Islamic Hip-Hop

Islam is Hip-Hop’s official religion.  Hip-Hop began in the late 70’s as a form of expression in majority lower income environments.  Local artist used this genre of music to escape the conflicts they faced in their neighborhoods and to express their own culture through music and dance. However, Hip-Hop never owned by one religion, Islam is Hip-Hop’s official religion.  Whether rappers are Muslim or not, they’re lyrics are influenced by them. Afterall, rap was first developed as a tool to fight racism and to uplift the African-American community. Islam is the only religion in the world that unites all races. Christianity does not. Churches are very divided by race. You have black churches and white churches. In Islam it doesn’t matter whether you are black, white, brown, yellow or green, you can come into any mosque and pray.  Rappers like Mos Def, Nas, Lupe Fiasco, Common and Akon have all shown that although they are part of Islam that, Hip-Hop is very much a part of Islam. 

            Throughout this project my wish is to not illustrate there is a, “Islamic Hip-Hop” genre but that there are Islamic Hip-Hop artist that are as successful as our mainstream artist.  Moreover, that even dealing with the struggles and obstacles of being a Islamic Hip-Hop artist, that there are artist who manage to use their voice and their music to help their community and also to live by their passion of Hip-Hop.  You will see how alive and how much Islamic Hip-Hop is prospering in our communities in America and around the world, but due to the stigmas and the stereotypes of Muslims, our mainstream audience does not embrace Muslim Hip-Hop artist as much as they do our mainstream artist.  

Documentary, DeenTight 

This is a very inspirational documentary that, reveals the very hard and emotional journey for eight Muslim Hip-Hop artists.  Furthermore, these artist were interviewed from all over the world, but one valuable thing they all have in common is the unforgiveable love they have for Hip-Hop.  An artist of the documentary once said, “A lot of us came to Hip-Hop through some form of Hip-Hop.”  This is emphasizing the fact that Hip-Hop is not what the mainstream media portrays it to be as only rapping about sex, guns and violence.  Yet, Hip-Hop is founded based on the art of self-expression.  Whether that is through a song, spoken-word, or simple poetry.  As many artists throughout the documentary repeatedly said, “There is no Islamic Hip-Hop.”  What this video helps to convey is that, the Muslim world does embrace Hip-Hop. Even in the streets of Mecca.  However, I think what is essential to take away from this video is the concept that, even though these are Hip-Hop artists they still use incorporate Islam into their art.  Islam is still their number one focus.  As one artist said in the video, “U better know were going to represent Islam to the fullest.” 

Documentary, New Music Cool

The film, directed and produced by Jennifer Maytoerna Taylor, is about a Puerto Rican Muslim convert, Hamza Perez, who as a former drug dealer, fights to make a new life for he and his family and his new Muslim community in Pittsburgh, PA.  Hamza uses Hip Hop music to express his feelings in a very creative and productive way, he is not only able to stay on the straight path of Islam, but also give back to his community by working as a chaplain in the local prison and also helps to form a new Muslim community in the un-friendly environment of the post 9-11 world.  However, this film is centered around, a FBI raid on the new mosque that Hamza and others in the local Muslim community.  Eventually, Hamza was no longer allowed to work at the local chaplain, however, after appealing this decision and receiving complaints from inmates, he was allowed to return.  Moreover, I highly recommend everyone to watch this documentary, because it shows a part of America, which many people do not normally get to see; that of young American Muslims who are doing positive work in their community and who genuinely care about improving not only their own lives, but the lives of everyone around them for the better through the power of Hip-Hop.  This documentary not only touches the basis of Hip-Hop and the struggle of a Muslim artist, but places emphasis on what power “Islamic Hip-Hop” can have on the hope of change in a community.  Islam is not what you read or see on CNN, not the stereotypes we see acted out in cartoons and films, and it is not a threat to our existence.  Islam is not a threat, because faith is not a threat. 

