New Canadian Media

by Eddie Ameh in Ottawa 

Fifty prominent Indo-Canadians were recognized in Ottawa recently for promoting and fostering India-Canada relations. 

Carleton University hosted a celebration of their achievements on Feb. 4, alongside a launch for The A-List, a book compilation of their stories written by Indo-Canadian journalist, Ajit Jain. 

Now in its second edition, The A-List features Canadians of Indian origin who through their various careers and community efforts have helped promote relations between the two countries. This year’s event also celebrated three Canadians considered “friends of India” who have made similar efforts. 

An all-inclusive list 

Four cabinet members from the new Liberal government were recognized for bringing joy and pride to the Indo-Canadian community. 

Minister for infrastructure, Amarjeet Sohi; minister for small businesses and tourism, Bardish Chagger; national defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, as well as Navdeep Bains, minister of innovation, science and economic development make up the highest number of Indo-Canadians in the federal cabinet in the history of Canada. 

They also set the record as the highest number of cabinet ministers appointed who are visible minorities from one particular country. 

“They have raised the profile of other Indo-Canadians to greater heights by virtue of leadership in their respective fields.”

In addition, the list includes 90-year-old world-renowned geologist Dr. Deshbandhu Sikka, who discovered magnetic iron ore deposits in Kudremukh, Karnataka, India. Sikka also discovered gold and copper deposits in billions of quantities in India’s Madhya Pradesh. 

The A-List also features 24-year-old Manasvi Noel, currently Miss India-Canada, who was born in Dubai to Indian parents and immigrated to Canada. She traveled to Mumbai to learn belly dancing, which she performed at the Miss India-Canada competition. 

“They have raised the profile of other Indo-Canadians to greater heights by virtue of leadership in their respective fields,” said Jain at the launch. 

A-Listers are ‘bridge builders’ 

According to The A-List, between 1946 and 1955, there were a total of 1,100 Indians, then referred to as persons of East Indian origin, in Canada. Today, there are more than one million Indo-Canadians in Canada. 

There are now 20 members of Parliament (MPs) of Indian descent – four of whom are cabinet ministers in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government – compared to in 1993 when there were just three MPs. 

“What a proud moment it is for us,” Jain said. 

“What a proud moment it is for us.”

The A-List was created to honour Indo-Canadians who continue to inspire others in the diaspora. 

“They are the bridge builders between Canada and India,” Jain added. 

President of Carleton University, Roseann O’Reilly Runte, commended the efforts and services of those who made the list in fostering stronger ties between Canada and India. She called their stories “very extraordinary.” 

Runte went on to acknowledge the growing ties between Canada and India as “a great partnership.” 

She said this was special because Canadian and Indian collaboration in education has a rich history, hence Carleton University hosting the book launch. Currently, the school has partnered with other universities in India where students embark on exchange programs. 

Runte said Carleton University has more students who have gone to India than any other university in Ontario. 

Great, pluralism and jugaad 

Eight out of the 50 people named in The A-List were present at the ceremony and received copies of the book from Runte. 

“There are three things that define us as Indo-Canadians," said Dilip Soman, professor of marketing at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. "These three things are great, pluralism and jugaad.”  

Jugaad is a Hindi word, which means the ability to improvise and make do with what’s available. 

“... [W]e need to think about ways we can better support new Indo-Canadians and help them succeed.”

Soman, who moved to Canada 14 years ago from the U.S., was also named in The A-List. He said he was honoured to be recognized and that there are others who are also promoting Indo-Canadian relations positively in their own endeavours. 

The A-List is amazing, but I think it is just [the] tip of the iceberg,” he said. “There are many people who I think are doing amazing works, but are not on The A-List.” 

He added, “There are a lot of people whose works go unrecognized because there isn’t enough in terms of pages.” 

Soman said there there are also people who will not be written about because they may not have the opportunity to achieve success.  

“As a country and as a community, we need to think about ways we can better support new Indo-Canadians and help them succeed in anything that they choose to do,” he said. 

The best way to avoid situations where Indo-Canadians do not achieve their dreams when they come to Canada, he explained, is to support them when they first arrive in the country. 

He also urged his other colleagues on The A-List to learn from each other and build a more solid Indo-Canadian community. 

