Thursday, March 23, 2006

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

african american muslims: what's their future

Here is an interesting series of thoughts found on another blog. Among other things, it compares the spending habits and family life of African-American Muslims to African-Americans generally.

African American Muslims. What’s their future?
African American Muslims. What’s their future? Part 2

Monday, March 20, 2006

easing tensions over race, religion in detroit

Heads-up from Marqas
News & Notes with Ed Gordon, March 17, 2006 · Tensions have existed for decades in Detroit, where the nation's largest community of Arab Americans lives near a predominantly black inner-city. But the two communities have successfully managed to reach out to one another. Jerome Vaughn of Detroit Public Radio reports.
NPR: Easing Tensions over Race, Religion in Detroit

Friday, March 10, 2006

30 Min. Megamix from the music of Muslim rapper Paris...Listen and pass it on!!!

-Adisa Banjoko

Blessed are the peacemakers...

Afrika Bambaataa Brokers Peace Between KRS and Adisa

by Davey D

Yesterday March 9th on the anniversary of what was the 9th anniversary of the tragic slaying of the Notorious BIG, a good thing happened that would hopefully send a signal to people that his and 2Pac’s death did not happen in vain. A peaceful resolution between two high profile individuals within Hip Hop who have a had a war of words for more then a year was established. This war of words escalated intoan unfortunate and ugly incident at a Conference held at Stanford University this past weekend. We’re talking about the Blastmaster KRS-One and writer Adisa Banjoko.

The original source of their conflict is not that important. In all due respect, we should be focused on the lack of progress by our government in restoring the 9th Ward in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Can you believe there are still scores of un-recovered bodies there?We should be focused on the war between the garbage being spewed by commercial radio under the banner of Hip Hop.

We should be concerned about all the new laws and designed to snatch our liberties by the guy who sits in the house on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in Washington DC.But with all that being said, what took place yesterday was a beautiful thing.Hip Hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa got the two men together and helped work through the conflict.

During the intense conversation both men came to see that there’s a larger picture in terms of protecting Hip Hop and dealing with some very real outside enemies that are attacking the culture and our communities.Both KRS and Adisa talked like grown men with a sense of purpose and showed respect for one another as they agreed that this conflict should not have played itself in the public stage the way that it had and that it was now time for them to put all this behind them and move on to bigger things that need their attention.Both men also agreed that there were some hurtful things they have said to and about each other.

They also owned up to some of the actions they undertaken have reflected poor judgment and could've been done differently and more importantly, more respectfully. That included the way things were handled this past weekend on Saturday at Stanford by KRS on down to the way Adisa initially challenged KRS to a debate on his philosophy.

Both men also clearly understood that it's important to stand up and show the world that folks can have major disagreements and still come to a peaceful resolution while maintaining their respective view points… In other words there’s room for everyone to co-exist.They also came to the conclusion of keeping the lines of communication open.A big shout is in order to Afrika Bambaataa who demonstrated true leadership that was reflected yesterday in his years of handling and dealing with conflicts… His example and wisdom is one that we can all learn from and follow… Hip Hop needs that now.

Big shout out to KRS and Adisa for keeping it real and seeing the greater good… I ran into KRS last night at his show in LA at the Viper Room and he was not only on fire, but feeling pretty damn good things got worked out. I spoke with Adisa who also felt good and is ready to focus his attention on other pressing issues like the current Black-Brown conflicts that seem to be plaguing certain areas of the Golden State.

I would like to thank Allah, my wife, Afrika Bambaataa, Fabel and Aziza, the entire Universal Zulu Nation, Davey D, Shamako Noble of Hip Hop Congress, Clyde Smith, Usama Canon, Karen Johnson of Marcus Books and the many beautiful hearts in between for their insight and help in making peace a reality. R.I.P. B.I.G.

Ma Salaam,
Adisa Banjoko, "The Bishop of Hip Hop"

Thursday, March 09, 2006

islam and revitalizing urban communities

From Crescent Life: "Unveiling" Islam: New Roles and Resources Toward The Revitalization of Urban Communities by Jaleel Abdul-Adil is a brief article which speaks some on the relationship between Islamic activism, community organizing, and community organizing, with an emphasis on the Chicago-based, Inner City Muslim Action Network.

muslim rappers meld music and message

Associated Press

CHICAGO — When David Kelly — aka "Capital D" — raps, he doesn't follow the mainstream mantra of women, cars and jewelry.

Instead, the Chicago rapper uses his rhymes to dish out praise for Allah, criticize the war in Iraq and blast corporate America.

Kelly is among a new group of Muslim rap artists gaining popularity among Muslim Americans looking for entertainment that reflects both their mainstream tastes and religious beliefs.

"Muslims in the United States are not going away. They're part of the culture, but they're not creating their own culture," Kelly said. "I try to show them that you can be creative, artistic, happy and still be Muslim."

Islam is not new to rap. The Nation of Islam and other nontraditional sects have influenced hip-hop through lyrics and images since the late 1970s. And Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has been mentioned and sampled in many raps.

