Hip-Hop Documentaries

An emerging trend is the appearance of films about Muslim hip-hop. Today on Inside Islam: Dialogues and Debates, we quickly outline three of them and include their trailers below. First, the upcoming Deen Tight is a film about how hip-hop has influenced the lives of Muslims around the world, starting in the United States. Second, Slingshot Hip-Hop follows Palestinian rappers as they examine their experiences of being discriminated in the region and their Arab roots. Rather than follow a group of musicians, the last documentary New Muslim Cool, focuses on the story of Puerto Rican American rapper Hamza Perez who stopped using drugs twelve years ago, converted to Islam, and now is part of the rap duo M-team.

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The Musawah Movement

A group of women from around the world met in Malaysia to launch the Musawah movement for gender equality and family law reform (photo via Musawah.org).

A group of women from around the world met in Malaysia to launch the Musawah movement for gender equality and family law reform (photo via Musawah.org).

Soon after religious authorities outlawed yoga earlier this year, Muslim women asked, “what next?” Irritated and outraged by their mistreatment and angered by the horrors of domestic violence, hundreds of Muslim women from around the world gathered last February in Malaysia. This global meeting marked the official launch of the Musawah movement for equal rights and family reform.

An organization of working professionals called Sisters in Islam led planning of the movement and the launch event. For an interview with Sisters in Islam program manager Norhayati Kaprawi, visit the page for our Inside Islam radio show “Women and Sharia.” Women involved in the Malaysian conference also included scholars, doctors, lawyers, and even bloggers who represented countries from across the globe.

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Digital Islam

In an earlier post here on Inside Islam, we discussed “Understanding Islam Through Virtual Worlds,” a documentary in the online world of Second Life. The term we used to describe the project — “digital Islam” — is actually a popular term. In fact, a research project under the same name follows similar developments more broadly. As the tagline for Digital Islam says, the site follows “research on the Middle East, Islam, and digital media.”

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Hijablogging and Islamic Fashion

The hijab, one of the most prominent symbols of Islam, is apparently undergoing a modernization. According to a post by Global Voices blogger Jillian C. York, the trend is highly visible online. Blogs dedicated to hijabi fashion and personal experiences of wearing one can be found around the Internet. Below is a video from one so-called hijab blogger, and at the end of this entry, you will find a list of other sites to check out in addition.

Videoblogger Paintyourworld tells the virtual world about how she defines beauty in this entry posted on YouTube:

High fashion is one of the most popular subjects on hijab blogs. Take designer Saouli for instance. She is one of many designers leading the way in modest, yet trendy (and even couture) Islamic dress. Hijablog follows such designers and other hijab fashion trends. In fact, one entry points to a style complete with aviator sunglasses by another innovative designer Nadiah Ramli.

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Dutch Film “Fitna” Screened by the US Senate

In an earlier post on Inside Islam, we introduced Senator John Kerry’s proposed series of hearings on “Engaging with Muslim Communities Around the World.” For the first in this series, Kerry invited prominent Muslim American leaders to be part of a council to inform the hearings in Washington DC. Council members included Eboo Patel and Dalia Mogahed. When news came that there would also be a screening of the Dutch Film Fitna before the US Senate on the same day, the greater Muslim community became involved as well.

Senator Jon Kyl (Republican from Arizona) sponsored the Fitna screening and invited the filmmaker and Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders to visit to Capitol Hill to speak. Wilders is well known now around the world for declaring that the Koran be banned from the Netherlands just “like Mein Kamph.” He now faces civil charges for allegedly breaking a Dutch law that states citizens cannot be insulted in public on the basis of religion or race.

In an op-ed column for The New York Times, author Ian Buruma frames the controversy quite well. Should Wilders be sentenced under this law or protected by free speech? Buruma explains that:

Comparing a book that billions hold sacred to Hitler’s murderous tract is more than an exercise in literary criticism; it suggests that those who believe in the Koran are like Nazis, and an all-out war against them would be justified. This kind of thinking, presumably, is what the Dutch law court is seeking to check.

