Muslim women in Latin America becoming online influencers – Arab News

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SAO PAULO: With millions of views, videos in which Latin American Muslim women talk about their faith and show their personal lives have become more and more common on social media over the past few years.
In a region where Christianity is still seen as the norm, Islamic influencers face great challenges to succeed in the digital sphere. 
Some of them are managing to do it, with creativity, charisma and humor. One such influencer is Mariam Chami, a 31-year-old nutritionist from the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo. 
The daughter of a Lebanese father and a Brazilian mother who converted to Islam, Chami was educated in a Muslim school and only felt the weight of wearing a hijab in a Catholic-majority country in adulthood.
“In the beginning, I made videos for Muslim girls who didn’t have much knowledge about religion,” she told Arab News.
“But then I started to produce content with the goal of explaining Islam and reducing the prejudices that Brazilians have against Muslims.”
On TikTok, where she is followed by 1.1 million people, Chami discusses controversial topics for a very liberal country like Brazil such as burkinis — the clip where she wore one had more than 900,000 views — or why her sister-in-law, who is also Muslim, does not wear a hijab. Chami does all that with humor.
“I’ve been supported by my community and by religious leaders,” she said. “Given that I reach many people, I am — along with other Muslim influencers — combating religious intolerance with my work, and making more people admire our religion.”
One of Chami’s concerns is to show that Muslim women are not the oppressed victims of men, something that comes to mind among many Latin Americans when they see a woman wearing a hijab. Feminist movements in Brazil still cultivate that kind of prejudice, she said.
“I believe feminism is selective: It struggles for a woman’s right to be whatever she wants, but if she decides to be Muslim and wears her (Islamic) garments, she’s put aside and oppressed by those (feminist) women,” she added.
Colombian lawyer and digital influencer Amira Ubaida Sanchez also tries in her videos to deal with the most common misconceptions about Muslim women in her country.
“Me and my sister studied law together. Seeing us with a hijab, people in the university would frequently ask us, with an expression of surprise, if we as Muslim women are allowed to study,” she told Arab News.
In her work as an attorney, the 24-year-old usually represents Christian Colombian women who have been abandoned by their partners with their children and no money.
The daughter of a Colombian man who converted to Islam 40 years ago and became a Muslim leader in Bogota, she received a religious education that she now uses to convey complex messages in two-minute clips. 
On TikTok, her account @conelvelo — “with the headscarf” in Spanish — has 43,600 followers. 
Her father, Imam Carlos Sanchez, said: “I’ve never told any of my daughters to do this or that. Amira decided for herself to talk about Islam, which she does with great competence. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Making Islam known in Latin America is not an easy task, he added. Until the end of the 20th century, Catholicism was the official religion in countries such as Colombia. 
Cultural differences also complicate Latin Americans’ understanding of Islamic concepts.
That is why Amira always uses straightforward language and includes funny elements in her videos.
“Many people want to disseminate Islam in Latin America, but they talk about ‘sunnah’ and ‘hadith,’ and nobody knows what those words mean here,” she said.
Nallely Khan, a 30-year-old Mexican who lives with her Muslim husband in India, said it is not easy to deal with Islamic issues on the internet for a Latin American audience.
“My goal isn’t so much to discuss Islam, but to show the way of living that we have, our daily life. At times I have to explain religious matters, and Latin Americans may disagree,” she told Arab News. “Some people don’t like Islam.”
Khan was born in a Catholic family but converted to Islam as a teenager. She said it was difficult to find materials about it in Mexico, but “now we have many organizations working on the dissemination of Islam in the country.”
Her YouTube channel Nana India Vlogs has 147,000 subscribers. She mainly portrays her life in India with her family, with a focus on the cultural differences with Mexico. But the Islamic dimension can be seen in many of her videos. 
Her biggest hit until now has been the series “India and my love story,” in which she describes how she converted to Islam, how she met her husband, and how she discovered that he had a first wife only after their marriage (the woman ended up divorcing him). The three videos have had more than 2.5 million views. 