But this new wave of Muslim-influenced music seeks to convey messages and images more in line with orthodox Islam.

"The music says I'm still an American, and I still want my culture. But I want to refine it so I can incorporate Islam into it, too," said Mike Shapiro, 23, who created the Web site earlier this year. "Muslims in America and Muslim youths really need this. They don't have anyone to relate to."

Kelly recently performed before about 80 people on Chicago's South Side as part of a monthly event organized by the Chicago-based Inner-City Muslim Action Network.

Audience members sipped tea and smoothies as Kelly performed several songs from his latest album, "Insomnia." For religious reasons, Kelly performs only in venues that don't serve alcohol when he is on stage.

"His stuff is really powerful and moving," Sabah Khan, 22, said after Kelly's performance. "I think it's important to support music that's positive. People say they listen to music on the radio because they say they like the beat. But you can have a beat and the song can have a positive message."

Kelly said his music hasn't always been politically charged. The rapper, who was raised Catholic, said that before he converted to Islam four years ago, his music lacked seriousness and discipline.

"Now I have a different agenda," he said. "If I am going to put an album out, I have to say something."

That kind of message-driven music also is at the heart of Remarkable Current, an Oakland, Calif.-based record label that features several hip-hop artists. Though listeners may not realize the artists are Muslim when they first hear the music, they will notice the positive messages, founder Anas Canon said.

"I try to push an art out there that is loving and positive and a reflection of our spirituality," Canon said.

Yet Canon said he's had difficulty gaining acceptance from some in the Muslim community because of hip-hop's negative image and the debate over whether music is haram — forbidden — under Islamic law.

Abraham Marcus, a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said theologians have been addressing the issue of Islam and music for centuries.

"The most conservative view is music is essentially an evil force. It excites passions and incites lust," he said. "But the mainstream view is more tolerant. Mainstream authorities say music is admissible as long as it serves a good purpose."

Some of the mainstream hip-hop artists practicing orthodox Islam include Mos Def and Everlast. Others, such as Kelly, have a small but loyal following.

Not all perform in alcohol-free venues. And references to Islam vary in their music. But the list of Muslim rappers continues to grow.

"Most of the people not popular in mainstream talk more about Islam, and the artists who talk less about Islam are more popular," said Shapiro, a Los Angeles resident who created his Web site earlier this year after attending a hip-hop show at a mosque.

The site features discussion forums and music. It receives about 2,000 visitors a day, he said. "We're trying to provide a medium so Muslims can have something to do that's not in a mosque or — on the other extreme — in a bar," he said.

Kelly said that after he converted to Islam, he stopped performing while debating whether rap could co-exist with his Islamic beliefs.

The hiatus lasted nine months before Kelly reconciled morphing Islam and rap by deciding the music had to have a purpose. "Insomnia," which he released independently this fall, addresses not only Islam but also U.S. foreign policy, corporate America and the music industry.

"I wanted it to be a serious and focused album, and I know that has a lot to do with me being Muslim," he said.

Kelly said it will take orthodox American Muslims awhile to carve their own path in the hip-hop world, but he's optimistic.

"Muslims are starting to take the culture they listen to and creating their own culture in a very American way," Kelly said. "Islam hip-hop is very young in the process, and we'll have to bump heads for a while, but we'll make it."
Muslim Artists Central:
Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN):

the african palestinian connection

IMAN: The African Palestinian Connection

(First Appeared in the Muslim Journal)

By Rami Nashashibi
IMAN Executive Director and Co-Founder
Ph.D. Candidate
Sociology/ University of Chicago

Nestled amid the windy and ancient streets of Jerusalem’s Old City and on the way towards one of the busier doors leading into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the African Palestinian Community may slip past the mosque-bound passerby. For those who do take notice; a red, black and green map of the African continent with a superimposed map of Palestine containing the Dome of the Rock at its center would greet them as the proud insignia of the Palestinian African Community Center. The insignia emphasizes the community‘s triple heritage: African, Palestinian and Muslim. Unfortunately, the often over-looked center parallels the missed connections that most people make when thinking about the tremendously intertwined African and Palestinian legacies. No where is this connection more apparent then among the Palestinian Africans who are spread across Gaza and the West Bank. Within Jerusalem’s Old City, this community resides within 50 feet of the Aqsa Compound, which is often where the young children spend their cool summer evenings playing a game of soccer or taking a stroll.

Inside the center groups of young Palestinians are laughing and joking with one another as I walk in. The youth range in complexion from the more typical Palestinian earthy tan to a darker Sub-Saharan African brown.

This last summer I returned to Jerusalem, my late father’s birthplace and the city within which his family has deep roots, to visit the grave of my grandmother who had recently passed and to conduct a set of interviews with young Palestinians across the West Bank. Throughout my stay, I spent most of my free time around the Al-Aqsa Compound and with the Palestinian Africans, learning more about their history and lives.

