La Croix: Tik Tok Muslim youth capture hearts and worry the French authorities

A new generation of Muslim influencers reach a large audience on the social network Tik Tok with very short and poignant videos, combining reminders of what is allowed or forbidden with personal development, and behind this modernity in tone and form, there is a strict discourse, regarding daily life and relationships, But the dominance of this discourse on the favorite application of young people worries the authorities, so what is the secret of this success?

With this introduction, the French newspaper La Croix opened, article At length, written by Pierre Sotroy, in which Charlene, 27, converted to Islam in 2021, after months of hesitation at the hands of the imam of the Lanyon Mosque, to which she decided to go “secretly”, after a difficult period during the first closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Charlene, who was educated in Catholic institutions and is now a devout Muslim and bakery employee, says she appreciates the “framework” Islam offers her, prays daily, eats halal and no longer drinks alcohol. My personality is more than others, but I can’t imagine stopping to celebrate Christmas, or my little boy’s birthdays. I know it’s not right, but we all make mistakes,” I heard it on Tik Tok, she says.

Redazir is followed by more than a million people, and he influenced Charlene until she converted to Islam (social networking sites)

Muslims are the ones who challenge me

Charlene’s conversion to Islam – as the writer says – is due to the influence of the “Tiktok” (content maker on the Chinese social network Tik Tok) Radazir (26 years), an Algerian residing in Quebec, Canada, who publishes very short videos every day in which he presents “reminder messages”. Related to Islamic belief or practice, interspersed with images from the Korean Squid Game series or from his vacation in Mexico.

Depending on the mood and the questions asked in the comments, this attractive young man, for example, publishes the supplication that is required when the exam approaches, urges charity, and launches participatory challenges, such as mentioning the most beautiful names of God in 30 seconds, or confirming that listening to music and looking at women is not allowed. them in Islam, as the writer says.

Charlene says, “There are Christian accounts on Tik Tok, but Muslims are the ones who challenge me, especially Radazir. It’s his personality and energy, he’s captivating.” To Islam, thank you very much.” This comment received 2,685 likes.

The writer believes that Radazir – whose account is followed by about 1.7 million subscribers – is the first religious influencer who speaks French on Tik Tok, perhaps due to the impressive dynamism of the most downloaded application in the world over two years.

hegemony speech

Radazir – according to the author – can be considered representative, in terms of form and content, of a new generation of Muslim influencers who have appeared on Tik Tok since 2020, such as, Comprends Ton Dîne, Learn Islam (Savoir Islam). Hicham R2F, AbuayahTV and Ismaël Abou Nour.

Under these nicknames – the newspaper says – we discover young people who learned the religion without necessarily being imams, but they have an elaborate knowledge of the symbols and aesthetics of this social network, and they publish videos from 10 seconds to a minute capable of rapid spread, which is a mixture of speeches, humor and references of popular culture. And borrowing from the language of personal development.

Behind this modernity in tone and form – as Pierre Sotroy says – we find in most of these passages a strict discourse about halal and haram and about daily life or relations, especially with women, which, with the different degree of conservatism of its producers, has become an ecological system in the approach of Islamic traditions, which is Dominant on Tik Tok today.

The writer provides examples of Redazer’s views, as this influencer considers shaving the beard forbidden, as well as “staring at women,” and says that relationships outside marriage are illegal and “keep away from God,” and that wearing the veil is an obligation, celebrating Christmas is forbidden and placing its tree in the house is forbidden. “So that we do not appear to be unbelievers,” and they are what he calls “infidels” in a comment.

Salafi stream

When hearing such statements, it is difficult not to remember the controversy that arose this New Year, because of the famous rapper James, who asked his fans not to wish him a happy New Year, on the grounds that the companions of Muhammad, peace be upon him, did not celebrate the New Year, and that it It is difficult to link this discourse to a particular current, even if the experts whom the writer contacted agreed to describe it as Salafi, with a dilution of this current.

“We are not at all faced with the harsh Salafism close to jihadism that imposed itself in the first decade of the 21st century,” says Benjamin Hoday, associate researcher at the Montaigne Institute. Adapting their speech, they rarely break the law.

