While the New Year brings a sense of hope, renewal and optimism, it’s also a time to reflect on the rapid – and often scary – changes we are witnessing in society.
The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be ushering in new ways of working, interacting as well as a host of new government legislation which may be with us for the foreseeable future.
On the one hand, this is a time for society to innovate new ways of living on the planet, but it’s also a time we should be cautious that those who rule over us don’t use the pandemic to their advantage in a way that impacts the most vulnerable communities, especially Muslims.
Here are 7 things we should prepare for this year.
1. An increase in censorship and de-platforming by social media companies.
Censoring has been happening for decades but in more recent times, it has become a tool used to muffle the oppressed. We have seen it happen during conflicts between Palestine and Israel, where celebrities who stand up, are smeared and pressured into redacting their statements.
This is among the most worrying trends. As we speak, we are witnessing the erosion of free, balanced information being released if it goes against official government narratives.
Some of the the most credible scientists in the world also claim to have been unfairly censored and de-platformed over counter narratives around Covid.
If left uncontrolled, it could become the beginning of fascism and authoritarianism. What once seemed a relic of European history, or a problem only eastern countries deal with, will be a serious concern for our western democracies too. If the public loses trust in those governing them – or those who are primarily in charge of governing free speech in society, i.e. Facebook, Twitter and Youtube – then public confidence will diminish to such an extent that there will greater lawlessness and vigilantism.
Across the world, we are seeing this type of power taken to extremes by the state. A prime example of this is in France where the government now monitor and approve Friday sermons in mosques. Or this type of excessive power where the Chinese government compelled Apple to remove a Quran App for its Chinese citizens.
From Liberalism to Communism, multiple methods of governing are failing its citizens at the moment and new alternatives are being discussed like never before.
2. The search for meaning.
The quest for purpose and meaning are not new. They have been a necessary search for humankind since we’ve been here. But what we’ve dramatically witnessed over the past few decades is a terrifying distancing from religion.
Religion, for thousands of years, has formed the bedrock of civilisation, meaning the way in which we see the world. Over the past 100 years, the West believed that secular, liberal democracies is the most successful answer to how human beings should live, after the failures and tyranny of communism and fascism in the 20th century.
However, every manmade system is ultimately an experiment. Civilisations rise and fall (they fall particularly when these ideologies can no longer tolerate their own excesses). As people continue to lose trust in the Big Tech and our governments, we will further lose trust in liberalism (which, in short, can be boiled down to the saying ‘do as you wish, as you long as you don’t harm anyone else’).
There is therefore greater opportunity for faith, and Islam in particular, to state its case.
3. A loss of trust in Central Banks and Fiat currencies.
It is no secret that the big banks lean towards greed and have been the cause of much of the economic problems in our society, including the financial collapse of 2007.
From the 1970s, the introduction of Fiat currencies – money that is not backed by anything else like gold – has meant money has no intrinsic value. It’s therefore based on the confidence people have in it.
With the Pandemic draining economies of their resources and economic productivity, the rise of crypto currencies and people losing trust in Central Banks and Fiat Currencies, we’ll see key currencies like the dollar and the euro really suffer, with many experts even predicting their collapse.
We’ll also probably see Bitcoin, the world’s most popular crypto currency, reach new heights this year, with tens of millions more adopting it as a way to escape the Central Banking system. This inevitably will fuel further debates about the permissibility of cyrptocurrency in Islam.
4. Vaccines. Vaccines. And more vaccines.
What has become obvious – if it wasn’t already – are the interlinking interests between Big Tech, Big Pharma, the Media and governments.
Despite unclear evidence that boosters are beneficial (something debated among scientists), what is clear is that Big Pharma will continue to push Boosters in order to generate greater profit.
Never in the history of Big Pharma have they been primarily motivated by the common good, hence why they’ve been sued over and over again for breaching the law, engaging in bribery and misinformation.
5. The rise of alternative social media platforms.
Continuing on with the theme of a breakdown of trust, we are seeing millions move away from Meta (Facebook, Instagram et al) and Alphabet (Google and Youtube), who people claim are suppressing free speech.
Instead, we are seeing new social platforms like Gab, which is “a social network that champions free speech, individual liberty and the free flow of information online” and Gettr, an alternative to Twitter.
6. A.I. reaches new levels of maturity.
Elon Musk believes his company Neuralink will be advanced enough to have brain implants ready this year.
Once implanted, the chip could connect your brain waves to an app that may help people with neurological conditions.
This will certainly not be the last of its kind and we’ll see similar companies develop which go beyond helping people with diseases to those simply wanting to make life easier and more convenient.
7. Deep Fake.
Deep fakes are videos where one person’s face has been convincingly replaced by a computer-generated face.
This poses massive threats to our democracy as politicians and criminals can claim that certain acts they get caught doing, weren’t them, and it will be very difficult to know whether they are telling the truth or not. This also poses massive issues for the safety and security of every individual on earth. We are seeing the explosion of non-consensual deep fake pornography, which, according to one study accounted for 96% of deep fake videos posted online, according to Sensity.
One particular site, which I won’t name, generated over 50 million views within 9 months last year which showed clothed women, naked, using the technology.
What’s also concerning is that those with more photos and videos of themselves online than others, have a greater risk of being taken advantage of.
Finally, legislation has struggled to keep up to date with the rise in deep-fake, so 2022 maybe a year in which deep fake explodes before legislation comes in to reign it in.
The world is moving quickly. Perhaps a bit too quickly. And we must all be on guard, especially as Government seek to consolidate their power. You see, freedoms and liberties that are taken away are rarely, if ever, given back. 2022 is a year we need to be aware, brave and principled. We cannot afford to lose sight of where things are heading, we must push back against State transgressions, power grabs and corruption.
Now is not the time to be desensitised, it’s a time to be alive.
It’s a year for more prayer, more dhikr, more patience and more presence in everything we do, especially as tech seeks to rob us of our attention and focus.
May this be a wonderful year for our Ummah and humanity at large and may we come out stronger than we started.