May 8, 2008
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
The New York Times
LOS ANGELES — When Ali Ardekani started fishing around on the Internet a couple of years ago for video blogs about Muslims, he did not like what he found: either the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims were depicted as bloodthirsty zealots, or they were offering defensive explanations as to why they were not.
“Arabic sounds foreign and scary — you don’t know what is going on,” Mr. Ardekani said in an interview at his small Sherman Oaks apartment, its walls decorated with Koranic verses. “Or they show a woman with the veil, who doesn’t speak, and it is assumed if she did speak she would say, ‘Help me!’ ”
So Mr. Ardekani, a 33-year-old Web designer, cast himself on his video blogs as Baba Ali, an outsize character with a serious religious message who both dissects and lampoons the lives of American Muslims.
Mr. Ardekani is among the most visible of a new wave of young American Muslim performers and filmmakers trying to change the public face of their religion. His most popular video posting — “Who Hijacked Islam?” — has garnered more than 350,000 hits on YouTube since July 2006. Of course the uphill battle such efforts face is reflected in the comments section. One viewer remarked darkly, “It’s Muslims that do the hijacking.”
These video pioneers’ arena of choice is mostly YouTube and similar Web sites, which young Muslims extol as a new way to take their arguments public. The role model is Bill Cosby, who young Muslim filmmakers believe changed the perception of African-Americans by depicting them as ordinary.
For the moment, the filmmakers suspect, most of the hits they attract are generated by other young Muslims.
“They are deprived of any type of representation in the media which isn’t a terrorist or an extremely pious Muslim,” said Lena Khan, 23. So whenever an image to the contrary is seen “on YouTube or the Internet or on a TV show, it just spreads across the Muslim community like wildfire, because everyone wants to support it.”
Read complete article here.