The A-List, which has already recognized the work of 100 Indo-Canadians, will honour more in the coming years, as Jain and his team have already started the 2017 list.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in Books

by Eddie Ameh in Ottawa 

Security and media experts are questioning the decision of police to grant journalists access to the personal belongings of the San Bernardino shooters. 

Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married couple, opened fire at a staff holiday party at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California killing 14 people and injuring 21 others. Authorities later said the attacks were terrorist related. 

A few days later, reporters had access to the couple’s apartment and personal items such as photographs, passports, ID cards and social security cards. Identity cards of family members who were not linked to the attacks were also shown on live television. 

Police to blame? 

“I don’t understand why the place was not secured better and all that material taken away as potential evidence,” says Dane Rowlands, a security expert and the head of Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. 

“This was inappropriate for the authorities to have allowed to happen.”

Rowlands says whether there was evidence or not, that was a crime scene and those items should have been taken away and not made available to journalists. 

“This was inappropriate for the authorities to have allowed to happen,” he says. “I can’t imagine any motivation to have allowed them to do so except having made a mistake on this.” 

MSNBC, one for the television outlets that showed a live feed from the apartment, said it was cleared by the FBI, but the LA Times also reported the San Bernardino police saying the apartment was still an active crime scene.  

Reporters said the landlord, Doyle Miller, allowed them in, but he told CBS he was rushed. He later clarified the reporters were given permission to enter.  

Journalists took advantage 

Paul Adams, a journalism professor at Carleton University, says the journalists benefitted from the police officers’ inability to protect a crime scene. 

“The issue of going into the apartment has to do more with the police maintaining a crime scene than it is to do with any journalistic ethics,” Adams says. “If you have access, it’s part of the story and I think it’s appropriate to tell that story.” 

“I believe the journalists were well within their rights to show whatever information was available."

Concerns have been raised about the ethics in showing details of personal information of family members who were not linked to the shooting at all. 

For example, MSNBC showed close up shots of personal identity cards belonging to Farook’s mother. 

Canadian media expert and head of strategic communications at Earnscliffe Strategy Group in Ottawa, Elly Alboim, says showing details of personal information of others, especially those who are not directly linked to the attacks, infringes on their personal rights. 

“It’s a clear violation of privacy and not appropriate,” he says. 

Alboim adds journalists should know better, but that they get carried away by the heat of the moment to publish everything they have access to. 

Sandy Johnson, president of the American-based National Press Foundation, says journalists are within their right to show and give any details they want to give out.  

“I believe the journalists were well within their rights to show whatever information was available, whether it was from this particular apartment or whether it was from the scene of the shooting,” she says. 

Advice for media 

However, Johnson notes, the prevalence of reporting through social media can put pressure on journalists to share information without going through normal editing processes. 

“The tendency to jump [to] conclusions that every attack is a terrorist attack is problematic."

“I believe publishing information should go through an editing level because an editor can have influence and walk the reporter through the process,” she says. “That’s an age old tradition.” 

Rowlands says despite the probability of terrorism being quite low compared to other risks, the threat of it is overplayed in the media. This leads to a public reaction that does not reflect the risk. 

He cautions journalists to be wary of how they report such issues. 

“The tendency to jump [to] conclusions that every attack is a terrorist attack is problematic in terms of potential deflection of the public debate towards issues that are overplayed already,” he says. “This is something responsible journalists should be paying attention to.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in Top Stories

by Eddie Ameh in Ottawa 

Inside the main atrium of Carleton University, four women wearing hijabs (a head covering worn by some Muslim women) set up tables and stands with mounted posters and banners in one of the busiest areas on campus. The most distinct writing on the posters and banners reads #JeSuisHijabi. 

They are on their feet attending to people, mostly students, who come up to them to inquire about their mission. Among the women is Anna Ahmad, a government worker who has taken time off from her job to volunteer. 

“This is who we are and we can be what we want to be, wearing the hijab,” she says. 

Ahmad is among hundreds of Ahmadiyya Muslim women across Canada participating in a nationwide awareness campaign dubbed #JeSuisHijabi to explain the importance of the hijab and defuse any stereotypes related to it. 

“This is who we are and we can be what we want to be, wearing the hijab.”

