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ShiaTV vs. YouTube and Others

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Youtube vs. ShiaTVYouTube has been the latest craze of the Internet, especially for youth. You can view just about anything on the website, and it's unrated, unfiltered, and in many parents' opinions – unhealthy. Being a married Muslimah who one day wishes to have children of my own and having viewed YouTube content, I can't help but agree. So what about a healthy and – even better – an Islamic alternative? I was gratefully pointed to ShiaTV (www.ShiaTV.net) by a writer colleague.

ShiaTV is a website that caters to a variety of audiences, young and old. Every video on the site I have viewed is educational and Islamic. I wouldn't worry about children using the site; in fact, perhaps this site could be integrated into classroom activities in Islamic schools, considering the wealth of resources available. It is set up similar to YouTube, with channels, groups, most frequently viewed videos, and places for commentary. One of the things I enjoy the most about ShiaTV, however, is the absence of unconstructive criticism and, quite frankly, the curse-filled comments often seen on YouTube.

On ShiaTV you will find speeches by men and women on many topics, scholarly presentations, children reciting nohas, sermons, poetry, Islam-related movies/documentaries, and so on. Below every video, you will find a statement that reads: "Please keep this site fun, clean, and real." There are some funny videos too – that part of the site could use development, however, because there were only three videos listed. There is also the advantage of a variety of languages present: Urdu, English, Farsi, and Arabic, just to name a few. Many of the non-English programs seem to have English subtitles available, and vice versa. There appears to be a great opportunity here to disseminate good Islamic knowledge. Insha'Allah, more Shia leaders and scholars will participate by uploading content to this web site.

Obviously ShiaTV for the most part is superior to YouTube due to its Islamically-filtered content, but are there some good things about YouTube? Absolutely! YouTube was one of the first sites to revolutionize the way information is transmitted on the Internet (via video) – it is even affecting political opinion due to its high user density. If someone (a responsible adult) didn't mind sorting through the good and bad, there is actually some very good content on YouTube. For example, an interview on National Public Radio described how YouTube has become an important resource for classical music professors, because there are old classical music performance videos on the site that otherwise may not be as readily available to the public, and therefore, their students. This idea could be expanded to other fields of study that are available by video on YouTube, for example biographies of famous people, mathematics, and physics. There are lovely cartoon shorts with little to no dialogue such as "Carried Away" by Zach Parrish, which is about a little boy who is carried away by a large bubble created from his soap bottle; the run time is less than five minutes, and it's inoffensive. There are also video clips of speeches by great speakers such as Malcolm X (in one he makes a public statement that the Islamic religion is the best) and other civil rights activists. As far as the structure and function of the two web sites, they are very similar, and I didn't observe any major differences.

I believe that a trend is forming with new video-focused web sites coming online, each with their specialized content. One I discovered recently is SciVee (www.scivee.tv), which is brand-new and still in testing mode. SciVee is focused entirely on disseminating scientific research and knowledge. Their tag line is "Make Your Research Known" and is right now mostly featuring topics such as organic chemistry, biology, bioinformatics, biotechnology, and computer science. Since this site is the so-called "YouTube for science", there are some high expectations for this site, and scientists are hoping to use it to make scientific information more available and understandable to society, but mostly to present new research. As someone with a geosciences background, I eagerly await for geologists to present their research on this web site!

I believe as time continues there will be a plethora of specialized-video web sites on the Internet, but right now for general enjoyment and good Islamic content, ShiaTV is at the top of my list.

Author of this article: Zahara Abdi
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