Currently some forty African Palestinian families live inside the old city, many of whom reside within 50 feet of the center. Upon talking with Adam, the center’s young director, one gets a sense of how proud the community is of its identity. “Many of our ancestors were pious Muslims who came from across Africa to defend Al-Aqsa from military conquest,” I was told by Adam and others in the center. “They stayed and married and their children grew up here. “We are as Palestinian as anyone else but we also remember and our proud of where are great grandfathers came from and sometimes visit or stay in touch with our other family members in Africa.” Aside from the various wars which brought Muslims from Africa to safeguard the sanctity of its Muslim Holy Sites, other Africans settled in Palestine after spiritual pilgrimages to the land’s various holy sites, including of course the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Many Palestinian Africans have heroically managed to retain their presence in this incredibly important and highly symbolic space even while the oppressive closure policies of the Israelis makes life increasingly difficult in all kinds of ways. “They don’t want us to live,” said one of the community leaders. “They go around telling the world that we are savages and want to kill them all. This is ridiculous. Here I am telling you that I am Muslim, Palestinian and African and I have no problem living peacefully with the Jewish community and I condemn suicide bombings. But these people don’t even give us a chance. They make life impossible because they want us to leave Jerusalem but we will never leave. We will die here before we leave.” The sprawling growth of Israeli settler housing outside and within Jerusalem’s Old City seems to be in line with a policy that the city’s old Israeli mayor ten years ago dubbed as the “Judaization of Jerusalem.” The harsh realities of a population under military occupation punctuate the daily lives of these Palestinians who are often cut off from being visited or supported by Palestinians elsewhere in the West Bank or Gaza. Many of the first and second generation leaders of this community like most Palestinians have spent considerable time languishing in Israeli jails for offenses as minor as being rumored to have been at a protest.

In spite of the hardship, one finds a tremendously warm and hospitable environment among the young and old in this tightly knit community. The Palestinian African Community Center is one of the most active centers in the Old City and has multiple youth programs going on throughout the year. The center founders are very active in broader civic affairs of the Palestinians and often serve as alternative tour guides to the city. They take great pride is saying that they were visited by Imam W.D. Mohammed and other African American Muslims in the late 90s. Yet beyond just the Muslims the leaders from this community are attempting to reach out to all people of African heritage as a way to find ways to connect their often isolated communities. As evidence of such connections, they have formed a creative and dynamic relationship with African American Hebrew Israelities who migrated to Israel from places like Chicago under the leadership of Ben Yameen.

I have asked the members of the community if they experienced racism within larger Palestinian society. Some of the older members of the community talked to me about how issues of skin color would come up when a darker African Palestinian would try to marry a lighter Palestinian woman. As one older member of the community told me: “I know they wanted to say no because of my skin color but their daughter, whose is now my wife, was insistent that as Muslims they had no right to deny me.” For younger generations within the community there have been enough marriages between Palestinians of African descent and the larger community to make this less of an issue.

As an American Muslim who has spent more than a decade organizing or living on Chicago’s South Side, I can’t help but feel that the larger Palestinian American community has not celebrated the African part of our identity in the way that we should. Failing to do this has prevented segments of the Palestinian community from making more of a connection to the African American legacy and its struggles against institutionalized racism and white supremacy. Making that connection is imperative, particularly during opportune moments like Black History Month. Most African Americans residing in urban communities only interact with Palestinians through the presence of liquor stores or other exploitative businesses and a growing number of community activists have emerged as increasingly resentful of their presence. By embracing and celebrating their own African heritage during Black History Month, Palestinian and other Arab Muslims may grow to make more meaningful connections to the larger African American community, its rich legacy and its on-going struggles.

dr. jackson speech from iman's annual fundraising dinner

"While it was a cold Chicago night punctuated with the occasional snow flurries, people from all over the Chicagoland area packed the house Saturday evening at Malcolm X College to attend IMAN's Seventh Annual Fundraising Dinner. We once again well-exceeded our expectations concerning attendance and through the gracious fundraising talents of Dr. Ingrid Mattson and the many generous people in the room met our relatively modest but achievable fundraising goal for the evening. Dr Jackson and Imam Zaid both offered riveting and inspiring talks while the dignitaries, scholars, activists and artists in the hall all humbled and overwhelmed us with their supportive and profoundly important presence."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

the second message of islam

thanks to George Kelly, I found out about this page of links (books, journals, and articles) focusing on Islam and Africa. There is a good amount of interesting material there. Some of it on the scholarly side, dealing not just with "theology" but with culture and politics. And in multiple languages too (English, Spanish, French and Portuguese).

Right now, the piece which stands out the most for me is a pamphlet called: An Introduction To The Second Message of Islam, which briefly summarizes some of the ideas of Sudanese reformer Mahmoud Muhammad Taha. His basic idea seems to be that in the past, Muslim societies were only ready to implement a certain portion of the Quran. But in more recent times, after certain developments and changes have happened, we are able to understand and apply the Quran in a deeper way and we are ready for the "second message of Islam" which for Taha happens to include a vision of freedom, equality and democratic socialism.

Here is a website dedicated to the ideas of Mahmoud Muhammad Taha and here is the Wikipedia entry on him.