Muslim Belal: Social Media ‘Dawah’ Scene
Muslim Belal, a public figure in the Muslim community for over 15 years shares his views and solutions on the social media dawah scene.
Ashely Chin, famously known as Muslim Belal is a British actor screenwriter, spoken word artist and former rapper of Jamaican descent. His conversion to Islam in June 2002 inspired many, and became a world renowned Muslim public figure. Although his popularity amongst the Muslim community is immense, he explains how it was a natural consequence.
“I was already quite popular for other reasons, I started my career in the film industry in 1998, I was in the public eye” says Belal. It wasn’t until his conversion that he became known amongst the Muslim community.
“It was at my local Mosque on Eid day, when the imam came up to me and said- a lot of youth know who you are, they look up to you, why don’t you share your story in the form of poetry?” Belal was well known in the area at that time for being heavily involved in a local street gang and also for his rapping, the imam had noticed a ray of light in his journey which he believed would inspire many, and it certainly did.
“I didn’t actually want to be in the public eye as a Muslim, coming from the publicity in my previous life, now that I was a Muslim I wanted to do the opposite and just live in peace and tranquillity away from the spotlight” explains Belal. After a lot of convincing he agreed to share his story on Eid day, the atmosphere was moving, “I actually thought people would be like ‘what’s this guy doing’ but they loved it, people were in tears” he described.
It was from that day onward, that request upon request poured in for Muslim Belal to share his story whether it was at universities or at events, people wanted to hear about his journey.”It was a domino effect and before I knew it I was speaking at probably every university in the UK, and at events in countries all over the world, one thing lead to another but it was never a personal decision” says Belal
Muslim Belal became a Muslim public figure because of his story, but we now live in the digital age, where social media allows anyone to become a ‘public figure’ and share their views and experiences worldwide. Although there are benefits that come with this, damage is always lurking around the corner.
“For the social media dawah scene, I have mixed emotions” explains Belal “It is good for when you might miss an event or lecture and it’d be up on YouTube for you to watch, however the danger comes knowing that anyone and everyone has access to these platforms.”
Belal uses the example of a little boy sitting at home wanting to be a ‘YouTube sensation’- “All he needs is phone or computer, but the worrying part is these people are the new leaders of our generation and they are spreading knowledge which might not be reliable.”
He recalls how it was ten years ago when things were different and lot more simple.” The difference was that everyone in the public eye were people who were qualified, knowledgeable or experienced” he gives the example of Nepolean who was also a convert coming from a celebrity background whose story inspired people.
“I think this new crave for showing off your everyday lives and entertaining people can become a big distraction and you might start getting likes for the wrong reasons, maybe for your beauty your clothing or lifestyle, and instead of people being inspired by you in the right way, they might feel insecure and become envious”. He explains.
So what is the solution to the problem the youth face in the digital age?
“Everyone can do their bit” he says, “what I’m doing at the moment is trying to create something a bit old fashioned, I’d like to create a centre where the youth can come to for help and advice”
The youth centre will be set up by his organisation SPOT- Supporting People of Tomorrow, which has already built an academy and mosque in Gambia and currently working on building an orphanage and a university there too.
“What we’re trying to do here in the UK is create a small SPOT centre where young people can come and get advice and offer workshops on principles, character development, confidence building, careers advice and any type of religious issues you have, you will be able to go to the people of knowledge.”
Muslim Belal is also due to release 20 short films with powerful message along with his very own book this year through which he aims to motivate and inspire the younger generation.
He ends on a very important note:
“The youth need to remember that public figures are just humans, they only show you what they want you to see. You can take inspiration from their words, but never make them your role models, they are only humans.”
*Dawah: In Islamic theology, the purpose of da’wah is to invite people, both Muslims and non-Muslims, to understand the worship of Allah as expressed in the Qur’an and the sunnah of the prophet Muhammad and to inform them about Muhammad.