Lupe Fiasco and Sway: Talk About Islam

“I don’t like putting my religion out there.  I don’t want Muslims kids to follow my lead.” This was one of Lupe Fiasco’s first comments of this video, implying that yes he is Muslim but not the Muslim that other Muslims, should want to be like.  In fact, Lupe Fiasco has a new single called, “Muhammad Walks” almost the same as Kanye West’s, “Jesus Walks” single.  The difference between the two is that Kanye West’s single has been played on radio stations all across America and even performed at the 47th annual Grammy awards.  However, Lupe Fiasco’s song, “Muhammad Walks” will probably never get any recognition outside of Islam and Fiasco fans.  “Christian music is more embraced because its endorsed based on Christianity,” were the words of Lupe.  He is conveying that because of how critical, and acute America (Nation predominantly Christian based) acts towards Muslims, Islamic music or Islamic Hip-Hop artist may not get the attention they deserve.  The question that should be investigated is, How can we negate an artists faith when we speak about Hip-Hop, when the concept of Hip-Hop is self-expression?

 

Video, Mos Def on Bill Maher

I wanted to incorporate Mos Def’s voice and response to our nations views on how America stereotypes and critiques Hip Hop artist today because he himself is a Muslim and a very well-known Hip-Hop legend.  Throughout this television show, Mos Def I thought truthfully and logically gives his thoughts on why Muslims are treated the way they are.  One thoughtful statement I thought he said in reference to the idea that Muslims are terrorist he replied, “During the revolutionary war, George Washington was a terrorist…One side is endorsed by the state and one is not…Christian terrorism is present in child molestation, Islam is not a threat, faith is not a threat.”  I thought this was powerful because he is saying that we cannot just label Muslims as being terrorist because as Americans we have a long history of being terrorist ourselves.  We just don’t think we are guilty like, we believe everyone else is.  

Yes, “Islamic Hip-Hop” is not a real genre of music but it is a movement, a culture, a faith and most importantly an innovator.   My initial intentions for this project was to show a different type of Hip-Hop other than the sex, drugs and violence we are so accustomed to.  However, after this project I have grown an appreciation not only for Islam as a whole, but for Islamic Hip-Hop artist for remaining with their passion and showing that Islam is not what is portrayed on the news but is just as powerful as any other genre of music. 

Related Topic 

Mos Def- Umi says

Lupe Fiasco-Muhammad Walks

Mos Def Takes the Stage

Lowkey- Defends Muslim Community

Sources

http://www.mujahideenryder.net/2008/12/13/deen-tight-hip-hop-islam-documentary/

http://muslimhiphop.com/index.php?p=Hip-Hop

 

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African American Atheists

The Unbelievers

By EMILY BRENNAN
Published: November 25, 2011

   This article referred to a black male Atheist, that dealt with conflicts from his family for being a homosexual and also an atheist.  Ronnelle Adams told his story of how hard it was being a gay atheist.  Moreover, what suprised Ronnelle so much was that his mother was more upset with him being an atheist then him being a homosexual.  With the backlash he faced, Ronnelle decided to join a Black Atheist group. Once members posted their stories on youtube, this had led to the formation of organizations like African Americans for Humanism and Center for Inquiry-Harlem and others like Black Atheists of America and Black Nonbelievers have been founded.  From this article I learned that 88 percent of African-Americans believe in God with absolute certainty, compared with 71 percent of the total population, with more than half attending religious services at least once a week.  Also, even among those African-Americans who report no affiliation, more than two-thirds say religion plays a somewhat important role in their lives.  Leaving the majority of our atheist population to be white. 

This article was so captivating because I believe in God but I could understand why an African American would not believe in God based on the hardships for hundred and thousands of years blacks have had to face.  Even though slavery does not exist anymore, African Americans are still hindered by the oppressions they have had to face.  I am not advocating in the non-belief in God but I can sympathize with the ones that have a hard time believing their is a God if they have a reasonable enough argument.  Hundreds and thousands of oppression and abuse is a good enough argument for me. 

 

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Clash of Faith and Football

This article refers to Tim Tebow, the quarterback of the Denver Broncos on going issues with the amount of scrutiny he has faced for being an openly religious athlete.  Just in his second season for the Denver Broncos this has escalated into a all out national debate over religion and its place in sports.  Just last year, Tebow drew national attention for his antiabortion commercial broadcast during the Super Bowl.  Opponents have been mocking mocked his celebration pose of kneeling, in prayer, which became an internet phenomenom known as Tebowing.  Throughout college and even the NFL, Tebow would write bible verses under his eyes with black marker to exhibit his faith.  An act that is now banned from the NCAA.  This scrutiny that Tebow has had to deal with, has made some wonder if Tebow is the true problem or is it just the combination of sports and religion some are not very supportive of.

