Tuesday, October 04, 2005

british muslim magazine 'emel' goes mainstream

The launch of a glossy new lifestyle magazine is a not uncommon event in Britain, where newsagents’ shelves are crammed with a vast array of publications. But what makes the launch of Emel exceptional is that it is a Muslim magazine hoping to expand its readership to include non-Muslims.

Emel arrived in mainstream outlets such as W H Smith, Tesco, Asda and Waterstones last Thursday. Its name is derived from the initials “M” and “L”, standing for Muslim Life, and it is also close to the Arabic for “hope".

The magazine’s editor Sarah Joseph is a British convert to Islam. With her intelligence, calmness and good humour, she is one of the most effective Muslim commentators to appear regularly on British television.

Emel was founded two years ago as a quarterly available only at specialist Muslim bookshops. It has now gone monthly and entered the British mainstream market in response to a growing interest among some sectors of the British public in learning more about Islam and Muslims.

The cover picture is of singer Sami Yusuf who, according to Emel’s profile of him, has “revolutionized the English nasheed landscape, especially with his quality music videos”, and is “truly blazing a trial in the international Muslim music scene”. His latest album “My Ummah” has just been released.

Emel covers many aspects of the lives of Muslims in Britain, with a mixture of comment, features, real life stories, finance, health, food, interiors, garden, fashion, travel and art. Several articles mark the holy month of Ramadan, including a thoughtful piece by scholar Tariq Ramadan. There are articles on seclusion and additional prayers during Ramadan, on “moonsighting” and on Ramadan fitness. There is also an interview with three Pakistani cricketers on their experiences of Ramadan.

On the political front, the magazine examines the reaction to the London attacks of 7/7 and has an article on “how to stop the preachers of hate.” The arts section takes an in-depth look at the work of the famous London-based Egyptian artist Ahmed Moustafa, who is inspired by Islamic calligraphy and geometry.

Sarah Joseph and her team have succeeded in producing a magazine that is fresh, lively and thought-provoking, with high standards of writing and design. It lives up its aim, which Joseph describes as being “a positive voice that celebrates the value of being a Muslim in today’s Britain.” She identifies a nascent British Muslim culture that is emerging, “far away from the anger violence and rhetoric of the theologically unsound; far away from the sensationalised media clichĂ©s of extremism and alienation.”

Susannah Tarbush
Saudi Gazette October 4