Shereen El Feki gave an interesting TED Talk about how some Arab collaborators are working to take the best of Western pop culture and mix it with the softer side of Islamic values to form a cultural middle ground that young people (often from Arab countries) can relate to.
El Feki shows us how the United States Barbie doll met conservative cultural standards to birth “Fulla”, a pretty, Barbie-esque doll wearing a chador. When a mainstream doll wears a chador, it demonstrates to young Arab girls that it is acceptable and culturally relevant to abide by religious and cultural customs important to their parents. It allows young girls to see images of themselves reflected in the toys they play with. So while they can explore their femininity, the girls can also learn about traditional vaules.
Another example of converting Western pop cultural came with the advent of 4Shabab, a conservative Islamic music channel. 4Shabab tries to share music videos extolling Islamic values and lessons in an updated, modern manner that softens the intolerance and harsh jihad messages of radicals (which the majority of Arab peoples or Islamists do not support.)
Apparently much of the mainstream music videos in some Arab countries (I think El Feki was referring to Egypt) have risqué and explicit images, similar to what you would expect from Robin Thicke or Rhianna in the United States. I felt like 4Shabab could be compared to the conservative, but contemporary Evangelical Free, Christian music industry in the United States – which often sounds exactly like “hard-core” mainstream artists. Check out Thi’sl for an example from the USA.
In a literary twist, an Arab artist has created an Islam-friendly comic book titled “The 99.” It is “meant to teach the 99 attributes of Allah” through comic book characters. El Feki shares how all of these items are trying to win the cultural wars by “meshing the best of two distinct civilizations.” Embedding both sets of ideals to create a new civilization which resonates with a younger demographic and attempts to match their realities of a modern AND traditional world.
What do you think about racy, popular cultural icons being subverted to appeal to conservative values?