“No one should speak for us, but us.” This message came clearly across when Shahed Amanullah came to speak to our class on June 8th, 2012. Both in 2009 and 2010, Mr. Amanullah has been named as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world, according to Georgetown University. His active participation in Muslim and American communities has made him one of the top 10 most visionary young Muslims, according to Islamica Magazine in 2007. Currently, Shahed Amanullah is the Senior Advisor for technology for the US Department of State. He also focuses on digital diplomacy projects in the Office of the Special Representative to Muslim Communities Worldwide. His reports are directly handed over to Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
Shahed Amanullah’s experience in social media and entrepreneurship has given him insight on what society needs and wants. For example, Shahed founded Halalfire- a website that is a great tool to do market research on Muslim communities worldwide. His website that he created in 1998, zabiha.com, makes it easier for Muslims to find local butcher zabiha shops as well as zabiha restaurants. Also, his website altmuslim.com, founded in 2001, is now a growing online newsmagazine that discusses Muslim issues worldwide. Shahed Amanullah has been a very successful entrepreneur as Halalfire serves over 12 million users annually!
He has been involved in trying to mediate negative stereotypes on Muslims through his twitter, www.twitter.com/shahed, writing journal articles for websites such as Washingtonpost and doing interviews on BBC radio, for example. He was active during the Ground zero debate. Also, he wrote an article on “Draw Muhammad Day”. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shahed-amanullah/the-collective-punishment.... In this article in the Huffingtonpost, Shahed Amanullah clearly said that people involved in “Draw Muhammad Day” should be allowed to do so because of “Freedom of Speech”, but it should be done with respect towards minorities. He believes that Americans and media at large should not be targeting Muslims for the death threats that the people involved in the event are getting. Americans and media at large should be targeting “the people responsible for sullying free speech, not those who respected it”.
To end the class, he gave us advice for us young American Muslims that would like to make a difference in the world as positive role models as not just Muslims, but also as Americans and humans in general. He stressed the importance of speaking out through various outlets such as journalistic writing, and growing social media outlet: twitter. He discussed the idea of “brand”. A brand would mean who we want to be, and portray ourselves as that on social media like twitter because it’s the most effective to get recognized, and become an influencer. He warned us to cautious of what we put on the Internet, however, because it will always stay with us-for the good and for the bad. His methods on effectively using communication mediums have given the class motivation to bring positive change to the American Muslim world. I am hopeful when I say that differences can be made; it just depends on how we use the tools given to us.