Author: 
Molouk Y. Ba-Isa, [email protected]
Publication Date: 
Wed, 2011-10-26 15:49

So it’s not surprising that Khurram T. Dara decided to “go social” in sharing his thoughts on an important idea. That idea is called, “The Crescent Directive,” and it’s a strategy to improve the image of Islam in the United States. Dara explained that there are many organizations trying to provide a positive perception of Islam for the American public, but their activities aren’t having much impact. A 2011 Pew Global Attitudes Survey found that only 57 percent of the Americans surveyed had a favorable view of Muslims. This compares with favorable views over 80 percent for Christians and Jews.
“A lot of these organizations want to try to educate people on Islam. While that approach can be useful for some people, I think the majority of Americans who have negative feelings towards Islam aren’t looking to be educated,” Dara said. “The other thing is that the work these groups do is not really a strategy that all Muslims can partake in. For us to educate people and teach people that Islam is not a violent religion, we all have to know enough about the Qur’an and about the teachings of Islam and also must be able to explain that to people. Not everyone can do that. Most of us aren’t religious scholars.”
 What Dara is proposing with the Crescent Directive is for Muslims to develop personal connections and to become invested in American culture. He is encouraging Muslims in the United States to go out and become personally involved in their local communities. Whether it’s serving meals at a homeless shelter or coaching a soccer team, he thinks that Muslims must make more of an effort to interact with others in community organizations.
“Get to know your neighbors so they see what Islam is like by their experiences with you,” he said. “My strategy hinges on the old adage, ‘Actions speak louder than words.’ We can say whatever we want, but at the end of the day, it’s the things that we do and the ways in which we interact with people that will have more weight on how people view us.”
An American Muslim from Buffalo, New York, Dara graduated magna cum laude from Emory University in Atlanta, GA as a political science and finance major. He is now in the  first year of Law School at Columbia University. He spent much of the first half of 2011 writing The Crescent Directive. As an avid participant in social media channels, Dara decided that using Facebook, YouTube, blogs and other social platforms would be the best way to get his message out.
“I spoke with a friend and fellow classmate, Zeshan Muhammedi.  He’s a social media guru, and his social media business, Tensile Consulting, agreed to work with us on publishing The Crescent Directive as an eBook with a planned release for January 2012,” said Dara. “Social media is an interesting thing. The Internet is miles long, but only an inch deep. Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can start their own website or blog, so credibility online becomes an issue.  How do you stand out among the millions upon millions of pages out there? But, if you have a message that clicks with people, it will spread faster through the Internet than any traditional media source.”
To promote his idea, with Muhammedi’s assistance a flash website was created (www.thecrescentdirective.com) as well accounts on Facebook (www.facebook.com/thecrescentdirective), YouTube (www.youtube.com/crescentdirective) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/khurramdara). A few videos were made of Dara explaining what The Crescent Directive is about. Any speaking engagements he had were posted to YouTube. He also got in touch with blogs that were looking for contributions and published eight op-eds in about three months. 
“We did things incrementally to try to reach more people over time, and also to keep our initial followers interested,” Dara remarked. “I think people liked the message and felt a certain degree of intimacy or closeness with the project since I was using social media. I respond to comments directly on my personal Twitter and Facebook accounts and I think people appreciate that there is a direct line to me.”
The buzz is building. Dara has received the support of MuslimMatters.org and found an advisor in Hamid M. Khan from the US Institute of Peace. Masood Ahmed and Christian Climer of FutureHead Productions created a Vimeo video short of a recent speech (http://vimeo.com/29993271).
“In addition to getting a very positive response from the younger crowd, which was expected, I was surprised to find that a lot of older people who I wouldn’t think  would be using social media were getting their hands on some of the blog posts and the articles that I’ve been writing and responding very positively to them,” commented Dara. “I definitely got my fair share of criticism, too. The nice thing about social media is that it’s interactive. People can email me directly or they can send a Tweet on my Twitter account or post a message to Facebook and I can respond back to them. That has helped me to modify and adjust things so that in the end, my project and the message I’m putting out is actually better.”

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