With the Name of Allah, the extremely Merciful at this very moment, and the extremely Merciful at all times.
“The next 27 minutes are an experiment.”
Thankfully, Kony 2012 is not this social experiment.
WARNING: This is not an article dissecting inconsistencies from the movie or an article of support for the campaign. I’m hardly an expert and prefer not to talk about things I have no idea about, so I’ll leave that up to the experts…
Anyways, I watched Kony 2012 when it was around 15,000,000 views. When I checked back 4 hours later, the video had 21,000,000 views (EDIT: Now 68,000,000). That means the video is catching up to to “International Love” by Pitbull ft. Chris Brown (73,000,000 views)… but still has a long way to go to catch Justin Biebier’s– “Baby” (715,000,000 views).
I understand that this is a very small sample to make judgments, but it is a telltale sign of who actually has our ears. The narrator himself speaks about the importance of involving popular celebrities in this campaign. After all, they do influence many people in making “informed” opinions.
And not surprisingly, that’s exactly what this “social experiment” is proving.
Many of us make emotional -sometimes blind- judgments based on flashy cinematography, big names, and the number of people supporting causes. Why is it that a celebrity- who knows as little as I do about the situation- is treated like an expert? If someone’s specialty is music, why do I have to agree with what they say politically? Does being a celebrity somehow lend credence to the worldview they support?
It seems to me that many people in our society base their entire world-view on what Rihanna or Jay Z have to say. That reminds me of a Dave Chappelle clip where he was poking fun at MTV having Ja Rule weigh in on the 9/11 attacks, as if he was waiting for Ja Rule the whole time to make a statement. The point is that if a celebrity knows just as much as I do, why does my opinion hinge on theirs?
That might be a harsh and sweeping generalization. But I think the fact that Bieber Fever has 715 million views supports my theory. But I’m not annoyed at people believing a celebrity or jumping on popular trends, I’m more annoyed at how we have trouble believing expert opinion on many matters.
For example, a physician dedicates his life to study the treatment and management of sick people. Yet, patient’s trust in their physicians has been dwindling for years, probably due to the rising cost of healthcare and the perceived notion that physicians are money hungry and don’t provide services to warrant their bills. This is evidenced by the fact that many physicians plan of care is openly questioned by lawyers, insurance companies, and even patients – who with all due respect know very little about their illness and management- at least in comparison to the physician. We question the need for certain tests or get angry when the physician doesn’t prescribe antibiotics for the common cold, but we rarely take the time to acknowledge that maybe he knows something we don’t.
A more worrisome phenomenon exists in our Muslim community with disrespect of our scholars and their judgments. When we hear a Sheikh say something different from what we are accustomed for a certain ruling, we go fatwa shopping and become Facebook Shuyookh who pass judgment on people who have dedicated their entire lives to the pursuit of the understanding of our religion. Many of us don’t trust our local Imam so we try and find one elsewhere that will give us the answer we want to hear. Other’s directly insult and try to discredit the daleel (evidence) a scholar gives for rulings. It’s truly sad when a student of knowledge who studied under Sheikh Google criticizes a student of knowledge who studied under imminent scholars at various institutions, who often have a chain of teachers going back to the Prophet (saw). It’s even sadder when a non-practicing Muslim openly declares that a Sheikh is wrong because he doesn’t agree with him.
But the same scrutiny that we give experts in their respected fields is nowhere to be seen when flashy cinematography, emotional pictures, and big name celebrities support trendy causes. We find no shame in questioning, researching, and trying to prove why experts are wrong with respect to their area of expertise. We find no shame in trying to prove to the doctor that he is wrong in his assessment. We find no shame in challenging a Sheikh’s ruling with evidence we read out of a few pages of a translated book. Rather, we are ashamed when we don’t question our experts. Sometimes, we even go as far as to criticize experts when they question the validity of popular opinions or videos.
When mass media and the general population support a cause, the fervor with which people follow it is met with no such skepticism or investigation. Rather, the dangerous politics we live in today dictates that if a person speaks against a popular cause they are automatically labeled with a negative image. A person who expresses discontent with the Kony 2012 video could potentially be labeled as a person who doesn’t care for the welfare of innocent children, when in reality that isn’t true. Similarly, a person who expresses discontent with U.S. foreign policy with regards to Israel is often labeled as a sympathizer with terrorist regimes, when in fact he is a law abiding citizen who wishes for the betterment of society.
We love to argue with specialists in their field, even though we know nothing about the field, and we blindly follow popular opinion without a second thought of its validity. This is in complete contrast to our examples of the past, who deferred questions to experts even if they knew the answer:
Shuraih b. Hani said: “I came to ‘A’isha to ask her about wiping over the socks.” She said: “You better ask (‘Ali) son of Abu Talib, for he used to travel with Allah’s Messenger (saw).” (emphasis added) We asked him and he said: “The Messenger of Allah (saw) stipulated (the upper limit) of three days and three nights for a traveler and one day and one night for the resident.”(Sahih Muslim Book 2, Number 0537)
Instead of knee jerk decision making, we should be actively and respectfully questioning popular or even expert opinion. It’s not enough that something is popular that our responsibility to investigate is dissolved. Similarly, we should respect and defer to expert opinion, but not blindly follow it. We must always remember that before forming an opinion or making a decision about anything, we should research the topic and ask the experts so that we can have intelligent opinions and make informed decisions.
Or we can always wait until Ja Rule weighs in on the matter.