Niqab in the last campaign 

In the recent federal election, the wearing of and proposed ban of the niqab (a veil worn by some Muslim women that covers the entire head and face except the eyes) became a point of political debate. 

The Conservatives insisted they were going to appeal a court decision that allows the wearing of the niqab while taking the citizenship oath, and that they would consider a ban on public servants wearing the niqab. 

However, the newly elected Liberal government recently decided not to appeal a Supreme Court decision to allow the wearing of the niqab during citizenship oath taking ceremonies. 

Imtiaz Ahmed, imam at the Ahmadiyya mosque in Cumberland, Ottawa says of the whole niqab debate, “It’s history now.” 

[T]he #JeSuisHijabi campaign challenges a widespread portrayal of Muslim women as being inferior to men.

He commends the Liberal government for discontinuing the case. Ahmed says allowing the niqab debate into the campaign was needless and hopes this does not happen again. 

Eesha Affan, one of the volunteers for the #JeSuisHijabi campaign, says the decision to wear a hijab or a niqab is to show people who they are as Muslim women. 

“It’s our own decision and we want to protect our modesty,” she explains. 

Equality in Islam 

Ahmad says the #JeSuisHijabi campaign challenges a widespread portrayal of Muslim women as being inferior to men. 

“This campaign is to create awareness that I am equal to a man, Islam allows me that equality,” she says. 

She says the campaign has received some attention especially with the hashtag #JeSuisHijabi on Twitter and Facebook. 

“Doing that campaign is creating that awareness of equality.” 

The negative portrayal of women in Islam is more culturally related.

Ahmed says this campaign comes at the right time to correct the misconception of how women are treated in Islam. He says Islam respects women and they are not forced to wear the hijab as it is always misconstrued. 

The negative portrayal of women in Islam is more culturally related, he adds. 

“Islam is not restricted to women in one country. People accept Islam and they have different cultures and different backgrounds and women are suppressed in some of the cultures,” Ahmed says. “It is the cultures that are to be blamed and not Islam.” 

Attacks on Muslim Women 

Following the shootings in Paris, there have been increases in attacks on Muslims in Canada. 

A mosque was set ablaze in Peterborough and a Muslim woman was robbed and attacked in Toronto. 

“We’re trying to tell people that we are a very peaceful community and we want to tell people that what ISIS and other terrorist groups are doing is not the real Islam,” Affan says. 

She says it is upsetting to hear of attacks on Muslim women and that ISIS is pushing fear into people’s hearts. 

“When someone feels fear, they do irrational things,” Affan says. “So we’re trying to take away that fear; love is so much [more] powerful than hate or fear will ever be and that’s what we’re trying to put in people’s hearts.” 

Ahmad emphasizes people need to be better informed. That is why the campaign’s purpose is to show people Islam is a peaceful religion. 

Ahmed says attacks on Muslim women especially are very unfortunate. 

“Just as those who perpetrate nefarious activities in the name of Islam don’t represent Islamic values, same thing with those who attack Muslims, they don’t represent Islamic values,” he says. 

It is, however, comforting to know that the majority of Canadians have been condemning these actions, he points out. Authorities are also on the lookout for people who attack Muslims. A Quebec man was arrested three weeks ago for threatening to kill a Muslim every week in a YouTube video. 

Affan and Ahmed say the constitution of Canada protects them just as it protects everyone. They want to be treated like any other citizen and not looked at suspiciously. 

For the next two weeks, while they campaign in three universities as well as major shopping malls in Ottawa, they have the huge task of swaying a lot of negative stereotypes. 

But even when the campaigning ends, they will still be in their hijabs and saying, #JeSuisHijabi. 

As Ahmad states, “It’s a campaign within ourselves, it’s not a campaign we’ll run for two weeks, and it’s an awareness I’ll have for life.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Top Stories

by Aeman Ansari

Jeffrey Sze is a third-year student in the University of Toronto Scarborough and Centennial College’s joint journalism program. Batoul Hreiche is a fourth-year journalism student at Carleton University. Kaitlyn Smith is a second-year student in the University of Toronto Scarborough and Centennial College’s joint journalism program. 


J-Source: Is your school diverse? This question applies to the student body and the faculty. 

