley, the video’s art director under the production company Sheikh and Bake, shot the two-and-a-half-minute video clip as a life-in-pictures montage, which depicted the women busting out some rad moves on skateboards, cruising on motorcycles, fencing, eating ice cream and taking “selfies.” Websites across the web tried their best to tackle the topic as best they could and the Mipsterz even helped generated a roundtable discussion on an episode of Al-Jazeera TV “Stream,” but although seemingly harmless as outsiders, a controversial and crucial debate was sparked in the Islamic community in regards to fraternization of a secular lifestyle with a commitment to God.
Allies applauded the video’s portrayal of young Muslim women conveying themselves publicly, while hecklers either slut-shamed the women, believing the video objectified them, or contended that these women were “trying to hard to fit in” to globalized Western culture. Titled Somewhere in America, based off of Jay-Z’s slightly derogatory hip-hop anthem from his 2013 Magna Carta… Holy Grail album, some participants took to Facebook to post their distain for the usage of the song, noting the song stripped the clip of nuance, noting the rapper’s use of words “nigger” and “bitch.”
Nevertheless, in reference to the aforementioned Facebook profile, “A Mipster is someone who seeks inspiration from the Islamic tradition of divine scriptures, volumes of knowledge, mystical poets, bold prophets, inspirational politicians, esoteric Imams, and our fellow human beings searching for transcendental states of consciousness.”
There’s a place for both religion and freedom of lifestyle at the table, but for today’s youth and young adults, assistance in bridging that divide is essential. As stated by the Muslim Lifestyle Expo conference, young Muslims, often referred to as Generation M, are a colossal and essentially untapped commercial market. Struggling to integrate two identities—Islam and Americana citizenship—63 percent of the virtually 2.5 million Muslim Americans are the first-generation offspring of émigrés or refugees from 77 different countries, according to a 2011 Pew Research Center study.
In the coming weeks, OogeeWoogee will investigate this phenomenon, addressing issues related solely to the subculture, tackling everything from global Mipster communities, fashion, art, literature, sexuality, masculinity, feminism, music, racism, Islamophobia and Western popular culture and their affects. Are we missing anything? Let us know. Shoot us an e-mail, or let us know what you would like to see discussed in relation to the topic on one of our social media platforms.
article by Marcus Scott