An unconventional connection between an Islamic Studies discipline and a media production company seeks to promote tolerance and empathy
It has been three years since Nasser Shariff, a student of the Master of Arts in Islam and Global Affairs program, founded his buzz venture. Qoomra -- a media marketing company that is his brainchild -- is undoubtedly influenced by his Western upbringing. However, to Shariff, his media-making interests in no way contradict his beliefs or studies.
“I found myself involved in passionate discourse with friends, family, and neighbors from an early age. I paid attention to global affairs because I knew that one person’s pain can be collectively shared with humanity. I gravitated towards groups of people who shared similar interests in improving the world. I supported several community organizations and, ultimately, began a career in media making fueled by my passion for worldwide affairs,” explains Shariff, who has led and supported various media projects with a focus on positive sociological themes.
Qoomra is a budding initiative initially designed to meet technological industry, sustainability, and e-commerce demand through animated and interactive text, combined with media marketing visuals. But it also serves an underlying motive -- the promotion of social peace, prosperity, and understanding.
Through his channels, Shariff has also been promoting figures he believes are at the forefront of social good within educational, innovative, and political spheres. “There is an abundance of goodness in humanity that needs to be discovered,” he says. “’Searching for the Good’ is also the title of a new media project that I intend to produce in the near future, which focuses on people who are leading positive initiatives in their communities.”
Shariff notes that, as a Muslim living in the US, he firsthand witnessed pervasive Islamophobic ideas. “Heightened levels of Islamophobia in the US and worldwide are concerning to Muslims, as well as all people who are concerned about human rights. Islamophobia can and should be addressed, and Muslims have a role in addressing it,” he says.
Above all, Shariff thinks the emphasis on how the world perceives Islam is misconstrued, if not overrated. Equally important, he believes, is how Islam looks at the world and aspects of contemporaneity.
“In reality, Islam is concerned with all matters we once believed were disconnected from it. Islam’s disciplines, models, representations, and extensions cover poetry, economy, and even art as symbolized by its architectural presence, both in history and modern times,” says Shariff, whose undergraduate studies were in media arts.
Media -- once thought to contribute to perpetuating misunderstandings of Islam and Muslim communities -- can play a fundamentally critical role in promoting peace and understanding among nations.
“I think we will be one step closer to achieving this understanding once our brothers and sisters in humanity know that Islam strikes a good balance between spirituality and materialism. Also, if they learned about Islamic civilization’s history, they would recognize the countless contributions it has made to the world and find the commonalities that will bring Muslims and non-Muslims together, rather than separate them. Such factors can change the distorted image of Muslims in the West.”
The Master of Arts in Islam and Global Affairs was designed to help students gain critical understandings of the world and how it operates, while encouraging them to use their voices actively and contribute to global dialogue. It encourages a wider understanding of the issues that touch Muslim lives today, and how to constructively address them without alienating themselves or their communities.
“We have a long way to achieving this understanding in the West, but a small step for one Muslim is one on behalf of all others,” he says.
Read more about CIS students applying their studies in Qatar’s judiciary.