Hreiche: My j-school’s student body and faculty is not as diverse as one would hope. There are very few people who are culturally and ethnically different. I’d also like to point out that I’m double-majoring in law, and I see much more diversity in their student body, as well as their faculty, than I do in journalism.

Sze: I feel like my student body is composed of a diverse body of people from different countries and backgrounds. In terms of faculty, it’s not as diverse.

[J]ust because there is a multicultural environment in Canada doesn't mean ignorance automatically vanishes. I’ve found that many Canadians are very closed minded, and I am astounded at the way people confuse tolerance for ignorance. - Kaitlyn Smith

Smith: I think a lot of the problems with diversity and its total lack of proportion in the journalism field and j-schools is the restrictive, suffocating model of education in Ontario. My first year at university I remember the pressure to conform, so much so that I didn’t think it was worth it to finish my degree.

But last semester I was taught by a biracial, female professor — Dr. Minelle Mahtani — who rejected the university’s original method of teaching (she literally saved my journalism career). She focused the classroom on thinking outside of the box. I think this is a great way to start approaching the ideas of diversity.

Additionally, just because there is a multicultural environment in Canada doesn't mean ignorance automatically vanishes. I’ve found that many Canadians are very closed minded, and I am astounded at the way people confuse tolerance for ignorance. 

Hreiche: I believe a lack of diversity exists because the journalism industry is primarily perceived as a “white” field. And people who may come from a misrepresented cultural or ethnic background tend to hold a negative view of the industry. So people generally do not want to engage in journalism. 

J-Source: Batoul, why do you think the law program might be more diverse?

Hreiche: From my experience double-majoring, I believe the law industry is evolving quicker than journalism is. A lot of my friends who have completed law school told me that there is a diverse population in their field. And I’ve noticed that while searching for lawyers or legal experts to interview for certain articles. 

Sometimes, I feel the opposite. I feel that looking different makes me stand out — in a good way. My experience as one of the two hijab-wearing students in the journalism program made me realize how being different was actually a powerful tool. - Batoul Hreiche 

J-Source: If there is a lack of diversity in your school’s faculty, why do you think it exists?

Sze: For me, in terms of faculty, I feel like it isn’t as diverse because of the media landscape in the past. The professors here are people who have had experience in the industry. It’s a reflection of the media landscape in the past. I think that as we move forward, maybe in the next 15 years, we might see a change. 

Breaking into the Industry as a 'Diverse' Face

J-Source: Have you faced any challenges because of this lack of diversity in the industry?

Hreiche: Sometimes, I feel the opposite. I feel that looking different makes me stand out — in a good way. My experience as one of the two hijab-wearing students in the journalism program made me realize how being different was actually a powerful tool. 

I just completed a two-week internship with the CBC, and I was lucky enough to get three on-camera opportunities. I received so many heartwarming comments from people who are not used to seeing diversity on mainstream media, and not all the people who reached out to me were Muslim or Arab! 

Sze: I don't think I have faced challenges in this industry. I feel like the opportunities that I was able to get in journalism was not because of my background but rather my skill set.

J-Source: What do you think might be some ways to increase diversity moving forward?

Sze: I feel that having diversity in the field is definitely a great thing to have, but at the same time, I don't feel that the nature of one person's reporting should be based upon who they are. I feel like a journalist's skill set should be looked upon more than their background, colour or gender.

J-Source: Do you think the onus is on individuals who are part of a marginalized group and identify as such to bring these issues to the forefront in their schools or in the workplace?

Hreiche: For starters, this idea needs to be implemented in the educational system, and not only in journalism programs. In the end, journalism serves every profession, so emphasis needs to be placed in all educational areas. Also, I believe another one of our key starting points is for media institutions to realize how a diverse newsroom would alter their coverage on certain topics — in a profoundly good way. They need to realize that diversity fosters new discussions in a newsroom.

Tackling the Diversity Issue 

J-Source: As young journalists in the field, how do you see this lack of diversity manifesting in the quality of Canadian journalism?

Hreiche: I believe it's a two-way solution. Firstly, the media's power over public knowledge and education cannot be underestimated. So those that are already involved in the field need to shed some light. However, from my experiences thus far, I believe marginalized communities hold themselves back. They believe that since there aren't many of them out there, they can't make social change.

