Teaching ten-year-olds in Kashmir film, photography and music via a series of workshops called the "Lollipops Crown Project" is an initiative led by American-Kashmiri artist and Fulbright scholar Mohsin Din to empower disadvantaged youth in the Muslim world through the arts.
"There is a lot of fear among Muslim communities that you cannot make mistakes," said Din, speaking at the Asia Society New York program "Social Media, Arts and Change in the Muslim World" last night. "They [children] got over that through these music workshops," he added.
Din was one of several panelists — MTV Iggy's Nusrat Durrani, journalist Robin Wright (Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World), performing arts producer Zeyba Rahman — who convened at Asia Society to discuss the power of the arts to ignite change and create community in the Muslim world.
The "Lollipops Crown" workshops are part of an international series of projects Mohsin undertook on his own (through his Fulbright scholarship) and in collaboration with his brother Mubashir, with whom he also plays in the band Zero Bridge. Young boys and girls at an orphanage in Kashmir were taught to make music and short films about the future and how the world could be a better place. The topics the children chose ranged from pollution to the importance of religious tolerance in politics and ways to restore Kashmir to its former glory. The brothers also organized rock and roll concerts in the Kashmir valley in collaboration with the local folk musicians.
According to Din, the response from the youth was overwhelming, and some of them showed up in Iron Maiden and Nirvana t-shirts to represent their favorite bands. But he acknowledged that there were also immense challenges. "Whatever concerts were taking place in the valley," he said, "were being exploited by the state and government as signs of normalcy. Then there were the Islamic fundamentalists who were saying that this was all Haraam [forbidden]."
Watch the video below to learn more about Din's experience [9 min., 3 sec]. Watch the complete program here.