With almost 24k tweets, you could say I like Twitter. And I do. While it usually gets a bad rep from many as just another tool for solitary self-glorification (and it is to a large extent, don’t get me wrong) it has served as an amazing medium, for me personally, to connect with absolutely awe-inspiring people who range from emerging thought leaders to innovators to journalists to revolutionaries to your next door cupcake baking neighbor who has remarkable insights on gendered experiences of 3rd grade girls in gym class. Or something.
One of the problems/twisted virtues of Twitter is how it’s very easy to cultivate a ‘cult of personality.’ You become known for ‘something’ and thousands of people flock to follow you because they feel you ..know ..something and you know it well; the greater your followers, the greater your authority on the subject you claim to specialize in. It does not necessarily reflect your actual authority or even knowledge and ability. What it does reflect, often, is how you market yourself. Your are a brand and you are to sell your brand. Twitter excels at turning us into products for consumption (lol e-marx wsup) and we often gladly do it. Twitter is how we’re supposed to get our work noticed (yeye), get a job (epic fail) and show the world that the most profound of human expression is possible in 140 characters (even if it takes 20 tweets to get a single point across).
For this reason I both love and hate Twitter. And it does beg the question of whether Jane Austen would have been, uh, Jane Austen had she been a 17 year old writer, tweeting about the woes of failed courtships. And would she have been an Belieber? I like to think not ..but she proved to have kinda sketch taste in men. I bring this up because Twitter helps saturate certain fields while simultaneously confining them to particular names and faces; it becomes hard to discern individuals, at some point, through the incestuous piles.
All that being said, I wanted to offer a list of Twitter users (tweeps) who may not have the numbers but deserve, for various reasons, to be followed. I enjoy my Twitterfeed to be a mix between the sacred and profane. As much as I need those sobering and informative tweets on the situation in Syria or on the latest drone attack or diminishing protection of civil liberties in the United States, I also enjoy discussions on why Lady Gaga is brilliantly idiotic. And I like tweets about cupcakes too. So, the following is a list of people (in no particular order) I love to follow (and I don’t follow that many) and think you should follow too.
I’ll make a couple more of these lists in the coming weeks ..with less of a rambling preamble.
1. Will Youmans (@wyoumans) – Professor at GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs – Washington D.C
Focus: media, Arab affairs, MENA politics, activism, sports
I’m biased on this but for all the right reasons. Will founded KABOBfest back in 2004, a blog that pioneered Arab and Muslim American activism, with a lot of blunt and offensive humor. Today, he holds a PhD in Communication and focuses on the AJ English, particularly American reception to Arabs and Arab representation in American media. He was also recently appointed as Professor at the School of Media and Public Affairs at GW. When it comes to “global communication, media law, and Middle Eastern politics and society” Will is one of the sharpest minds out there. He has a great ability to articulate poignant critiques and praise, with great humility. Without compromising ethics and principles as well as truth, he offers perspectives that I find accessible to a large and diverse crowd. And he’s absolutely hilarious. Definitely one of the funnier Tweeps commenting on media and Arab/Middle Eastern affairs.
Will tweets in English.
2. Mohammad Fadel (@Shanfaraa): Professor of Law at University of Toronto – TORONTO
Focus: Islamic law, human rights, liberalism, Egyptian politics and society
If you’re in the field of Islamic Studies, then you know who Dr. Fadel is and why he’s a big deal. At a time where the question of Islamic law/Shari’ah ignites much passion, unfortunate sensationalism and legitimate debate, Dr. Fadel’s work (which is also extremely accessible) provides much needed exploration of pressing issues regarding Islam and modernity. Fadel’s work touches on secularism, democracy, women’s rights, liberalism and Islamic reform. What I especially enjoy about him is that his approach (and excellent training and knowledge) make it easy for so-called “traditional” Muslims to seriously engage with taboo questions and ideas regarding Shariah. Every single one of the papers listed in the previous link is on my “Please read eventually, Sana” list. You may not agree with all or many of Dr. Fadel’s ideas (his focus is Sunni Islamic Law), but his place in contemporary discussions of Islamic hermeneutics is integral and cannot be pushed to the side. Aside from this, Dr. Fadel, an Egyptian-American, offers insights on the revolution and Egyptian society, culture and politics on the whole which are always fresh, sharp and welcomed. And he’s hella blunt, which is always so very awesome. I have no interest for academics who tread with caution. I do wish, however, that Dr. Fadel would write more as a public intellectual because of the nature of his work; I think he’s engaging in an academic discussion that needs to now become more publicly and popularly accessible. I think I’ll email him about that. If you’re an editor of any online publication that is interested in the issues I outlined above, under Dr. Fadel’s focus, have him in your Twitterfeed immediately. He’s also great on Facebook and a pleasure to listen to as well.
Dr. Fadel tweets in English with occasional bouts of Arabic.
3. SubMedina (@SubMedina): Witty Academic with a No-Bullshit Life Mantra – BLOODLANDS
Focus: migrant labor, MENA, current affairs and brilliant wit.
I’ve been following SubMedina for probably the majority of my time on Twitter (I joined in 09, before it was a revolutionary tool a la Green Revolution) and still don’t know really anything about her except some vague indications about her location (Iraq) and marital status (taken). But who cares. SubMedina is one of the smartest and wittiest Twitterfeeds you’re definitely missing out on. From tweets on class interactions in the Maghreb to Thomas Friedman’s mustache to quips on personal observations and everyone else’s vices – SubMedina is worth every RT.