Judging based on the diversity that's here at my school right now I feel like diversity will soon be reflected in Canadian journalism. - Jeffrey Sze

 

When I was accepted into the journalism program, those around me told me that I would not succeed because my background is Arab and Muslim, and I wear the hijab. When I started, I realized they’re right — there aren’t enough of us out here —but I came to the conclusion that if people hold themselves back from engaging and breaking misconceptions, then the world will never evolve. So it also starts with us.

Smith: I agree with Batoul, but we also need to address the back-pedalling of news media and media itself, as well as conservative backlash that many diverse news organizations, and the people they cater to, receive. 

Pertaining to the question Aeman mentioned earlier, I see a lack of diversity and equal coverage in foreign reporting. There is a standard of foreign reporting that I have found creates villains out immigrants. We have very little interest in going straight to the source. This definitely takes away from really great stories and causes our audiences to focus on the wrong ones. 

Sze: I think touching on the point I made earlier, we're going to be seeing a change in this industry, where diversity would be reflected, and I guess this would be an optimistic assumption. Judging based on the diversity that's here at my school right now I feel like diversity will soon be reflected in Canadian journalism. 

Women in the news media still earn less than men for the same work. “Visible” minorities are still considered “quota filling” burdens. Just because we see more diverse cultures being addressed and hired as broadcasters, doesn’t mean it’s fixing the problem of diversity or lack of it in journalism. - Kaitlyn Smith 

J-Source: How do you plan on tackling this issue of diversity in the media when you are actively engaged in the field? If you decide to, what are practical ways in which you would do so? 

Sze: I don’t know about the term “tackling” the issue. But I think with the issue of diversity in media, I will try to be more aware with the stories I work on, the historical and social contexts that are behind the issue. 

Smith: I just wanted to touch on Sze’s last point. Sorry for being so slow, but, Jeff, I may be a little more cynical than you. I don't see the trend of a more diverse community in the future.

Perhaps it's because I'm still listed at the university level of journalism, but from what I can see, unless we actively do something, I feel that we’re starting to fall back into the dark ages.

Women in the news media still earn less than men for the same work. “Visible” minorities are still considered “quota filling” burdens. Just because we see more diverse cultures being addressed and hired as broadcasters, doesn’t mean it’s fixing the problem of diversity or lack of it in journalism.

Hreiche: When I’m actively engaged in the field, I dream of facilitating the process of diversifying the newsroom. While a diverse newsroom will not be created overnight, the change must be active.

So, for starters, I’d like to report on Canada’s lack of diversity in the industry because I feel it doesn’t receive much attention. I’m positive society realizes this already, but with more attention, if there are people who are afraid or nervous to break out of their shell because they so happen to be from a different cultural, ethnic, or religious background, a further spotlight on the issue may help push them forward.


Re-published with permission from J-Source.ca

Published in Education

by Janice Dickson

Carleton University student Anas Marwah was mocking ISIS well before famous comedians took aim at the terrorist army – and now his increasingly popular YouTube videos have landed him in the New York Times.

While Saturday Night Live made headlines recently with a skit satirizing the jihadi army’s female U.S. recruits, Marwah and his two co-founders, Nader Kawash and Maher Barghouthi, launched their YouTube series, “The Weekly Show,” six months ago. Marwah, a Syrian-Canadian, poked fun at ISIS previously on a YouTube product called “Full Stop Show” but that was directed mostly at the Syrian community and delivered largely in Arabic – with the exception of an episode in English poking fun at Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“ISIS sympathizers have threatened me to stop. There are comments on the videos – but I don’t think they’re credible.” - Anas Marwah

But poking fun at ISIS hasn’t come without repercussions, said Marwah, “ISIS sympathizers have threatened me to stop. There are comments on the videos – but I don’t think they’re credible,” he said.

One of Marwah’s favourite episodes, and one that has gained a lot of attention, is called, “Introducing iPhone ISIS 9 Air: The New Terrorist-Friendly Device.” In the video, Malek Barghouthi, one of the series’ volunteer actors, plays the role of “Adam bin Apple, senior iSis developer.”