Article

I took interest to this article because being an athlete and a fan of professional sports, I would assume he would not get so much criticism for being an athlete that was known for his religious beliefs rather than being in the news for committing a crime.  It shows how twisted some people can be to scrutinize a player for being an open christian.  If anything I think Tebow’s willingness to openly show his faith would be credited, as a test of humbleness.  I believe we should start supporting and uplifting athletes like Tebow instead of criticizing him for what he believes in.

 

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Catholic Bishop Fails to Report Child Abuse

“I can assure you that this has nothing — nothing — to do with the Catholic faith,” reported Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker regarding the indictment. This article, deals with a Catholic Bishop in Kansas City, Missouri being charged with failure to report evidence of child abuse.  This was announced Friday, that Bishop Robert Finn had been charged with a single misdemeanor count of failure to report child abuse after he allegedly discovered but failed to tell the authorities that a priest in his church had a laptop computer containing various images of child pornography.  This case against Bishop Finn starts from allegations involving Father Shawn Ratigan, who just as Bishop Finn did, pleaded non-guilty as well.  David Clohessy, a spokesman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, reported, “This indictment sent two clear signals: One is that the church hierarchy continues to act carelessly and recklessly in terms of ensuring children’s safety, and the second is that at least some in law enforcement are finally willing to vigorously pursue both the predators and their enablers.”  With the stir from this indictment, it has raised questions about the effectiveness of national standards.  As a nation we can only hope this Finn indictment would encourage prosecutors around our nation to bring charges against the church hierarchy if necessary.

Charge against Catholic bishop unprecedented in sex abuse scandal

By Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times

I really enjoyed this article because not only was it very informative but it challenged our church hierarchy as well.  As a society, we so often forget that not every congregation of church and its members of the church leadership uphold the law.  Moreover, this indictment should give the prosecutors or law enforcement around our nation the encouragement to bring every corrupt church down if not for our nations diverse religious beliefs than for the sake of our children.

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Apostasy in Islamic Law

Pastor’s possible execution reveals nuances of Islamic law

This post by Dan Merica, of CNN discusses the possible hanging of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani for converting from Islam to Christianity.  Nadarkhani, the leader of a network of Christian house churches in Iran, was first convicted of apostasy in November 2010.  This case has re-sparked the claim that Islam does not uphold the freedom of faith.  Furthermore, this instance of apostasy has caused division among Islamic jurists on whether Iran would be violating Islamic law by carrying out the execution.  Intisar Rabb an assistant professor of law at Boston CollegeOne said, “In the Quran, it says on a number of occasions that God prefers and even demands that people believe in Him, but that He will handle rejection of such belief by punishing them in the after world.” However, Clark Lombardi, an associate professor of law at the University of Washington, believes that, “Most Muslims look past the Quran and say the Quran needs to be looked at in the practice of the Prophet. So they look to see what rules the prophet laid down.”  This case is so difficult because some jurist are at conflict at whether apostasy is punishable in the first place and, if it is punishable, for what reason.

I found this article to be very captivating because here in the U.S there is no punishment of apostasy.  Honestly it made me ponder on how some people could be so cruel. When Nadarkhani decided to leave Islam and become a Christian it was his choice and the ONLY person he should ever have to answer to is God.  For a group of people to have to decide whether or not a man should be executed due to his faith is mind-boggling to me.  I understand the Islamic law but faith should not be determined by a group of people but solely on the individual.

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Young Adults collide with the Church

I found this intriguing article, by the creator/Editor of the BANNED QUESTIONS book series, Christian Piatt that introduced various arguements to why today’s youth are walking away from the church.  One of his interesting reasons was that youth are in search of something more relevant to their daily struggle. That education and financial stability have blinded today’s youth to where they are more captivated by society’s ideals of how to maintain.  I thought Piatt could not have explained this idea any better when he wrote, “We have witnessed the carnage of a financial system that was intended to perpetually buoy a nation, but whose “invisible hand” has instead crushed the dreams of millions.” Piatt also argued the idea that society has overly indulged in the embrace of iconoclasm.  Piatt tends to believe that it’s more a symptom of a culture whose intense self-awareness has yielded either narcissism or resigned disbelief. With this both sides are convinced the other is both void of heart and intent on their destruction.  Moreover, another interesting theory was that youth today pick and choose from our daily experience as we find identities and causes that fit, not satisfied to permanently ally ourselves with any particular group.  Also, with so much cultural ambiguity youth feel as if they have to take people more at face value, discerning what they believe through face-to-face discourse.

