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Islamic Hip Hop and R&B

Date: 20/02/2013 A.D 10/02/1434 H

As mentioned on spnsume.com, a musical duo from Bristol is making a film about their lives as converts to Islam called the Hip Hop Hijabis.

Sukina Owen-Douglas and Tanya Muneera Williams met at a talent show, formed their partnership and converted to Islam in 2005 after exploring different belief system, partly inspired by the autobiography of Malcolm X, despite some concerns about the position of Muslim women.

The pair, known as Poetic Pilgrimage, said they hope they can go some way in challenging attitudes about Islam with their music but they are not trying to preach. Their lyrics discuss the issues of identity, immigration, and global politics. It has been described that “they are reclaiming Islam’s spirit of social justice, and their lyrics are uncompromising and raw.”  

They bonded over their love of music, passion for social justice, spiritual curiosity and shared Jamaican heritage.A close friendship developed and eventually manifested itself as Poetic Pilgrimage.

After further research they feel convinced that cultural traditions and misinterpretations have distorted the egalitarian message of early Islam and decide to challenge certain attitudes via catchy tunes and hard-hitting rhymes. 

The film’s producer, MittyRietzel, expressed that the movie is a feature documentary about ‘Poetic Pilgrimage’. Two Muslim converts promoting women's rights through music; and finding their own voices on the way. “We have lots of great footage but need your help to finish the film!We receive all donations, regardless of whether we reach our target, and this will enable us to begin the editing process. The more edited material we have, the better our chances of success when applying for additional funding. If every visitor had donated £5 we would be way beyond our goal by now, so even small contributions really do count!”  

As mentioned in Medeastposts.com, “By gaining insight into the mindset and daily lives of two outspoken female Muslim converts, Hip Hop Hijabis aims to dispel some of the misconceptions that cause such polarized views, especially around the issue of gender equality, which was a major concern for Sukina and Muneera when they initially felt drawn to the religion.

Researching the question further they found that in historical terms Islam was radically egalitarian, - condemning the common practice of female infanticide and introducing rights of inheritance, divorce and education for women at a time when they were generally considered their husbands property. They also learnt that customs such as female genital cutting and honor killings predate Islam and are not sanctioned by the Quran.

By speaking out against these cultural traditions from within an Islamic framework, Poetic Pilgrimage is part of a growing number of Muslim artists, activists and intellectuals reclaiming their religion.

Doing so through the language of Hip Hop has unintentionally become a statement in itself, as some interpretations of Islam consider music and female performance to be forbidden.

The advantage is that through their skilful rhymes, catchy beats and positive energy Poetic Pilgrimage can reach a wide audience, - both European Muslim youth who may be feeling trapped between cultures, and non-Muslims, whose stereotypes are efficiently challenged by two hijab-wearing rappers.

Though Hip Hop and religion may initially seem like unlikely partners, they both stem from a strong desire for social justice, and there have always been a large number of Muslim artists within the genre. A wide network of educational initiatives has developed around it, encouraging creative expression through Hip Hop as an alternative to violence, drugs and other destructive behaviour.”

Another series of videos that have been circulating all over youtube.com is by “Farid Al Hadi”, an Indonesian Singaporean R&B artist of Arab descent. As mentioned on his website, Farid is a practicing Muslim who hopes to create quality, Islamic songs that are comparable to mainstream popular music. Farid embraces all parts of his identity, which he also expresses in music.

His album “Scratch” constituents a series of soundtracks which discuss issues that touch Muslims deeply, such as the issue of Hijab and repentance. He also touches upon topics that express the suffering of believers in a world of sin, immorality, and getting caught up in “Dunya”.

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