“Usually we face many difficulties in creating the products that match the needs of everybody in the world. So we created the new terrorist-friendly device that meets their needs,” explains bin Apple.

“Suicidal bombing has never been made any easier. There is something impeccably soothing about knowing that heaven is only a click of a button away.” - Excerpt from video

The phone features a log book – so terrorists can keep track of the number of people they’ve killed, continues the video.

“Suicidal bombing has never been made any easier. There is something impeccably soothing about knowing that heaven is only a click of a button away,” concluded the video.

Marwah’s team produces videos – like the advertisement for the ISIS iPhone – and then Marwah will make fun of the advertisement in another video where he sits at a desk as a host, much like Jon Stewart. Marwah said that someday, he hopes to pitch his YouTube videos to TV networks.


Re-published in partnership with iPolitics.ca

Published in Top Stories
Monday, 26 January 2015 08:55

OPartheeb: In Search of Roots

by Sharif Hasan (@sharifhasan80) in Ottawa

Kicked out of the house where they held jamming sessions because neighbours complained of too much noise. No place to practise. No car to carry the modest number of instruments they had. But none of that could stand in their way.

They are five young musicians, who make up the Ottawa-based Bengali musical band, OPartheeb, and their come-up story is one of passion and perseverance. It drove them to find their roots through music.

Asfin Haidar, one of the band’s vocalists says music has greatly connected them, not only with each other, but also a wider group of Bangladeshi Canadians.

“For me it’s a rediscovery of myself. I don’t want a name, fame or money. It gives me a certain meaning to my life,” she shares.

To date, the band members have not received any payments from any shows, nor have they been able to produce their own album yet, though they are working on one.

“Our spirit was renewed by the Shahbag Movement that took place back home in February last year. ... We are now more committed to doing music that upholds our culture and history.” - Salehin Chowdhury

One of their tracks, “Roktorin”, has been included on a mixed album titled Songs from Shahbag, which features patriotic songs from Bangladeshi artists and bands residing all over the world. The album’s songs are reflective of The Shahbag Movement, a non-partisan movement carried out by pro-liberation online activists, student bodies and members of the Bangladesh civil society who demand capital punishment for the war criminals of the country’s War of Independence in 1971. Keeping with this theme, Opartheeb’s track, the title meaning “blood debt”, urges the Bangladeshis to wake up once again and fight until the war criminals are annihilated.

“Our spirit was renewed by the Shahbag Movement that took place back home in February last year,” says Salehin Chowdhury, the band’s lead guitarist and vocalist. “We were so moved and shaken by the phenomenon. We are now more committed to doing music that upholds our culture and history.”

Connections through music

OPartheeb’s band members all met while studying at Carleton University, though they were each in different programs. Three of them came to Canada as international students, while the other two came here with their parents as young kids and grew up in Ottawa.

“Music brought us together,” says Syed Ahsan Ali, the band’s bass guitarist, whose younger brother Syed Adnan Ali plays the drums. “I didn’t know them quite well. I saw them on campus occasionally, but we never hung out. One day we talked about music and that changed everything.”

During a cultural event organized by the Carleton University Bangladeshi Students Association in 2008, Ahsan Ali  and Aad-Yean Faisal, another fellow Bangladeshi student, met Chowdhury, who came to Carleton to do his Masters in Statistics; he learned music back home. When Chowdhury first arrived in Canada, he was homesick and discouraged, but music helped change that.

Watch OPartheeb perform at a culture show hosted by Carleton University Bangladeshi Students Association:

After realizing their like-minded interests in music, the three students decided to form a group. Soon after Adnan Ali joined them.

“We started, but we had nothing,” explains Adnan Ali. “We saved every penny to buy a guitar, a drum set or a piece of equipment. We had to take bus to practice in the basements of our houses. People complained about the noise and we had to shift our locations. It [was] a lot of struggle.”

In addition to their music, they had to juggle the demands of part-time jobs to support themselves and their schoolwork. But they didn’t give up, thanks to their love for music, their language and culture.

“I did night shifts at a gas station and saved money for buying a keyboard for the band,” says Faisal, who is a keyboardist and vocalist. “And it’s paid off. Members of our community want us to play, they want us to promote our culture within the community and beyond.”

