There are many interesting phenomena taking place on Twitter, especially when one observes young Muslims. Never in history have young Muslims around the world interacted in such a way: forming friendships, learning from each other, attacking each other, turning into communities and trying to outdo and impress one another.
What we are seeing is a new generation of Muslims on Twitter. Many who are young and have never been married, with a great percentage of whom, it seems, are eager to get married. Their need to get married is arguably heightened because of the hyper-sexualised society in which we live. Because Muslims are not allowed to have sex outside of marriage, the natural outlet they seek in response to our hyper-sexualised society is often marriage.
I’ve been carefully observing many trends over the past two years and found a series of interesting findings about young Muslims on Twitter. None of this, of course, can be backed up by rigorous statistics or figures as no comprehensive academic research has been done into it, as far as I know.
- Hijabi girls, especially ones who are very pretty, have a LOT of followers. It’s quite interesting. Many of them don’t even tweet anything particularly interesting. But the ones who tweet a lot about Islam, generally have even more followers. The majority of their followers seem to be young Muslim boys and girls. The boys could be following the hijabis to hopefully get a follow back and then, see, err, how things go from there.
- Many young Muslims use Twitter as a means to spread their religion. Many do a good job and allow non-muslims to see Islam through a new lens, one that isn’t always portrayed by the mainstream media. In this piece, Steve Rose, a young British journalist, talks about how social media helped give him a greater insight into Islam.
- However, there are downsides for young Muslims who spread their religion on Twitter. Many come up against ardent atheists, many of whom have greater intellects than the young Muslims, and inevitably force the young Muslims to question their beliefs or what they’ve just tweeted. Before Twitter, young Muslim’s beliefs wouldn’t be as closely scrutinised and challenged.
- Nobody can claim to know other people’s intentions. But what is likely taking place is young, single Muslims, in an attempt to attract the opposite sex, often put on a religious pretence. There is one example on Youtube – and I won’t share the link out of respect for the Muslim boy – where he is talking about the need to respect hijabis but is wearing a sleeveless tight vest with his muscles popping out. He is not to be blamed for his body, but it makes the video and his intentions slightly dubious. Especially when one Muslim girl commented underneath: “The top you are wearing kind of makes it hard for me to concentrate on what you are saying :p.” The question that arises is: are you making the video to educate people, or to impress girls? However, it is important to remember that there are many Muslim guys who have pure intentions.
- Many Muslim girls, however – and this shows how much they want to get married – go on about their “Prince Charming” and what they want in a husband. Sorry to break it but…the Prince Charming you are looking for probably doesn’t exist.
- Recently, a hijabi girl with almost 18,000 followers, tweeted that her future husband “must be intelligent”. What was interesting is that while the majority of retweets came from girls, the majority of people who favourited the tweet were boys. Why on earth would boys want to favourite that tweet? Is a girl wanting an intelligent husband so surprising that a boy would feel the need to favourite it? Obviously, a guy retweeting that tweet would look silly. But it seems one of the reasons boys favourite tweets like that is so that the girl, when looking at who favourited it, will notice them and hopefully look at their profile. Or it could be an indirect signal to the girl saying: hey, you know you just tweeted that you’d like an intelligent husband, well, I’m intelligent 🙂 So click on my profile, check me out and follow me.
- Many Muslims also define themselves by certain religious symbols. You might come across someone’s name on Twitter being: “BrotherWithABeard” or “ThatHijabiChick” (not sure these names exist, I made them up). This is something quite exclusive to the Muslim community, other people of other religions don’t seem to feel the need to define themselves in such ways. Perhaps because of the increased attention and the attacks on Muslims since 9/11, it has led to young Muslims responding in a kind of “reactive defiance”, to borrow a term from Tariq Madood, a Bristol University academic.
- A hijabi girl with loads and loads of followers, turned 18 recently. Quite immaturely, she decided to retweet hundreds of people who wished her happy birthday on Twitter. Many people complained that this clogged up their timeline. Her response was simply: “Block me if you don’t like it.” The contradictory part of it all is that the majority of her tweets, generally speaking, are all about spreading Islam and its message. Not only would she have lost a lot of non-Muslim followers because of her immaturity in retweeting all her birthday messages. But Islam, in its essence, is about worshipping God and not the ego. What the retweets showed, however, is that she perhaps thinks of herself really highly to willingly clog up everyone’s timeline. In fact, she is not the first Muslim girl to do this, there have been others.
- Final thing. For the first time in Islam’s history, access to Islamic knowledge is now extremely accessible. Some of the world’s greatest Islamic scholars are on Twitter, many regularly update their Twitter with Islamic reminders, can be asked questions and tweet links to reliable information. The inevitable consequence of the flourishing of authentic Islamic knowledge is that the young generation of Muslims, as compared to their parents who largely didn’t have a wide access to authentic knowledge, will be better educated about their tradition.
Twitter can be used to waste time but can also provide a wealth of knowledge and be an encouragement to do good. It is also a great fitna, a test, for young Muslims: Twitter somehow encourages a type of self-importance and narcissism, where people feel the need to tell everyone else intimate details about their lives. This is antithetical to the Islamic tradition. How Twitter and social media in general will shape the new generation of Muslims is not clear but the amount of information, access to knowledge and encouragement to do good, will only spur young Muslims to revive the Islamic tradition and recapture it from the hands of its modern hijackers.