Why Young Adults Are Walking Away From Church

I found this article utterly interesting because as a young adult I often wonder why I have wandered away from my own church.  Moreover, I thought this article did such a great job emphasizing the struggle that young adults have today with such high expectations on education and financially stability being some of the causes to why we have not been as involved in the church.  I agree with Piatt’s arguement that young adults can be blinded by their own narcissism, but I highly disagree that society has place high embraced iconoclasm.  Furthermore, I think a better way of looking at this idea is that, most young adults are aware there is some sort of “higher power” but with the expectations society places on young adults and our daily experiences, youth tend to become wrapped in their own ideologies and their daily lifestyles of living.

 

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The GOP accepts LGBT?

Candace Chellew-Hodge, is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT on September 23rd, 2011 discussed her hardships with being a gay Republican but now finds herself giving high praise to the Republican party.  She begins her article this issue of being a LGBT Republican to being a member of a church, while maining LGBT. She finds herself often questioned by gay and lesbians about why she still attends church when the institution, in the past, has preached against homosexuality. Many in her community have left the church, with the belief that if God doesn’t like them, then the least they can do is return the favor and stop attending church.  She found herself in this same predicament with the GOP.  The GOP has historically rejected the full inclusion of LGBT people and within the last few decades has become very anti-gay, fielding a group of presidential candidates that have clear anti-gay views. However of late things seem to be changing within the GOP, more recently, some Republicans have become more open about their support for gay and lesbian issues.  She used examples like, former president George W. Bush’s daughter Barbara Bush, who made a video earlier this year supporting marriage equality in New York and even Sen. John McCain’s daughter Megan has also been a supporter.

In Praise of Gay Republicans by Candace Chellew-Hodge

 

In response to this article, I think she should still evaluate the Republican party with regards to LGBT people because I would be skeptical of the GOP supporting gays and lesbians for the simple fact that they want to expand with more supporters so they feel the need to put on an act as if they really accept LGBT people.  From my knowledge the GOP are really traditional and tend to live by the values of the church.  However, if the GOP are in full support of LGBT I am more than happy to see good changes occurring in our society.

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Corruption in Brazilian Church

According toReligionNewsBlog.com, Thursday September 15th, 2011 one of Brazil’s most powerful churches has been charged with channeling money to off shore bank accounts since the 1990’s to  places like New Jersey and the Cayman Islands.  This church called, “Universal Church of the Kingdom of God” resides in Rio de Janeiro and is estimated to have 8 million congregation followers.  From 2003 to 2006 the church was estimated to have received 1.85 billion in donations, that are now claimed to have been used to buy luxury goods and property.  This act of greed should never be tolerated in any place of worship.

Ultimately this not only places a dark cloud over churches in Brazil but over Christianity in general.  With acts like this one is only left to be skeptical if this takes place in other places of worship around the world.  Therefore the consequence for the actions of this corruption does not solely effect the, Universal Church of the Kingdom of God but the purity of christianity.

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Islam, a “Monolithic religion?”

To some non-Muslims in today’s society it may come as a surprise to discover that Islam is not a “monolithic religion.”  Muslims can vary in so many different ways based on different regions around the world.  However, this article by Mark Scheel is an analysis and a critique of a new book called, Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty, by Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol that breaks down Muslim, “monolith.”  Throughout the novel he focuses on the liberalism of Islam and challenges various misconceptions, focusing especially on the misperception that Islam is an inherently authoritarian religion and that there is very little room for individualism.  Author Akoyl also discusses how uproar over freedom dating back to medieval Islam resulted in doctrinal struggles like the, “Traditionalists vs. Rationalists.”  This controversy surrounding traditional islamic theology and modern Islamic theology.  He also refers back to the, “Golden Age”, when Christians had such a deep attraction to the intellectual freedom and  scholarly attributes of the faith.  However today this may not be the case.  Essentially, Akyol’s core message is that the Muslim way was founded on the concept that the individual is responsible to God and God alone, emphasizing the importance of religious tolerance and individual liberty.I

I really enjoyed this critique of the book,  Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty, because as a reader I believe it opens ones eyes to the misconceptions of the Islamic faith.  This article not only did an excellent job in using factual examples but it also used modern examples that helped  illustrated why non-Muslims could believe that Islam would be considered a monolithic faith.

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