4. Stefan Christoff (@spirodon): Community Organizer, Journalist, Musician – MONTRÉAL
Focus: Montréal, student issues, Palestine, anti-oppression, Haiti, Canada, economic and social justice
Stefan, like some others on this list, is someone I have the pleasure of having interacted with in person. To be in the know of the Montréal activist scene, one of the most vibrant in our hemisphere, Stefan provides great resources from the perspective of a non-mainstream journalist and from the frontlines. While his current focus is Montréal, his activism exceeds the city’s bounds with his commitment to social, economic and political justice throughout Canada and around the world. He is involved with Tadamon!, has helped organize the annual Artists Against Apartheid shows in Montréal and is involved in the Solid’Ayiti project.
Stefan tweets in both English and French.
5. Delhi Sultan (@delhisultan): Literaratto exporting history and culture of Delhi – DELHI
Focus: India, Delhi, history, culture, Muslims in India, politics, faith
When I hear about Delhi usually, it’s usually in the context of slums and poverty. This is, of course, outside the Bollywoodization of the city. What I always have forgotten is what a rich history the city has and, indeed, a beautiful array of cultures it holds. Delhi Sultan reminds a few thousand of us, every day, of this. AM (as I’ll refer to him hereon) has a way with words, a penchant for description and a passion for everything Delhi. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, that he fell in love with Delhi, but having followed AM for so long ..the evolution was more than apparent. What I, personally, appreciate about AM’s tweets (aside from the poetic explorations of the most mundane of life’s experiences) is that he invokes a literary voice resonant to the tone found in the works of Rohinton Mistry and Salman Rushdie. I’m not comparing AM to these literary giants, but he more than certainly seems to hold the potential for a great future in historical literature. In addition to this, AM takes his followers with him on his explorations of Delhi (and beyond), sharing tidbits of unknown, unrecognized history and names. Despite never having been to India, let alone Delhi, I somehow have developed a connection to it (perhaps related to my own take on the city of my birth, Lahore) – and for this, I thank Delhi Sultan. His is one of the most original Twitterfeeds you will find. If you are a literary agent or editor, especially, follow this man ASAP.
Delhi Sultan tweets in English, some times in Hindi (or mixes the two like a good South Asian).
7. Haroon Moghul (@hsmoghul): Fellow at New America Foundation and Center on National Security at Fordham Law, novelist, public speaker – NEW YORK
Focus: Islamic thought, law, current affairs, Islamic history, discourse formation, US politics
Haroon Moghul is definitely someone to watch out for in the American public sphere as a force to be reckoned with. In an age where Ayans, Zuhdis and Irshads dominate conversations on Islam, Moghul is one of a handful of Muslim voices coming out to oppose sensationalism, misinformation and Islamophobia with intellectual honesty and integrity. Moghul has written for the Huffington Post, is an editor and contributor with Religion Dispatches, has appeared on numerous news outlets and does many public speaking events. He has a great and rare ability to make otherwise esoteric facts and ideas accessible to the greater public.
Haroon tweets in English.
8. Kubra (@hkubra): Commentator on Turkish & Muslim Affairs, Engineer, Calligrapher, Feminist – CANADA/TURKEY
Focus: Turkish politics, Islam, feminism, Muslim women, Muslims in Canada
It’s hard to find a good, solid Twitterfeed from a Turk which is 1. In English and 2. Not crazy ideological. Kubra is my go-to Turk on Twitter. She provides great links and analysis on issues pertaining to Turkish domestic and foreign policy and feminism with an Islamic bent. Her feed is a nice melange of Canadian issues, Turkish politics and Muslim women – there’s a plethora of information you can find in her tweets and like everyone else I’ve mentioned in this list, and will mention, she’s great at engaging with other tweeps. Kubra is not apologetic, so if you pick a fight – please take caution: she’s good with arguments.
Kubra tweets in English and Turkish.
9. Alexandra Eurdolian (@AlexandraKE): Social Media Behind UNHCR’s @Refugees – GENEVA
Focus: social media, displaced people, refugees, random musings
As someone with an interest in refugees and displaced peoples, I naturally followed @refugees. In due time, I made acquaintance with Alexandra, who runs the account. She’s a very passionate person, very connected to the world of the politics of the displaced, as the nature of her work obliges. While you’ll often mind similar tweets on both the @refugees account and her personal account, she’s quick to engage with you on her personal account (and even goes out of her to respond to you if you’ve asked the UNHCR account a question). If you’re interested in social media, displaced people, UN, international law – she’s definitely one of the vital people to be following right now and someone to look out for.
Alexandra tweets in English.
10. Muslimah Media Watch (@MMWTweets): Leading Blog on Surveying Portrayals of Muslim Women in the Media – INTERNATIONAL
Focus: media, gender, sexuality, feminism, Islam, representation, race
MMW is one of the most important English websites out there right now and you’re missing out if you’re not following them. Founded by @FatemehF and currently run by EiC @Krista_Riley (also people you need to follow, as I’ll mention on my second list), the blog offers diverse (ethnically, religiously, geographically, academically, intellectually, politically) perspectives from Muslim women on how the bodies of Muslim women are represented, depicted and engaged with. While the blog is media-specific, it will also tackle literature, projects and programs that involve Muslim women’s bodies. The blog is a must for a bookmark and a must in your Twitterfeed if you are interested in well researched and well written articles that explore “The Question of Muslim Women” in nuanced, critical and honest ways.
MMWtweets are in English.
Stay tuned for part two.