I had no intention this weekend of binge-watching Muslim couples talk about drugs, premarital sex, and porn addition. How I ended up here is entirely due to the 103-degree fever that left me plastered to my bed during those 48-hours.
As I helplessly sat in bed flu-fighting, I oscillated between staring at my ceiling and surfing YouTube. Thanks to online surveillance, which seems to have picked up on keywords and phrases in my emails, my YouTube account intelligently previews thumbnails of Arab vines and hijabi makeup artists in the sidebar, such as:
You Know You’re Arab When…
What I Eat in a Day
Husband Does My Makeup Tag
These are just some of the recurring video titles running down my screen. I’m bored.
I scroll further down the list of thumbnails and my eyelids begin to fail me. Before I can completely lose interest and fall asleep, one catches my attention:
Husband Watches Porn
Pictured in the thumbnail is a young couple; an olive-toned woman in a navy blue hijab and plaid shirt and a scruffy bearded man wearing a black Jordan’s cap and thin silver chain. They’re smiling, and somewhat slyly, I might add. That a Muslim couple would boldly use such a title—even as click-bait—surprises me. The title choice is either consciously daring or unwittingly foolish.
As soon as I click on the video, and without any introduction, the couple begins talking about cheese. Yes, cheese. The young, fresh-faced hijabi begins relishing the idea of eating cheese as she adjusts her hijab.
“Ahh, it’s been ages since we’ve had cheese,” she looks at her husband, whose eyes are bizarrely fixated on the camera before them. She then flirtatiously nudges him to order Domino’s pizza.
“No, man,” he quickly rejects her.
She playfully insists, “It’s Saturday night… Dominos…” The expression on his face immediately changes, and without looking at her, he smirks and caves: “Dominos.”
This is how I’m introduced to the world of “Ask Sid+Dina,” a YouTube channel owned by a pair of British Muslims, or “Britlims,” in their twenties. The couple of combined Pakistani, Egyptian and English background facetiously tackles taboos that Muslim millennials are all but dying to discuss.
Followers of the channel email Sid (short for “Siddiq”) and Dina for advice on issues to do with sex and marriage, drugs and religion, and everything in between. During this particular episode, a newlywed Muslim woman wanted advice from them on how to deal with her husband’s habit of porn-watching.
Neither Sid nor Dina possess the training and credentials to offer advice on the matter. Yet, the video currently has more than 300K views and more than 9,000 likes. And, there are plenty of other videos like this one boasting even more views and likes.
But, why are so many young Muslims sharing their private information with this couple of Britlims? To understand the answer to this question, we first need to understand what unites today’s Western-bred Muslims.
The turgid and unyielding anti-Islamic narratives of our time have thrust Muslims into the limelight and forced those in the West to re-evaluate their identities, while they navigate the double standards of Western Islamophobia. What does it mean to be a Western-bred Muslim? That is the common question young Muslims across America, Canada, and the U.K. are confronting.
The turgid and unyielding anti-Islamic narratives of our time have thrust Muslims into the limelight and forced those in the West to re-evaluate their identities, whilst they navigate the double standards of Western Islamophobia.
This question is complicated on both ends: “haram police” and Islamophobes alike want to define, categorize, and essentialize Muslims. Generational divides and immigrant experiences make it difficult for young, Western-bred Muslims to connect with older Muslims who have not grown up in the West.
This doesn’t mean there is a lack of deference for immigrant Muslims over the age of 40 — it means the gap between the experiences, cultures, and attitudes of these two groups is large enough to warrant a call-to-action. That call-to-action happens to come in the form of YouTubers like Sid and Dina, among many others.
A British Muslim couple in their twenties will have a much easier time connecting with Muslim millennials in Houston, Toronto, and London than a 50-year old mawlana from Pakistan or a 28-year-old sheikh from Egypt will. This isn’t a value statement.
It’s a consequence of identity and experience, of time and place. Every generation has its set of role models. This generation of Western-bred Muslims craves faces and voices that resonate with their hyphenated identities.
A British Muslim couple in their twenties will have a much easier time connecting with Muslim millennials in Houston, Toronto, and London than a 50-year old mawlana from Pakistan or a 28-year old sheikh from Egypt will.
It would appear that Sid and Dina are visibly Muslim without the burdensome labels and stigmas wrought on by Western depictions of Muslims. Sid’s beard comes with a collection of sneakers, caps and t-shirts. He loves basketball and is very talkative. His easy-going, silly personality is a refreshing break from the stale Western caricature of radical Muslim males.
Beside him is an equally silly Dina, whose spunky attitude and modesty are the kind of unique pairing many young Muslim women see — or want to see — in themselves. A fashion blogger, her hijabs come with an eclectic wardrobe.
The couple is confident, outspoken, and entertaining. When combined, they represent an image of Western-bred Muslims that demands self-sovereignty from the antagonizing expectations of critical Muslims and the orientalist caricatures of Islamophobes. Alone and when together, Sid and Dina demonstrate zero tolerance for intimidation.
From what they portray on YouTube and other social media, the couple’s lifestyle rests in a zone that feels comfortable for many young Muslims. It’s a space where young Muslims can practice Islam without apology and also naturally behave like the Western-bred millennials they are. The couple speaks English exclusively and their vocabulary is infused with British idioms and slang. They fast during Ramadan and make no apologies for being fallible Muslims. And, there are other Muslim couples just like Sid and Dina on social media with a large following.
When combined, they represent an image of Western-bred Muslims that demands self-sovereignty from the antagonizing expectations of critical Muslims and the orientalist caricatures of Islamophobes.
But, it’s more than just age and upbringing that make Sid and Dina familiar to many young Western-bred Muslims. The couple seems to portray the kind of marital relationship that Muslim millennials crave.
Dina’s wacky personality and fashion style registers as very Western. The “dainty princess” archetype of Middle Eastern debutantes is nowhere to be found in this British-Egyptian Muslimah. She’s the highly sought-after chameleon wife of every Western Muslim man. Armed with the best of both worlds, Dina is beautiful and bombastic. She can be ladylike and loud. She’s easy-going and takes her identity as a Muslim seriously.
Sid supports his wife’s work as a YouTuber and fashion blogger, often serving as her cameraman and photographer. He’s patient and doesn’t take her occasional obnoxiousness to heart.
The balance and harmony that exists between them models for young Muslims what a successful Muslim marriage in today’s society can look like. Best of all, the couple is able to broach social taboos in a way that their elders have not been able.
These taboos are inextricably connected to answering the question of our hour: What does it mean to be a Western-bred Muslim? What Muslims like Sid and Dina have to say in response to social taboos informs how young Muslims go on to define their identities.
So, when it comes to seeking advice about their personal lives, young Muslims are less interested in what so-called experts have to say and are eager to hear the opinions of those who represent a more holistic image of Western-bred Muslims.
By the end of the video, I glanced down to see what Sid and Dina had written in the description box. I wasn’t surprised to find that it took them only five words to nail their message: “STAY AWAY FROM PORN, YOUNGINS.” Just then, the haram police came marching while Islamophobes cried #creepingsharia.
Written By Nour M. Goda, M.Ed.