I’ve been putting tons of work into this blog lately. Can you tell? Aside from the addition of Disqus for comments, probably not. I Can Haz Khilafah is changing behind the scenes.
Even though my first post here was way back in November of 2014, I never really did much to make this blog work. It was just a place for the occasional musing. Even so, it did gain some traction in 2015 when I was on Twitter.
Twitter for me is addictive and a waste of time, so I (mostly) quit. My account is still there but I rarely tweet. For me, all the action has been on the channels.
By “the channels,” I mean the blogs that are native to the Disqus comments platform. People used to be able to start blogs (“channels”) willy-nilly on Disqus. That feature was turned off some months ago, but lots of channels still exist.
I adopted an existing channel someone had abandoned called The Golden Rule. Soon after I took over that channel, Fex, the owner of The Far-Reaching Argument, transferred his channel to me. We refer to them as “TGR” and “the FRA” on the actual channels.
Why the channels? At the time of this writing, TGR has over 5,700 followers and the FRA has over 9,900. This blog as a little over 60 followers by comparison. If you post something on the channels, lots of people see it. We also have lively discussions with comments sometimes running into the hundreds.
The FRA is an expressly Islamic channel. TGR is for everything else. The channels also offer the variety that necessarily comes from various people contributing discussions. Whereas here, so far it’s just me.
I’m not planning to leave the channels. Rather I have the ambitious plan of keeping them and stepping things up here as well.
I Can Haz Khilafah: Let’s Blog for Real
So why invest so much energy in an obscure blog? There are a lot of features the channels don’t have. For example, it’s hard to find older posts and there is no sophisticated tagging system. We’re at the mercy of the Disqus platform as well. They’ve been a little fickle at times in the past. What if they just decide to dump the channels one day? Our work would be lost.
Disqus also has a lot of loons running loose, including a fair number of stalkers. We control them on our channels by banning them. But they’re always there lurking and gossiping, ready to pounce if we venture out into the wild. Even though a few of those loons have trolled this blog, pest control here is relatively easy.
A blog is a better, more accessible repository of our work. But it takes time and money to make it work. Someone blogging on wordpress.com with free hosting can’t use plugins.
Plugins are everything! They are what allowed me to add Disqus comments recently. And also to optimize all of my posts so search engines are more likely to find them. Search engines are still the main funnel for visitors. That was true even when I was on Twitter, getting quite a bit of traffic from there.
The point for me isn’t pure numbers. I want to attract the right visitors who will really like my content. A small but loyal following will do just fine. At this point, I haven’t built a community here, so I don’t even know my audience.
A Cobbler’s Child
Have you ever heard the proverb, “The cobbler’s children have no shoes”? I’d say it applies here!
I freelance in Digital Marketing, which means I spend my days making other people’s websites rank well and draw visitors. I even like the field well enough to talk about it day and night.
Yet I haven’t even applied it to my own blog. Not until quite recently anyway. That means I’ve wasted over three years when I could have been promoting my blog. I also have a bit of a mess to clean up, just to get everything to level ground.
So far I have over 30 hours invested behind the scenes in just those mundane tasks. I also managed to knock the entire site offline briefly, such are my development skills. 🙂 But already I’m seeing a spike in traffic, so we’ll see, insha’Allah.
A Song for the Hummingbird
While great optimization is important, it’s just a baseline. By itself, it doesn’t get you anywhere. Let’s face it. There’s already an ocean of content out there. Competition for visitors is fierce.
Have you ever read a fantastic article on what seems like a major site and noticed there are few comments? Maybe none! Even though the writer might be a superstar and his or her article is a masterpiece.
There are a lot of possible reasons for that sort of underwhelming response. But I think the most important among them is the writer (or site) is not targeting the right audience.
How do you do that? You sing a song, and in particular, you sing to the Hummingbird, which is Google’s sophisticated algorithm. It used to be that search engines looked for keywords (individual “notes”). Clever web optimizers could use tactics like “keyword stuffing” to boost their search engine ranks.
We’ve come a long way since then. Using old tactics like that can actually get you penalized. You have to carefully compose your music and lyrics. Then sing a lovely song if you want to rank well these days. You need to tell a story and make sure Hummingbird gets it and decides to share your story and song.
It feels kind of strange writing “our story,” because I’m the only person here. 😉 But it also doesn’t seem quite right to say “my story.” This blog isn’t just about me and my life. And anyway, if some others come along who are a good fit, there may someday be more of “us” here, insha’Allah.
For a long time, there really was no story here at all. Just random stuff, with “Islam” as a default category. An article about bugs or bungalows might have been categorized under “Islam,” which made no sense. Not to anyone, including the Hummingbird.
