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Nabil Echchaibi explores Muslim (In)Visibility in CSU Year of Democracy

Dr.+Nabil+Echchaibi+spoke+at+Colorado+State+University%2C+his+talk+titled+%E2%80%9CAuditions+in+Muslim+%28In%29Visibility%E2%80%9D+Jan+31.
Collegian | Julia Percy
University of Colorado Boulder Associate Professor Nabil Echchaibi spoke at Colorado State University in a talk titled Auditions in Muslim (In)Visibility Jan. 31. The focus of the talk was Echchaibi’s book, “Unmosquing Islam: Media and Muslim Fugitivity.”

As part of CSU’s Year of Democracy, Nabil Echchaibi, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and director of the Center of Media, Religion and Culture, visited CSU for a discussion titled Auditions in Muslim (In)Visibility Jan. 31.

“In my view, much of the core of democracy — as a notion and as a practice — is to bring various voices and visibilities to the public sphere,” said Carolin Aronis, co-chair of the research committee responsible for planning the event. “It is also about reclaiming and re-insisting a place for voices who are usually left behind or are locked in a certain misperception. In that regard, Echchaibi’s talk offered the CSU’s year theme a perfect topic.”

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Echchaibi’s talk focused on the themes of his current book project, “Unmosquing Islam: Media and Muslim Fugitivity,” aiming to tackle stereotypes surrounding Muslims and Arabs in the media and how they are perceived by the Western world, particularly in the post-9/11 era.

“This book is about Muslims who leap out of this imagery by refusing forms of subjection imposed on them by the repressive vocabularies and logics of Western modernity,” Echchaibi said. 

Echchaibi’s book gives insight on what it’s like to be a Muslim or Arab in the West based on his personal experiences and observations and how those experiences motivate his writing. 

“Muslims and Arabs are creative. They are resourceful. They create things that are interesting not just to themselves but also to others to learn about, and I want people to just open up a little bit and stop thinking about Muslims only in relation to a kind of looming question about security about terrorism. I think that that’s the only way for people to feel like these folks are here as Americans.” -Nabil Echchaibi, University of Colorado Boulder associate professor

“I am more than the words others have projected onto me,” Echchaibi said. “Writing about and for Muslim fugitivity is a culmination of a state of mind that is steeped in the afterlives of 9/11, a set of conditions regimented by suspicion, surveillance and transparency.”

In addition to his experiences, Echchaibi discussed his concerns with the stereotypes perpetuated after events such as 9/11, former President Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban and, more recently, the Israel-Hamas war.  

“The war in Gaza has really reawakened a lot of these terrible stereotypes about Muslims and Arabs in general and has, in a way, reopened that can of worms about terrorism,” Echchaibi said. “I believe we are unfortunately in a similar place as the one we were in right after 9/11.”

However, Echchaibi’s point was not to dwell on the negative impacts these events have on Muslims but to highlight those who continue their art despite stereotypes.  

“I’m not interested only in Muslims and Arabs who respond to some sort of imminent danger or imminent victimization in their representation,” Echchaibi said. “I’m interested in Muslims who go about living their lives, go about producing things, creating things.”

This fits into Echchaibi’s idea of “muslimness” outside of the identification of faith and culture but as part of a diverse group of people who share the same dehumanizing experiences as well as a desire to see beyond that and create.  

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“To speak of the vastness of muslimness with a lowercase M is to declutter the noise that surrounds Islam and Muslims, to refuse the poor sights and sounds that govern the publicity of this faith and its followers and to haunt the mad archives and labels Muslims experience as objects of an interminable pathology,” Echchaibi said.  

Echchaibi said his goal is to write in a way that helps his audience understand that there is more to Muslims and Arabs than what they see in the West and welcome the idea of Muslims as creative people who bring value to the media industry.  

“Muslims and Arabs are creative,” Echchaibi said. “They are resourceful. They create things that are interesting not just to themselves but also to others to learn about, and I want people to just open up a little bit and stop thinking about Muslims only in relation to a kind of looming question about security about terrorism. I think that that’s the only way for people to feel like these folks are here as Americans.” 

During the discussion, Echchaibi created a space for people to understand different perspectives and see Muslims as more than what they typically see in the West.  

“I felt that it was really important to not only hear from someone who’s a Muslim-identifying individual but also just be able to listen to these different perspectives,” CSU student Ella Smith said. “In this world, I feel like it’s so polarized and so us versus them.”  

Students appreciated Echchaibi’s point of view; moreover, they appreciated CSU’s commitment to creating spaces for people to have discussions like this one.

“I thought it was an amazing talk, and I’m really grateful that we get to go to a university that allows speakers like this to come and talk about their experiences,” Smith said.

Reach Laila Shekarchian at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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