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Exclusive Interview: What is Clubhouse and Who is the Founder of the Muslims & Friends Club?

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Here’s what you need to know about the new social media app Clubhouse – and what kind of opportunities this has opened up for Muslims across the world.

The new app Clubhouse has taken over social media – and with its exclusive invite-only conference calls and Livestream talks, Clubhouse is a mix between interactive podcasts and personalized TED Talks. With each conversation room on Clubhouse like a conference call, users can tune into the different rooms based on topic, guest speakers, or interest – and can speak or listen during the conversation accordingly.

Interestingly, after one user decided to create a clubroom specific catered towards Muslims – called Muslim & Friends – Clubhouse has seen a booming participation of Muslim users. TMV sits down with the creator of Muslim & Friends, Alex Fox, to discuss everything Clubhouse and where Muslims can see themselves in a space like this.

Find our conversation below with Alex Fox:

For those of us who don’t know, what exactly is Clubhouse and what’s the big deal?

Alex Fox: Ha, so – Clubhouse is an audio-based social app where users can have public (or private!) live conversations on any topic, with other users around the world. You’ll find a lot of folks and articles weighing in on the “why” people love/ hate it, but my thoughts:

I think Clubhouse offers different people value in different ways – some love the opportunity to interact with celebrities/ investors/ politicians they might otherwise never have access to. Some use the app as a networking tool, or to promote their brand or business. Some people just love to debate on issues they care about!

I love Clubhouse for the ability to connect with others and share knowledge and community. I’m also excited about the potential to have complex discussions to find solutions for critical social issues.

How did you start Muslims & Friends and why? What was your personal motivation for starting this?

When I joined Clubhouse, there weren’t many spaces centered around or celebrating Islam or Muslims. I started the Muslimahs Club as a way to connect Muslim sisters. Through it I’ve met so many amazing sisters who’ve built and shaped the club – Sarah Ismail, Tomi Talabi, Hafsa Abdullahi, Adesola, Dr. Nahla, Mubarakah Ibrahim, and so many others – Every day I see Muslimah’s rooms open for Quran Recitation, or to discuss anything from getting back into your prayer routine after menses, to the Sunnah of Health – and I’m so grateful!

With Muslims & Friends, I always wanted to amplify Muslim voices. The first few rooms had nothing to do with Islam – we opened spaces for Muslims & non-Muslims to discuss issues like economic and political inequity. I hoped that by celebrating Muslim voices and leadership, we could help educate others about Islam and combat stereotypes against Muslims.

The club has evolved a lot as the community has grown, in the best ways. As more Muslims join the app, we’ve prioritized spaces that serve our community. That’s looked like: hosting Industry link-ups to connect folks and share learnings, weekly jummah lectures and Sunday tafseers, hosting Muslim Founder office hours to support entrepreneurs – and celebrating and uplifting our ummah as best we can.

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What have been some of the reactions from fellow Muslims about this club?

Mashallah, there have been a lot of folks who shared stories of how they connected with others or benefited from resources from the club. There are so many amazing Muslims in different fields who are able to meet and share learnings, that we opened up an online directory to better facilitate and share support.

Folks often reach out after our Jummah lectures and Sunday Surahs. Many of us haven’t been able to visit our local masajid all year, but we can come together through Clubhouse to listen and share knowledge. It’s not a replacement for a Friday Khutbah, but it lets us meet people where they are, and include folks who might not otherwise have the opportunity to engage with the Quran and the community.

There’s also been negative feedback though! A couple of months ago we had a man on stage who I then learned is a known abuser. Now I make sure to appropriately research anyone we give a platform – I never want to make that mistake again.

And even today, some were put off by remarks from our Jummah speaker on the history of Black Muslims in America, without representation of Black Muslims on stage to validate or counter them. These are things I want to continue to be better about. The growth of the group is a reflection of the kindness, richness, and creativity of our communities.

Is there a space for Muslims on an app like Clubhouse?

Yes! Absolutely. Whether it’s Muslims & Friends or any of the other amazing circles on Clubhouse – the Village Auntie Club, Fa’na, Being Black and Muslim with Noura A.Sheikh and Khadijah Kuku, Black Muslims Connect Ayaan – among so many others! There are so many amazing spaces and rooms for conversations around our faith and ourselves.

Muslims are also leading in every aspect of so many varied interests and industries – Wahid Islam or Atif Kazmi on fashion trends and marketing, Fareedah Shaheed discussing internet privacy or Amina Aweis creating more accessible rooms, Dr. Maytha Alhassen advocating for abolition or Rami Nashashibi building global coalitions – Muslims are integral to the culture and vibrancy of Clubhouse, just as we are anywhere else.

Finally, what do you personally hope to be the outcome of Muslims & Friends – any future plans for the club or yourself?

Inshallah the group continues to be a source of safety, positivity, and support for Muslims. I like that the club has evolved and continues to evolve to serve our community. Kayem (@thisiskayem) is a big part of this journey and is a wonderful partner in growing this space Mashallah. I’m really grateful to be able to work with him and everyone else to center and celebrate Muslim voices on Clubhouse.

I’m not sure where or how I’ll fit in! The reason we’re having this conversation at all is because I happened to join the app earlier than some and didn’t see any Muslim-centered spaces, so I created one. Now I’m just here to amplify and support Muslims, whatever that looks like. And then I’ll go back to just being the girl that pops up in Philosophy Club every week to talk about God, and argues with techies about capitalism.

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