So along with all this furious revision and set up behind the scenes, I’ve been thinking about our story. What is this blog and why is it here? How fast can you tell if this is a niche that interests you?
Content here breaks down into two main categories. The first is the “Clash of Civilizations” and the second is “Life and Everything (else).” There is nothing posted here that doesn’t fit under one of these two categories, so I’ll talk a little bit about both.
Main Category 1: Clash of Civilizations
The one goal I did have in mind from Day 1 is shedding some light on the Clash of Civilizations between the West and Islam. Even though that framework is reductionist, I find it helpful. I believe this clash really does exist, and we see signs of it all around.
I think it’s fair to say that in some cases, the clash really pertains to the Western imperial powers and not “the West” more generally. America is playing a vastly different role in this clash as compared to Ireland or Luxembourg, for example, even though all three of these countries are part of “the West.”
But on some levels, it really is about the broader West, which has a shared history, culture, and set of values. The West imposes its culture on everyone around the world through various conduits, ranging from mass media to violent military invasions.
Islam is on the other side of the clash because it represents a different shared history, culture, and set of values. Sure, there’s some overlap, but there are distinct differences as well, some of which can’t be papered over. Muslims who want to re-establish the Khilafah and create a social order rooted in Islam face opposition from the West, which leads to endless conflict.
Not Everyone’s A Social Engineer
Note that Muslims can be on either side of this clash, or not really invested in it at all. Some practice Islam only in their private sphere and support secular Western values in terms of social engineering. Others practice Islam and want to live in accordance with an Islamic social order.
Obviously, there’s a lot to talk about in this space. One of my goals is to offer simple explanations (I’m not a scholar!) of Islamic concepts from the Sunni traditionalist perspective.
Right now there are a lot of hate sites out there that exaggerate the differences between the West and Islam in order to spread fear and hatred. On the other side, you have some people who are denying there is a difference while telling the first group to put a sock in it. How can we make this a more fruitful conversation?
I don’t believe in appeasement. Zero Appeasement has been my policy for years now, in part thanks to the obnoxious, counterproductive tactics of the loons over at Harry’s Place. I want to tell it like it is. That means confronting Islam-hating loons and setting the record straight. It also means refusing to compromise when it comes to what Islamic doctrine really prescribes. Even if that prescription is at odds with Western ideals.
I wish we were living in a time when “Islam” didn’t need to be a subcategory of “Clash of Civilizations.” But for the foreseeable future, it makes sense logically. We’re trying to sort everything out in favor of a clear understanding of Islam, and the West is trying to stop us. It’s that simple. There is no reason to pretend we can frame it any other way.
As a side note, I purchased the wikiislam.org domain, which currently redirects to the homepage here. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it if anything. So for now, I’ll just throw that out and leave it here.
Main Category 2: Life and Everything (else)
The other major category, Life and Everything (else), is very broad. We can define it loosely as whatever doesn’t fit in the first category. At this time I have about a dozen subcategories. For now, I just want to hit a few of the major ones.
McCulture refers specifically to American culture, which has become so prevalent as to be almost indistinguishable from how life simply is. Everywhere. Globalism threatens to blanket all of humanity in a bland monoculture of substance abuse, sexual anarchy, moral bankruptcy and social decay. That transformation is possible largely due to the reach of the global media.
The meltdown refers to what I view as a steep, inexorable decline for America and the West more generally. The loss of traditional moral values rooted in Christianity interests me. So does the combination of postmodern and far right assaults on Enlightenment values. Yet another strand we can discuss is the rise of consumerism and a greed-based society, with all the various consequences such a shift entails.
I’m considering writing a series about my adventures in this dying empire, with stories of the young people I try to help. I’d also like to write a piece on the seasons of history for this category. I never seem to run out of ideas for stuff to write. It’s the actual writing part that’s elusive. 🙂
Feminism and Gender Theory
Anyone who is a regular reader of my work knows that I’m anti-feminist. Not critical of feminism, sorta feminist, or post-feminist, but anti-feminist. Remember my Zero Appeasement policy? Several people have suggested I tone down my criticism and shy away from the “anti” prefix.
To that, I say no way, Jose! Mainly because “anti” is completely accurate.
Feminism and Gender Theory could technically fit under “McCulture Meltdown.” But I think a special kind of disaster deserves its own special category. And I don’t want to go to several layers deep with my site structure anyway. If I drill down more than two or three layers, all I find is a massive headache. I abide by the KISS principle.