However, the authorities – as the writer says – are concerned about simplifying Salafi theses on the social network preferred by young people, and Christian Gravel, Secretary-General of the Interministerial Committee to Prevent Deviance and Extremism, estimates, “We find a hugely influential Islamic and separatist logic, aimed at separating the community of believers from The “infidels” community.

What is behind the speech?

The writer points out that looking at an account such as, which has about 470,000 subscribers, makes it easy to understand the extent of the development of these discourses over the Internet, as this 20-year-old achieved success by offering supplications from his bedroom to pray in time of sadness or in difficult situations.

This account urges “charity” and invites its subscribers to think “always positively.” However, this smooth talk attached to hearts and emoticons sometimes hides stricter positions, such as banning music and meeting young people of marriageable age without the supervision of a third party.

As an example of this, the writer points to a response to the owner of this account on a critical comment, where he says, “As Muslims, we cannot seem like we are not Muslims. Islam is a way of life. And remember that moderate Islam does not exist. The Islam in which we live is the Islam of the era of the Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace). peace be upon him).

As for Hamid S. (37 years old), the most specialized. He is the face of the “I understand your religion” account, which is followed by half a million subscribers. This former imam, who trained in religious schools in Morocco and Mauritania, arrived on Tik Tok in 2020, and made his clips related to daily religious questions, his trademark.

Hamid S. explains. Over the phone that “in just a minute, you have to visualize the message and understand it. Tik Tok is completely different from YouTube, where you find more detailed content aimed at a more educated audience, here is a small audience that has no religious basis and has a lot of false beliefs, and what is important is the basics.” .

Hamed S. is followed. The other four people who run Understand Your Religion are a strict approach in Islamic tradition, but on the phone denies any extremism, saying “I’m a teacher. I don’t take a stand, I don’t describe anyone as lost”, though he used the term to describe Sufism, claiming that he He was misunderstood when he stated in a video (no longer on Technok) that Muslims in France would be “punished” for “too much assimilation” and that it might be better for them to stop voting.

In addition to these new faces, we also find well-known faces on Tik Tok, from imams and preachers in their thirties or forties, and some of them passed through Salafism, and gained great popularity since 2010 through Facebook and YouTube, to recycle some of their sermons in short clips on Tik Tok, Or broadcasting hadiths to the rhythm of Islamic songs.

at the nursery level

Although traditional imams have a voice on Tik Tok, they are still on the sidelines of the renewal taking place there, as the three most famous French imams on YouTube have all criticized this social network that is dotted with music and dance videos. It’s normal to see someone practicing the call and it’s a disgrace.”

The ultra-conservative imam Nader Abu Anas, who has been posting a video on YouTube since September 2021, says that “Tik Tok was created so that after 4 or 5 clips you find something catastrophic that burns your eyes and heart,” and he has no production on this platform except for parts of the sermons that were published on other platforms.

Another imam who is highly followed on other social networks, lamenting the difficulty of conveying an accurate message on a platform designed to shoot videos of about 10 seconds, says that his audience “is made up of embedded adults who want to deepen their knowledge, and on Tik Tok, successful accounts carry a simplified and motivating community discourse Guilt, with an emotional charge and coordination that speaks to young people, even the very young. This is Islam at the nursery level.”

scary clips

And what to do if the parents drink alcohol? Can we keep reading the manga? Reda commented on Radazir’s clip, saying, “I am afraid because of your interruptions. I am only 13 years old, and I find that I am earning a lot of sins, and that I am not doing enough for the sake of God.”

The ability to distribute videos on TikTok increases because it is not necessary to search for content there to view it, as the social network’s “For You” feed constantly suggests new videos to users selected by the algorithm based on their past interactions.

“Before, you had to be well versed in Salafism to get this content,” comments Damien Savero, a doctoral student at the Ecole Normale Supérieure.

The girl grew up Talia (20 years old), in a Muslim family from Algeria, did not discover Islam on Tik Tok, but loves to receive powerful reminders that help her “maintain her connection to the religion.” She especially appreciates the “Understand Your Religion” videos, which she says teach her how to distinguish Among the religious beliefs and superstitions of North Africa, although it did not adopt all the recipes identified by the influencer, as she put it.

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