“I don’t consider myself to be an influencer because I know I’m not a perfect person. I always try to become a better Muslim,” she said.
“I just hope to keep showing my life, my family, and the fact that Muslims lead normal lives.”
According to Arely Medina, a professor of social sciences specializing in Islam in Latin America at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico, the emergence of Muslim women as digital influencers in the region is part of a “strategy of presence in the public space.”
She told Arab News: “Over time, women developed different ways of making themselves visible on the street. This way, people would know them and see that they aren’t repressed women only because of their religion.” The same dynamic is happening now online.
“Of course the audience can stigmatize them, but I think most viewers look for such videos with curiosity and the wish to learn,” she added.
Medina said the internet has been a fundamental tool for young people interested in Islam in Mexico and other Latin American countries that until recently did not have large Muslim communities. 
“Twenty years ago, many young people who wished to learn about Islam were only able to do so by chatting with Muslims from other countries and searching for online content about it,” she added.
Some would even convert to Islam this way, with the help of Muslims by phone or online chats — a process Medina calls “autonomous conversion.”
Now, she said, “women who discovered Islam with the help of the internet are using it to talk about Islam to large audiences.”
WILMINGTON, Delaware: Elon Musk countersued Twitter Inc. on Friday, escalating his legal fight against the social media company over his bid to walk away from the $44 billion purchase, although the lawsuit was filed confidentially.
While the 164-page document was not publicly available, under court rules a redacted version could soon be made public.
Musk’s lawsuit was filed hours after Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick of the Delaware Court of Chancery ordered a five-day trial beginning Oct. 17 to determine if Musk can walk away from the deal.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Also on Friday, Musk was sued by a Twitter shareholder who asked the court to order the billionaire to close the deal, find that he breached his fiduciary duty to Twitter shareholders and award damages for losses he caused.
Musk owes a fiduciary duty to Twitter’s shareholders because of his 9.6 percent stake in the company and because the takeover agreement gives him a veto of many of the company’s decisions, according to the lawsuit, which seeks class status. The lawsuit was filed by Luigi Crispo, who owns 5,500 Twitter shares, in the Court of Chancery.
Musk, the world’s richest person and chief executive of Tesla Inc, said on July 8 he was abandoning the takeover and blamed Twitter Inc. for breaching the agreement by misrepresenting the number of fake accounts on its platform.
Twitter sued days later, calling the fake account claims a distraction and saying Musk was bound by the merger contract to close the deal at $54.20 per share. The company’s shares ended on Friday at $41.61, the highest close since Musk abandoned the deal.
McCormick fast-tracked the case to trial last week, saying she wanted to limit the potential harm to Twitter caused by the uncertainty of the deal.
Twitter has blamed the court fight for slumping revenue and causing chaos within the company.
The two sides had basically agreed to an Oct. 17 trial, but were at odds over the limits of discovery, or access to internal documents and other evidence.
Musk accused Twitter this week of dragging its feet in response to his discovery requests, and Twitter accused him of seeking huge amounts of data that are irrelevant to the main issue in the case: whether Musk had violated the deal contract.
The chief judge in her order on Friday appeared to anticipate discovery disputes to come.
“This order does not resolve any specific discovery disputes, including the propriety of any requests for large data sets,” said McCormick.
Musk also faces a week-long trial in Wilmington, Delaware, beginning Oct. 24. A Tesla shareholder is seeking to void as corporate waste and unjust enrichment the CEO’s record-breaking $56 billion pay package from the electric vehicle maker.
 
LONDON: Coleen Rooney, wife of former England soccer captain Wayne, emerged victorious in her high-profile libel match with the spouse of an ex-teammate after a High Court judge agreed that Rebekah Vardy had leaked stories about her to the press.
In a case that has gripped the public with its mix of glamor, soccer, and amateur sleuthing, the judge backed Rooney’s public assertion that Vardy had spilled private details about her to the Sun tabloid, leaving Vardy “devastated.”
