What’s in a Name?

Artistic rendition of then Mos Def. Source: Lisafordblog.com

This past fall, Brooklyn-based international hip hop star Mos Def (Dante Terrell Smith) announced that he is changing his name in 2012 to Yasiin Bey. Bey reverted to Islam in 1992 at the age of 19, just before his career as a hip hop artist took off. Famous for his collaboration with Talib Kweli in the duo Black Star and subsequent solo work, Bey will move forward with his music and acting careers under his new name. This Friday, Bey will officially perform under his new identity for the first time and rap in front of hometown fans at New York City’s Highline Ballroom.

The decision to change his name highlights an issue faced by many Muslims. Since approximately one fourth of all practicing Muslims in the US identify as reverts or converts, it’s a common topic for many that taps into a range of emotions related to personal identity.

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Islamic Society of North America Conference

This past July 4th weekend, in the miacpc11dst of all the Independence Day celebrations, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) held its 46th annual convention in the U.S. capital. The four-day conference with the theme “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” attracted an estimated 40,000 Muslims from the U.S., Canada, and other countries. ISNA’s annual conference, considered to be the largest gathering of Muslim Americans, typically takes place on Labor Day weekend; however, with the start of Ramadan in August this year, the conference was moved to an earlier date.

Anyone attending ISNA knows that it is four days of non-stop activity with lectures, interactive sessions, an art exhibit, a film festival, an entertainment event which brings together all different talents of the Muslim communities, and of course the bazaar where you can find anything from books about all aspects of Islam to information on matrimonial sites. Each year’s conference also has special events and this year’s conference featured several, including the Interfaith Unity Reception with the theme “Common Word between Us and You” which aimed to make connections between the three Abrahamic faiths and included a panel discussion between representatives of each faith, in the spirit of President Obama’s June 4th speech in Cairo and Valerie Jarett’s (Senior Advisor and Assistant to President Obama’s Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs) keynote address on the contributions of Muslim Americans. Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, even made an appearance at the conference. Continue reading