Nowadays, Yemen is often associated with a growing Al-Qaeda movement and seen to be a breeding ground for terrorism. Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American cleric, has become an example not only of the growing terrorist influence in Yemen but also in America. However, this is obviously not all there is to Yemen, just as it is not all there is to Islam. Many Muslims artists have used hip-hop and rap to relay messages of change and peace. While one may not think of rap in the context of Yemen, this needs to change. Yemeni-American Hagage “AJ” Masaed, has been rapping for many years and is using this medium to reach the younger generation and to counter extremist messages.
Raised in Ohio, AJ became interested in using rap to educate. Before moving to Yemen, AJ composed music about his Arab and Muslim roots to educate Americans. Now, he is using his music to make a call for peace. AJ blends Arabic melodies with hip hop beats and sings about issues like combating terrorism and poverty. His latest single called “No Terrorists Please” speaks to the issue of peace and tolerance over violence and hate. For him, the ones who suffer are the Yemeni people. In one line of the song, he says, “You know if terrorists strike, hoo ihna thee nikhsar (we are the ones who lose).” In another line, he says, “Almu iyalkom (teach your children) something other than hate/ wa inshallah (and God willing), through them, Yemen’ll be great.”
While music may not be able to solve all the problems of Yemen, it is an important medium to reach out to the youth and to tell them that extremism is not the way to address the country’s woes and that it does not fit within Islam.
What do you associate with Yemen? Have you heard of AJ? Do you think music can bring change? Please leave your comments below.