The intrigue began almost three years ago when Rooney grew suspicious about stories in the Sun and turned detective to try to find the culprit.
She said she blocked everyone from viewing her Instagram account except one person and then posted a series of false stories to see whether they leaked out, which they did.
Rooney wrote on her social media accounts that only one person had viewed the false stories, concluding with the dramatic revelation: “It’s … Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Vardy, 40, sued Rooney and the feud was dubbed the “WAGatha Christie” case after the “WAG” moniker given to a group of footballers’ wives and girlfriends, and the renowned author of detective novels in honor of Rooney’s sleuthing.
The judge, Justice Karen Steyn, said Rooney proved her allegation was “substantially true.” She concluded that Vardy knew and condoned details being leaked to the Sun by her agent Caroline Watt.
“It was not a case I ever sought or wanted,” Rooney said in a statement.
“I never believed it should have gone to court at such expense … when the money could have been far better spent helping others,” she added.
Any decision over who foots the legal fees will be settled at a future hearing. British media have speculated the trial cost millions of pounds.
“Although I bear Mrs.Vardy no ill-will, today’s judgment makes clear that I was right in what I said in my posts of October 2019,” Rooney said.
Vardy said she was “extremely sad and disappointed at the decision.”
“It is not the result that I had expected, nor believe was just. I brought this action to vindicate my reputation and am devastated by the judge’s finding,” she said in a statement. “(The judge) got it wrong and this is something I cannot accept.”
BOTTOM OF THE SEA
During the trial in May, the court was shown message exchanges between Vardy and Watt, which included derogatory remarks about Rooney and talk of leaking stories. Rooney’s lawyer said Vardy deleted other media files and messages.
Watt’s phone ended up at the bottom of the North Sea after she said she accidentally dropped it over the side of a boat.
“It is likely that Ms Vardy deliberately deleted her WhatsApp chat with Ms Watt, and that Ms Watt deliberately dropped her phone in the sea,” Steyn said.
The judge found Rooney to be honest but said some of Vardy’s testimony was not credible and there had been “a degree of self-deception on her part regarding the extent to which she was involved.”
The courtroom bust-up has attracted similar level of public attention to any of their husbands’ soccer games.
Wayne Rooney holds the record for the most international goals for England, while Vardy’s husband Jamie has been one of the top scorers in the English Premier League in recent years, also playing and scoring for the national side.
Both women are well-known in their own right — Coleen Rooney, 36, has 1.2 million followers on Twitter and almost 925,000 on Instagram — and the libel case lifted the lid on their glittering lifestyles, and less flattering aspects such as the Rooneys’ marriage troubles.
Vardy says her family had received abuse and threats as a result of Rooney’s public accusation and Steyn agreed it was not in the public interest for the disclosure to have been made by Rooney without giving Vardy the chance to respond first.
“Some members of the public have responded to the Reveal Post by subjecting Ms Vardy to vile abuse, including messages wishing her, her family, and even her (then unborn) baby, ill in the most awful terms,” Steyn said.
“Nothing of which Ms Vardy has been accused, nor any of the findings in this judgment, provide any justification or excuse for subjecting her or her family, or any other person involved in this case, to such vitriol.”
NAIROBI: Kenya’s ethnic cohesion watchdog has given Meta’s Facebook seven days to tackle hate speech and incitement on the platform relating to next month’s election, failing which its operations will be suspended.
East Africa’s biggest economy is in the throes of campaigning ahead of presidential, legislative and local authorities elections on Aug. 9.
Advocacy group Global Witness said in a report published on Thursday that Facebook had accepted and carried more than a dozen political advertisements that breached Kenya’s rules.
Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) said the report corroborates its own internal findings.
“Facebook is in violation of the laws of our country. They have allowed themselves to be a vector of hate speech and incitement, misinformation and disinformation,” Danvas Makori, an NCIC commissioner said on Friday.
Meta has taken “extensive steps” to weed out hate speech and inflammatory content, and it is intensifying those efforts ahead of the election, a company spokesperson told Reuters.