Breaking new ground

Today, OPartheeb plays all kinds of Bengali music ranging from folk songs to Tagores to modern day band music, along with the band’s original compositions.

The group took to the stage for the first time in February 2009. The performance at the Bangladesh Student Association’s annual program was a huge hit.

“I can’t stop imagining it – playing in front of a crowd of 20,000 people in Dhaka or Chittagong.” - Salehin Chowdhury

Since then OPartheeb has done 14 shows, including shows at Carleton and ones organized by various local Bangladeshi social and cultural organizations. The band members agree their appearance at Ottawa’s South Asian Cultural Festival in 2012 has been the biggest break so far.

OPartheeb plans to tour and perform for Bangladeshi communities in major cities across Canada, but it is a shared dream of all the members to be able to perform in Bangladesh one day: “I can’t stop imagining it –,” says Chowdhury, his eyes lighting up as he speaks, “… playing in front of a crowd of 20,000 people in Dhaka or Chittagong.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Arts & Culture
Wednesday, 12 November 2014 10:59

Understanding Social Media and Revolutions

by Suzanne Bowness 

When the series of revolutionary protests and riots – dubbed the “Arab Spring” – broke out in late 2010, news outlets worldwide were quick to highlight the role of social media in bringing these demonstrations to the world’s attention.

Yet Merlyna Lim, Carleton’s new Canada Research Chair in Digital Media and Global Network Society, says that a more accurate understanding of digital media’s role in revolution comes from resisting hasty labels. Her research instead takes a closer look at how the new format interplays with traditional networking, urban spaces, and activism.

You cannot make a movement in two days or even two weeks with Facebook, so it’s misleading to call them ‘social media movements'.

Although Lim has been studying revolutions in academic settings for over 10 years, her interest in revolution is personal. “I have always been interested in technology and activism. I am Indonesian and I was in Indonesia in 1998 as a student at the time of the revolution [against Suharto]. I wasn’t an activist, but like all students, I went to the streets.” That environment had a profound effect on her. An architecture student at the time, she switched to social science, eventually writing her doctoral dissertation on political activism in Indonesia at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.

Another element to have a profound influence was early exposure to the Internet, which allowed Lim to witness the impact of digital media from the beginning. “In 1995-96, not many people had used the Internet, but I had friends who were technical, who were involved in the street but also online,” she recalls. She also realized another affinity that suggested a future as a scholar. “I collect everything. I collected all kinds of conversations, mailing lists,” says Lim. Today her research continues to rely on data gathered from online sources such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blog posts, as well as interviews with activists on the ground.

Lim may be immersed in the digital world, but she frowns on generalizations about its role in revolution. “My research is mostly longitudinal — when I look at revolutionary moments, I look at the trajectory. There’s a reason why some movements transpire and some do not,” she says.

She points to the role of social media in Syria where the use of platforms like Twitter originated mostly from the global community versus in Tunisia where the use of social media originated on the ground with the anti-censorship movement and where long-standing labour also had a profound influence.

You cannot make a movement in two days or even two weeks with Facebook, so it’s misleading to call them ‘social media movements. "Because in reality all movements — especially revolutionary movements, say in Tunisia, Indonesia or Malaysia — these are not movements that happen in weeks or months. It’s a culmination of decades of struggle,” says Lim. She prefers to look at how digital media operates alongside more longstanding networks on the ground. Where social media does have great power is in linking existing groups and movements, and by quickly increasing a revolution’s visibility enough to create a movement without being shut down by the regime.

[A] more accurate understanding of digital media’s role in revolution comes from resisting hasty labels.

Throughout her research career, Lim has looked at digital media in a wide range of contexts, including its influence on democracy, identity and religion, and civic spaces. She’s also studied a variety of locales, including Indonesia, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Malaysia, and even the Occupy movement. So what interests her today? She says Eastern countries are particularly fascinating because of their higher adoption rate of digital media, population growth, emergent middle class and transition towards democracy.

“I look at India, where suddenly Internet and social media matters to the election: for the first time over 100 million people are online, and over 50 percent of those are first time voters,” she says. Indonesia also continues to hold a strong interest due to its election and strong online presence with 77 million users in a country with only 200 million people.


This post was republished with permission fromCarleton University's Research Works.
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