February 1st, 2007 16:47 EST
Muslim Rappers Use Voice of Youth To Promote Tolerance
Washington -- The root cause of intolerance is ignorance, says Naeem Muhammad of Native Deen, a popular Muslim American hip-hop music group. The more we learn about each other the more tolerant we will be. "
The members of Native Deen argue that Islam always has been a tolerant religion and say that because Islam does not favor one culture over another, it is possible to educate both Western and Middle Eastern audiences about being Muslim in America through the language of hip-hop.
When we perform in Western countries, people see a positive image of Islam, " said Native Deen member Joshua Salaam in a USINFO webchat February 1. When we perform in Muslim countries, we are also promoting tolerance because some people believe that every person in the West is bad. There are a lot of good Muslims living in the West -- and good people in general. "
Native Deen traveled in fall 2006 to London, Turkey, Dubai, the Palestinian Territories and Israel on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, incorporating the teachings of Islam into songs about respect and humanity. In Dubai, Native Deen won the 2006 Mahabba Award at an event showcasing musicians, artists and filmmakers inspired to spread Islam through art. (See related article.)
Deen " is the Arabic word for religion, " or way of life, and many of the lyrics in the group`s raps use both English and Arabic words.
You would think that because our style is hop-hop that we would frequently get trouble from clerics, " Salaam said. But, in fact, everywhere Native Deen performs, the group is embraced by Islamic scholars and leaders, Salaam said. The group bases its raps on the teachings of the Quran, and because some Muslims believe that wind and string instruments should be avoided in Islam, the group uses only percussion instruments.
As African Americans growing up in America, Salaam said, they viewed hip-hop as their language, so when the group expresses itself musically, it comes out as hip-hop. " Hip-hop came from the West but has origins in the East, he said, and now it is the voice of youth around the world. (See related article.)
Life is what inspires us to write the way we do, " Salaam said. Our target audience in the beginning was Muslim youth. Now we write for anyone who wants to be inspired and loves good music. We are finding now that Muslims and non-Muslims love our music. "
The world has used music as a bridge to other cultures and to one another for centuries, according to Salaam.
We have fans from all age groups and from all ethnic groups, " he said. It is the positive message that brings people together. "
The transcript of Native Deen`s discussion and information on upcoming webchats are available on USINFO`s Webchat Station.
For more information on U.S. society, see Population and Diversity and International Religious Freedom.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)By Carolee Walker
USINFO Staff Writer