Ultimately, as Buruma points out, it’s up to Dutch courts to decide if Wilders is guilty. However, the fact that Muslim communities in the Netherlands and in America have also been able to come up with productive and innovative responses is clear. A Muslim TV station in the Netherlands said they would produce the film in return for a live interview with Wilders, but he declined the offer. Instead, he produced the short film himself and posted it onto YouTube. In the US, many people responded with letters in support of Kerry’s efforts to create bridges with the Muslim world, and encouraged him to set additional hearings.

A report from the Islamic Information Center (IIC) says it’s most important to continue:

the meaningful dialoge [sic] and constructive work that is taking place between America’s elected leaders and Muslim American leadership.

Alongside other organizations and responders, the IIC helped to organize a democratic, community-led response to Fitna and inform others about the situation. Mainly, the new message was that radical Islam does not in fact represent the voice of all Muslims.

Films like Fitna or Obsession, released in the US last year, distort the real problems that exist in Islam today. They arguably play more on people’s fears of an Islamic threat than speak truth to real issues like terrorism or extremism. However, the main concern in this case was first and foremost that Fitna not overshadow the importance of dialogue and continuing the series of Senate hearings.

Have you seen the film Fitna? Did you watch Senator Kerry’s hearing in January? What are your thoughts? If you’d like to respond, leave a comment below or send it by email.

Update: According to the Guardian UK, Geert Wilders has plans to release a second film about Islam.

Dalia Mogahed on Inside Islam

Senior analyst and executive director for the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies Dalia Mogahed is on campus for Islam Awareness Week, presented in part by the Lubar Institute of the Study of Abrahamic Religions. Dalia is also involved in the Muslim West Facts Project, the largest survey of religious attitudes of Muslims world-wide. The findings were published in the book “Who Speaks for Islam?” For background on this book and on the project more generally, check out a couple of entries that we have published here on Inside Islam. Today, Dalia joins us here on Inside Islam to answer a couple of questions about her work.
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President Obama in Turkey

Giancarlo Casale, a reader of Inside Islam: Dialogues and Debates writes:

A day after his departure, Turks are still basking in the afterglow of President Barack Obama’s first visit to their country. His arrival on Sunday night followed weeks of anxious speculation about the reasons for his visit, concerns that he would be unprepared to navigate bewildering minefield of Turkish politics, and dark rumors that he intended to publicly embarrass the country by raising delicate issues that continue to weigh on its collective conscience. But now all of this is a distant memory. “Hussein” has taken the country by storm.

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Jihad for Love Radio Show Today

It isn’t easy to be gay and Muslim. In the same week that Iowa ruled on gay marriage and Vermont voted on it, The New York Times is reporting that gays are risking murder in Iraq by coming out. The headline reports:

In the past two months, the bodies of as many as 25 boys and men suspected of being gay have turned up in the huge Shiite enclave of Sadr City, the police and friends of the dead say. Most have been shot, some multiple times. Several have been found with the word ‘pervert’ in Arabic on notes attached to their bodies.

The article went on to say that the speculation is that these young men were killed by family members. Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders will be following the story in our live show today at 3 pm central called Jihad for Love.

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Sofia Baig: Spoken Word Artist and Activist

Daughter of the Sand Album Cover

Daughter of the Sand Album Cover

Sofia Baig, a twenty one year old Canadian spoken word artist of Pakistani, Chinese and Spanish descent uses her poetry to speak out against discrimination, prejudice, and her personal struggles. What makes Baig fascinating is that her own personal journey represents the struggle of many Muslim youth growing up in Western countries. Although Baig grew up in a Muslim family, she did not practice the rituals of the faith as a child but definitely identified herself as Muslim.

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President Obama to Visit Kazakhstan

The speaker of the Senate (upper house) of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Qasymzhomart Toqayev, is quoted as saying that President Barack Obama is expected to visit Kazakhstan soon as part of a wider tour of Central Asia. According to RFE-RL, President Obama met with Toqayev in Istanbul this week and told him he planned to become the first US president to visit the oil-producing country. United States oil companies have major investments in Kazakhstan, and most recently Kazakhstan has agreed to allow transit of non-military supplies to support NATO trips in Afghanistan across Tajikistan and Uzbekistan via the territory of Kazakhstan. For additional details on this matter see “Kazakhstan Says Expects U.S President To Visit” on Radio Free Europe.

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