Whilst many Muslims have highlighted the need for high-quality contemporary Muslim publications, few have taken this challenge to heart. Well, all is about to change as emel the new Muslim lifestyle magazine hits the shelves of Muslim bookstores and perhaps also mainstream media outlets. We took the opportunity to speak with Sarah Joseph, editor of emel to get a behind the scenes insight into this refreshing new publication.
What was the thinking that led to the production of emel?
We wanted to create a high quality magazine that celebrated Muslim life in Britain. We wanted to create a magazine that we could be proud of and that would reflect the positive aspects of Muslim life as well as looking at the difficult issues, which face us. We know that Islam is broad and that Muslims are interested in every aspect of life, but we are often seen in a very two-dimensional way. We hope emel dispels the misconceptions that Muslims are only interested in politics or religious rituals. Also, Islamic civilisation has had so much influence in so many key areas of culture but that is rarely seen we hope we will manage to reflect our history as well as how Muslims are creating a British Islamic culture.
There are many Muslim newspapers and magazines already available, how is emel any different from these?
The Muslim market is a big market and there is room for a lot of different media. We hope we are adding to the many excellent products which are out there but I believe that emel is a different product I certainly have not found anything else like it. We are offering a quality product - emel is 100 pages, full colour and glossy. We have spent a lot of time on the layout and making sure that there is a lot of white space and images. We did not want pages of text. The writing is fast and punchy. Also, the issues we are addressing there is the current affairs, yes - but we are also covering health and education, parenting and relationships, finance and environment. There are the lifestyle sections as well interiors, food, gardening, clothes, sport. emel is also very people focused, so we have a lot of interviews with big names and ordinary people. We wanted to tell the story through people this is very much a Qur'anic method as we can identify with the stories of other human beings.
Who is your target audience and what would you hope to achieve with this magazine?
The Muslim community is broad so is our target audience. If I had to define a reader well obviously they would be able to read English, but also they would be open to see the Muslim community for the rich and beautiful tapestry that it is. We are not selling one narrow line we recognize that Muslims have diverse interests and we try and reflect that. We want to achieve a product that people can be proud of and makes them feel proud to be a Muslim. Sometimes, as Muslims, we take such a hammering that we want to hide, or we find ourselves constantly reacting to situations beyond our control. But now is not the time to baton down the hatches. emel is pro-active in its approach to society. We have to get up and celebrate being Muslims; we have to show that we are contributing to society.
How many `woman' hours would you say went in to the production of the first issue?
Well it was woman- and man-hours. We all worked together. We have a fantastic team and everyone who is involved in emel is so enthusiastic about the project. Everyone is so involved. I could not possibly work out the hours because so many people put in so much time and effort. But we were not just working on issue one, we have been working on the next few issues gathering articles and pictures. We don't want to be a one hit wonder and it is important that we maintain the standard which is a high standard to maintain.
Many initiatives are begun by Muslims only to fold in a relatively short time, how long do you think emel will last?
Only Allah knows and we pray for His baraka, but we have gone into this for the long term. As I say we have been working on future issues at the same time as we have been working on issue one, and we have long term planning initiatives for advertising and distribution. So we will work hard and pray for His gift of success.
What are your aspirations for the future of emel, in say five years time?
We hope that we will be in the mainstream newsagents in a relatively short time. It would be good if we can go monthly as we are bi-monthly at the moment. We hope we can expand our resources as we want to be in a position to offer help to budding journalists, designers and photographers and even now we are offering work experience when we can. We have a long term plan for international distribution as well as plans for some spin-off products.
Well, from where can I get a copy?
We have negotiated with a lot of Muslims outlets to distribute it, and we are still negotiating to get it into the shops. But the best way to get it at the moment is to subscribe you can order on line at www.emelmagazine.com
Do MCBDirect readers get a discount?
There are a range of discounts available - 20%, 30% and 40% - so I'm sure your MCBDirect readers will find a discount to suit them.
Finally, as a mother of three and with several speaking engagements how did you find the time to produce such a high quality magazine?
Allah's grace gives baraka to my time, and He has granted me a very supportive family. I am a very driven person and whatever I do means a lot to me. emel in particular has me working into the wee-small hours and I eat and dream emel. I think we all have a vision of what we want and we are all perfectionists - so we are prepared to go the extra mile to achieve it, and Allah stretches those efforts so that we can produce something of this quality, alhamdulillah.
Sarah Joseph was in conversation with Dr Sangeeta Dhami.