I’m critical of postmodernism in general, and feminism in particular. In recent years, “Gender Theory” has entered the feminist narrative, along with the aggressive promotion of transgenderism, homosexuality and “proud slut” culture. I’m critical of (read: absolutely despise) all of these things and like to expose their dark underbellies whenever possible.
Muslims Now and Then
“Muslims now and then” has deliberate double meaning. I’m only going to discuss the straightforward meaning, which is present-day (now) and throughout history (then). I’ll let you decide what you think the other meaning is if you feel inclined to ponder.
Muslims are much maligned these days in many parts of the world. There is an idea that we as a group have contributed very little of value to society. We are and always have been troublemakers. Except that isn’t true at all.
Muslims have made important contributions to human culture and society. Europe arose from the Dark Ages largely by leveraging the cultural and intellectual achievements of Muslims. I want to bring this to light, and give credit where it’s due. “Then” in this context means at some point in history.
Note that I’m actually not a huge fan of collectivism. I rail against the idea of collective guilt and punishment. It’s that kind of thinking that causes people to blame random Muslims for the actions of a terrorist who is also Muslim. This aversion cuts both ways. If wrongdoing is not our collective responsibility, then neither are “our” achievements.
Unfortunately, whether I like it or not, humans think collectively, and I have to address that approach. Which brings me to the “now” part, which deals with what it’s like living as a Muslim today. This includes topics such as wearing the hijab in America when it’s increasingly viewed by many as a provocation.
There are also some articles on how life is for the Muslim convert. Not just for me, but for us generally.
Sometimes I wish this category didn’t exist. Do I really want to share my personal stories with strangers on the Internet? I’ve thought better of it at times and deleted some of the things I posted.
But part of having a blog is being able to share my story, so I’ve kept this category. I plan to expand it whenever I’m in the mood to talk about my life. The key here is to be mindful of where I set my borders.
Part of the reason I write about my life is that it’s cathartic. Another part of the reason is that I like to help and relate to others. If someone reads about my experience and thinks “wow, I’m not alone,” and is comforted by that, that’s really awesome. People are lonelier than ever, and sometimes it can be hard to get someone to put down his or her smartphone long enough listen. Instead of constantly fighting that, let’s just stare at our smartphones and relate to one another. 🙂
Technically I suppose this belongs under “Personal Diary” because it’s about my travels. But I’ve made it a separate category because it’s not just about my life. I include helpful information about the places I visit, which may be of interest to a broader audience.
I also want to really expand this section because I’ve done lots of traveling. In the time since I posted my first article here, I’ve visited over 20 countries. I’m really tardy as far as writing posts about my travels, so I have some catching up to do. Ideally, I’d write a piece for every country I’ve visited so far. Insha’Allah. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. 🙂
As I mentioned previously, digital marketing is what I do. Right now I freelance, primarily for two sister marketing agencies, each specializing in a different client market. At the time of this writing, both agencies charge clients $300 an hour for a consultation. For the record, I get only a fraction of that. So don’t get the idea I’m bragging about personally making big bucks. In fact, I took a huge pay cut (and no employer-paid benefits) to go freelance.
The point is that, at our agency, that’s how much an hour-long consultation would cost. I want to tell you all about digital marketing for free.
There is no reason to keep secrets. We already give all sorts of information away for free, and so do tons of other agencies. We can still attract clients because, in order to really do marketing for businesses, you have to live and breathe this stuff. The important details literally change on a daily basis.
I have plans to write a long post with everything a person needs to know to get started with a blog. Then from time to time, I may add some posts on various related topics. If I’m not too tired of doing the same all day at work. 🙂
There’s nothing currently in this category, so don’t go searching and disappoint yourself. I’ll try to fix that soon enough, insha’Allah.
There are of course more subcategories. I won’t bore you with the details of all of them. The idea is to keep the structure as simple and obvious possible. I need to let the Hummingbird know the niche I want to occupy. Or the song I want to sing if we stick with the earlier metaphor.
Whatever I write, in whatever category, always boils down to intentions. Do I have right ones? Is this pleasing to Allah? Or at the very least, not displeasing to Allah. It’s for this reason that sometime back I weeded out a few posts that seemed too ego-driven. I want to write things that are in some way beneficial.
Despite my grandiose plans, I don’t know how much I’ll wind up doing here. I have invested some time and money into making this work. Insha’Allah, I’ll succeed in saying what I want to say, and acquiring the “small but loyal” following I’m after.
In the meantime, thank you for visiting. Oh, and if you don’t have a Disqus account, you can still leave a comment. I’ve set it so you can post as “guest.”
Please stop by from time to time, and see what’s next. 🙂