The Power of an Image

Big  beards, burning flags, women donning niqabs on a dusty road. I think we’re all a bit underwhelmed by the pathetic variety of images that we’re bombarded with on television related to Muslims and Islam. The saturation of media in all of its forms, from youtube to twitter to 24-hour cable news, has doused us with an unimaginable amount of imagery and information. And yet, only a very slim percentage of that content related to Muslims and Islam is positive.

Enter the Narcicyst a.k.a. Narcy. If short videos, 160-character messages, and 30-second newscasts get people’s attention, this Montreal-based, Basra-originating hip-hop artist and his Palestinian-British backup singer sidekick, Shadia Mansour, want in.

Earlier this fall, they released Humdulilah, a music video praising God and featuring flashing closeups of nearly 200 Muslims’ faces from eight different countries. Humdulilah, a common expression of Arabic speakers of all religions, translates as “Praise to God” or “All Praise is due to God” and is similar to the Hebrew phrase Halelu Yah and the westernized Hallelujah. Narcy’s criticism of governments and militants, and praise for his family and faith, dominate the beats.

While Narcy’s rhymes are poignant and powerful — “God, while we on the subject, please cut the string of the political puppets” — the imagery in the the video is what captures the viewer immediately. Quick shots of his mother, sister, and wife are among those of imams, artists, and various other Muslims, displaying an array of faces, races, and places. Each image, with its rhythmic entrance, complimenting Narcy’s lyrical wordplay, captures the viewer and tells its own story.

It’s these stories that need to be told. Who are Muslims, what is Islam? Humdulilah, is a start.

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