Zaki Hasan has spent a good deal of his life back and forth between the US and the Middle East, from being raised in Chicago, to spending a decade in Saudi Arabia, to finally settling down in the San Francisco bay area. Besides being a contributor to Huffington Post, Q-News, and Illume, his blog Zaki’s Corner with Zaki Hasan contains a range of topics from the latest scifi movies and shows, to more political articles on politics or relations between the West and Islam. Find his fascinating musings at http://www.zakiscorner.com
For those who are not familiar with your blog, Zaki’s Corner with Zaki Hasan, could you give a brief summary of it?
My site began in 2004 primarily as a way to vent frustration from George W. Bush’s re-election. Since then, “Zaki’s Corner” has morphed into more of a one-stop forum for musings on politics, religion, culture, and pop culture. Sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes carefree, but hopefully always engaging, the site has been nominated for “Best Blog” and “Best Writer” by the 2010 Brass Crescent Awards, and was included in the Top 35 Political Blogs of 2010 by BestBloggers.org.
How does your blog/website reach out to the Muslim community abroad?
One thing I try very hard to do by way of the topics I cover is to emphasize that, at the end of the day, we’re all just people, and whether we’re living in America or anywhere else, we’re still governed by more commonalities than we are differences. I’d like to believe that the things I discuss, be they serious or lighthearted — and I do try to split the difference — speak to those commonalities, transcending both cultural and geographic boundaries.
What are you doing to conquer prejudice and stereotypes about Muslims?
What’s interesting to me is that I never set out specifically to have a “Muslim Blog,” and certainly that’s not how I wanted it to be perceived. I just hoped it would be a site that people would enjoy, and oh by the way, it’s written by a Muslim. My sense, seven years in, is that’s pretty much the case.
When it comes to the prevalent stereotypes out there about Islam and Muslims, I tend to live by the adage that ignorance is more often to blame than malevolence, and sometimes all it takes is a properly reasoned response to reset people’s compasses, so that’s what I try to bring to the table, even when I’m not explicitly posting about religious or socio-political issues.
There’s a pretty shocking statistic out there that something like 60-plus percent of people have never even MET a Muslim, so I’m acutely aware that for many of my readers, I may well be the ONLY Muslim they know (even if it’s only in the electronic sense). That’s something I do take very seriously.
What sort of news or information do you share on your blog to help foster a sense of solidarity for the Muslim community?
As a media professional, an educator, and a Muslim, it’s easy to see why I feel a personal stake in how Muslims and Muslim issues are portrayed in the media and/or by politicians. The potential for misinformation and alarmism is inordinately high, but it’s also something I feel I can make some small positive contribution towards changing. I started down this road with my Masters’ Thesis for San Jose State University, which examined the portrayal of Muslims in media narratives post-9/11.
I began covering this issue in earnest on my site early last year, beginning with a short piece on the controversy surrounding a censored episode of the Comedy Central series SOUTH PARK. By the time the Park51 community center firestorm started up last May, I suddenly found myself with a whole lot of things to talk about, and things haven’t let up much in the months since.
Between the “Qur’an burning” fiasco in Florida and the omnipresent threat of “creeping Sharia” touted by certain Nativist circles, there’s no shortage of media stories for me to chime in on, and which I’m now actively being asked to chime in on. I’m grateful that people seem to enjoy my take on these things, and I hope I have the wisdom to offer the right response.
How does Zaki’s Corner interact with other religious/nonreligious blogs or online organizations?
Because so much of my focus falls on that nexus between politics, pop culture, and religion, I’ve been able to connect with a wide array of very different websites and organizations with very different focuses. Indeed, the opportunity to work as co-writer on the upcoming book Geek Wisdom (due this August from Quirk Books) came about largely because the editor, Stephen H. Segal, reads and enjoys the site and appreciated the voice I’d bring to the project.
At this point, I also need to give a big shout-out to my friend Wajahat Ali, writer of the groundbreaking play The Domestic Crusaders, for connecting me with The Huffington Post, where my various articles and op-eds have appeared regularly since last fall, and which have increased my audience in ways it’s difficult for me to even calculate.
As that audience has grown, so too has my interaction with other organizations, both through social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter, and good old fashioned word-of-mouth. By now, my blog has been around long enough that it’s become something of a known quantity, especially within the small, tight-knit community of Muslim writers, and I’ve been extremely gratified over the years to learn that it’s read and followed by people far outside my immediate circle.
How many readers/supporters follow your blog?
While the full reach of my site is difficult to gauge with absolute accuracy, I do know that I have just over 900 subscribers through “Networked Blogs,” and average about 6000 views a month. My most-read post of all time is a lengthy discussion from last summer about the Park51 center, which is consistently accessed and has been read more than 800 times since it was posted in August.
Does your blog ever promote community involvement or participation in the Islamic communities of your readers?
Not explicitly, but that’s something that I hope would come as a natural outgrowth of the type of writing I do, which attempts to engage readers more directly in the realm of ideas and ideation. Hopefully this would lead readers to want to engage more directly with their local religious communities.
Dr. Laurence Brown is the author of The Eighth Scroll and many other thrillers. For more information, visit: http://www.EighthScroll.com