Bytes, Blogs and Believers: My Interview with Emel Magazine

This October Emel featured an interview of several Muslim bloggers called “Bytes, Blogs and Believer.”   Your’s truly was included amongst notable blogs written by Ethar Al Kataney of Muslimah Media Watch and 40 Days and 40 Nights, Indigo Jo, Rafael Alejandro of The Wandering Troubadour, Jana Kossaibaiti  of Hijab Style and Wang Daiyu’s Islam in China. Aramco did a nice feature on Emel that provides some interesting background information on the founders of the glossy Muslim lifestyle magazine  printed in the UK. I encourage you to check out Emel, which can be found in the US in select Barnes and Nobles. You can also subscribe to the magazine, which I do think is worthwhile.

As Indigo Jo pointed out, the process began in 2008 and our features were condensed versions of the interview. My answers were rather long and in some ways I think my notes from the interview might be worthwhile elaborating and posting in the future. I find the interview process very interesting and I am always astonished at what the finished product looked like. I have been interviewed in press conferences, by the journalists during  phone interviews, on panels, by a professor writing about religion in modern media, by a graduate student of Teaching Arabic as a Second language studying common mistakes Arab language learners make, by an anthropology graduate student studying the relationship between Arab and Black Americans, and most recently by an undergraduate student interviewing a woman of a different faith. While I studied the interview as a historical method in graduate school, I didn’t necessarily reflect how much I would be interviewed and have been interviewed in my life. Well, outside of job interviews As an historian who studied Africans, immigrants, and marginal groups in the Middle East, I was aware of  the uneven power dynamics between western scholar and interview subject. Interviews are not simply  a collection of oral data  and facts that historians, anthropologists, and social scientist  and other researchers use to reconstruct the past or explain current social formations. It is not simply a fact finding mission. The interviewee is interested in sharing their story and presenting themselves in a certain light. I understood that the interview was not so much as trying to get to some essential truth, but understanding how an individual would like to represent their experience and their identity.  The interview is a collaborative process between interviewer and interviewee. The interviewer shapes how we understand the life experiences of the subject. It is not only through the selection of questions, but also in the editorial process that meaning is shaped and guided. The interview process opens a lot of doors for the person who is answering personal questions. I learned in doing the Human Subject Research Protocols and experience in the field, and even from personal experience in the interview that some questions can bring up painful memories and experiences. But in some ways, the interview has allowed for a certain form of self discovery. They caused  me to think about a lot of things I haven’t thought about or articulate things that have long been unspoken. My experiences with the interview makes me aware of how I represent myself and the ways in which my words are interpreted by another.

On a lighter note: please forgive the unglamorous shot on Emel. I submitted it myself. I thought my picture would be rendered into a digital avatar as Indigo Jo pointed out  in “Hey Emel, what have you done to my avatar?” So, I didn’t ask my husband to do a professional head shot..  I try not to abuse my wifely privileges, but maybe one day I’ll twist his arm into a nice photo shoot. Unlike Indigo Jo, I knew that the brown woman in hijab was one of 99, not some generic rendition of a superhero me. 🙂