“We have dedicated teams of Swahili speakers and proactive detection technology to help us remove harmful content quickly and at scale,” the spokesperson said.
The NCIC has held talks with the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK), which regulates social media firms, and it will recommend the suspension of Meta’s operations, Makori said.
He accused Meta of violating Kenya’s constitution and laws governing hate speech and the use of social media platforms.
“This country is bigger than a social media company or an entity. We will not allow Facebook, or any other social media company, to jeopardize security,” he said.
Supporters of the leading presidential candidates, veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga and deputy president William Ruto, have used social media platforms to praise their candidates, persuade others to join them or to accuse opposing sides of various misdeeds.
The NCIC is a statutory body established to foster ethnic harmony among Kenya’s 45 tribes, some of which have targeted each other during violence in past polls.
LONDON: On Thursday, Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor filed a lawsuit demanding Novaya Gazeta’s license be permanently revoked.
“Russia’s censorship agency Roskomnadzor has demanded that Novaya Gazeta’s certificate of registration be declared invalid,” the newspaper said in a statement.
“Roskomnadzor asked the court to declare the print media outlet Novaya Gazeta’s license invalid due to the editorial office not providing its editorial statute within the timeframe established by the law on media,” the agency added.
Novaya Gazeta, one of the last independent media outlets in the country, decided to move its operations earlier in March after being forced to take down from its website some of the agency’s coverage of Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.
In February, the newspaper, headed by Editor-in-Chief and Nobel prize winner Dmitry Muratov, moved its operation to Riga in Latvia and launched the newspaper Novaya Gazeta Europe. Russia’s media regulator has blocked that website inside Russia as well.
As part of its effort to control media coverage in the country following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow introduced a new law that criminalizes the dissemination of “false” information that “discredits the armed forces.”
This move caused several independent media outlets in the country to move their operations or stop them entirely, including a radio station and TV channel.
Last week, the website of the magazine Novaya Rasskaz-Gazeta, also produced by Novaya Gazeta staff, was taken down by Roskomnadzor for allegedly “discrediting the Russian armed forces.”
The agency announced it would dispute the decision in court.
“Russian legislation requires strict compliance with measures aimed at preventing the dissemination of prohibited and unreliable information. In the context of the information war unleashed by the West against our country, the protection of Russian citizens from hazardous materials should be a priority not only for Russian government agencies but also for the owners of the media and internet resources,” Roskomnadzor said in a statement on Thursday.
LONDON: Instagram, the popular photo and video sharing social network, announced on Thursday that it will reverse some of the changes it introduced earlier this week.
The decision comes after the Meta-owned social network was at the center of a user backlash for changing its traditional vertical scrolling feed to a full-screen one. The company was accused of mimicking TikTok at the expense of its most loyal users.
“I’m glad we took a risk — if we’re not failing every once in a while, we’re not thinking big enough or bold enough,” said Instagram’s head, Adam Mosseri. “But we definitely need to take a big step back and regroup. (When) we’ve learned a lot, then we come back with some sort of new idea or iteration. So we’re going to work through that.”
Instagram will also reduce the number of recommended posts and ads in the app as it promises to improve its algorithms.
The design changes were introduced as part of Instagram’s efforts to compete with TikTok and keep up with the broader shift in user behavior that has people turning away from static photos in favor of videos.
“Redesigns often incur the wrath of users who are hostile to change, but in this case the high-profile dissatisfaction was backed up by Instagram’s own internal data,” Mosseri said. “The trend toward users watching more video is real, and pre-dated the rise of TikTok. But it’s clear that people actually do dislike Instagram’s design changes.”
Earlier this week, the influencers Kylie Jenner and her sister Kim Kardashian took to social media to express their disappointment about the new features and posted memes asking the company to “Make Instagram Instagram again.”
“For the new feed designs, people are frustrated and the usage data isn’t great,” Mosseri said. “So there I think that we need to take a big step back, regroup, and figure out how we want to move forward.”

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