Yusuf Islam: Some will associate Orlando with Islam – that’s criminal

I am here to talk to Yusuf Islam, the Muslim singer and humanitarian formerly

known as Sixties icon Cat Stevens, about his charity concert for child refugees at

Westminster’s Central Hall tonight.

But the mass shooting at Florida gay club Pulse by an alleged Islamic State

terrorist has overtaken us. “This guy is demented, a distortion, and it is

detestable and horrendous, but it does not reflect Islam,” says Yusuf, 67, who

looks like a benign if nattily dressed cleric.

“Yes, some people will try and associate this incident with Islam as a whole —

Donald Trump, probably — and that’s criminal.

You wouldn’t blame the whole of Britain for those football hooligans who have

gone to Marseille.”

He sounds slightly exasperated, once again compelled to defend the faith he

embraced in 1977 after almost drowing off Malibu.

But with Orlando gunman Omar Mateen’s father stating that homosexuals should

be “punished by God”, and fears of an attack at London’s own Pride celebrations,

I wonder if Yusuf will express solidarity with the gay community when he gets

on stage tonight.

“I don’t think I need to,” he says. “That’s the problem with tagging these things

with ‘Islam’. The most important thing Islam preserves is the privacy of one’s

sexual activity.

It’s up to you how you behave behind closed doors or in the privacy of your own

bedroom. We are here for a humanitarian cause and we don’t want to dis-focus

from the issue, which is the lone refugee.”

Of the estimated five million people displaced by the murder spree of IS, the war

in Syria and unrest in Iraq and Afghanistan, one million have sought refuge in

Europe, and 95,000 of those are children travelling alone.

It is these children, who may have experienced nothing but conflict, and who

may never know a stable home or school life, that Yusuf wants to help.

So through his charity Small Kindness he has hooked up with Save the Children

and Penny Appeal to highlight their plight. He has recorded a new song, He Was

Alone, created the campaign hashtag #YouAreNotAlone, and arranged the gig.

The disparate likes of Ricky Gervais, Steve McQueen, Naomi Campbell, Emma

Thompson, several Kardashians, New Order, Queen and Miley Cyrus’s Happy

Hippie Foundation have all pledged support.

The idea “came out of just watching the news on a daily basis: seeing the tragedy

unfolding, refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean, trying to get to safer

lands”, says Yusuf (I’ll call him that to avoid confusion).
http://www.standard.co.uk/showbiz/celebrity-news/yusuf- islam-some- will-

associate-orlando- with-islam- thats-criminal- a3271121.html

In Washington, Muslims gather to get ‘Happy’ for the camera

April 22, 2014

 

A young man drummed on a bucket as a portable speaker played the uber-upbeat song “Happy,” Pharrell Williams’s anthem to joy and to the pure communal value of boogying in the street that has engendered countless copycat videos across the globe.

Because I’m happy — Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth . . .

Malik, 39, and Salma skipped through a gantlet of applause and cheering.

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you . . .

Jamal, wearing a thobe, and Kareem, in jeans, performed a high-stepping routine of their own. Behind them and in front of them, husbands and wives, parents and children, and total strangers bounced and shimmied and twirled as curious passersby stopped to watch and the camera rolled.

They were brought together by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which advocates for U.S. Muslims, and which last week announced a plan to help steer susceptible members of their communities away from radical Islamist ideology, and Make Space, a Washington-area organization for Muslim professionals and youth.

The video comes on the heels of a version depicting British Muslims that has garnered 1.2 million YouTube views. Like that one, this will show Muslims old and young, male and female, wearing headscarves or letting their hair flow freely — all embracing the concept of happiness.

“It sort of happened in a grass-roots sense — a couple of days ago I posted on Facebook and we put the word out yesterday,” Hasan Shah, Make Space’s board chairman, said Tuesday. “It was something that everyone wanted to do, because it could be done within the boundaries of our religion. It’s not provocative, it’s not risque in any sense.” After all, he said, happiness “is neither Eastern nor Western, it’s universal.”

Still, the British version, called “Happy British Muslims” has been controversial in some circles, underlining the challenges Muslims can face when trying to create art in a Western context.

While many Muslims were elated by the video and wanted to copy it immediately, some said it violated Islam’s law or at least its spirit of modesty, particularly with women dancing and singing in public. Others felt it was humiliating and unnecessary to prove that members of the planet’s second-largest religion are, in fact, happy.

But the 50 or so Muslims who gathered at McPherson Square were hardly encumbered by these concerns — though the organizers did remind them to limit their gyrations to the upper half of the body.

The song’s contagious popularity seemed like a perfect vehicle for that, said Haris Tarin, the D.C. director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “Since this song has gone viral, we thought, why not take advantage of it? It may be a little wacky, a little out of the ordinary . . . but it gives that idea of the American Muslims in the public square.”

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/in-washington-muslims-gather-to-get-happy-for-the-camera/2014/04/22/c2dd9108-ca34-11e3-93eb-6c0037dde2ad_story.html

Diesel Burqa Ad: Islamophobic Or Empowering?

(RNS) Islamophobic or empowering? Those are among the reactions to a new Diesel jeans ad featuring a heavily tattooed, topless white woman wearing a redesigned, denim burqa.

The slogan next to her: “I Am Not What I Appear To Be.”

Racist and condescending are among the criticisms that have been leveled at the ad, created by Nicola Formichetti, former stylist to Lady Gaga, who made waves last month with her song “Burqa.” But others, including a female Muslim marketing consultant who advised Diesel, said the idea was to make people question assumptions and stereotypes.

“This was to challenge that idea that when you see a woman in a burqa, or niqab or even hijab, that you assume certain things about her,” said Ameena Meer, an observant Muslim and founder and principal of Take-Out Media, the consulting firm that advised Diesel.

Not everyone sees it that way. Sana Saeed, senior editor at the Islamic legal news website Islawmix, tweeted that she has dreaded the day when capitalism would consume the veil.

And Shruti Parekh, a New York City videographer and member of the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective, wrote that the ad is “rife with Islamophobia and attacks on the Muslim world.”

While Muslim women in the West who wear burqas must suffer through negative connotations and open hostility, Parekh wrote, the white model in Diesel’s ad doesn’t.

A Mayor Who Puts Wall Street First

Mr. Bloomberg was keen to take on the impossible, or at least the seemingly so. And he did. A man whose public personality came in a plain brown wrapper presided during an era of radical change and rebirth in the city, much of it fostered by his administration.

 

On March 15 of last year, at a moment when many New Yorkers found themselves increasingly disturbed by revelations that the Police Department had conducted constitutionally suspect surveillance of Muslim communities, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made an unplanned visit to the offices of Goldman Sachs.

 

The mood had grown sour among some of the city’s most amply compensated plutocrats. The day before, Greg Smith, an executive director in the company’s equity derivatives business, announced his resignation, in an Op-Ed page article in The New York Times, declaring that the previous decade had left Goldman’s culture so steeped in avarice and self-interest, so utterly disdainful of its clients, that he no longer found it morally tenable to work there.

 

It was not simply that he was such an obvious champion of the financial industry, but also that in the city he ran he could barely brook any dissent of it.

 

The siren song of large numbers led the city to multiply the number of people that the police stopped and frisked. He was not naturally inclined to soaring oratory, so on his rare forays, the eloquence was indelible. Practically alone among elected officials in the United States, Mr. Bloomberg spoke in 2010 for the right of a Muslim group to open a mosque a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center attacks, citing the founding principles of the nation. As he stood on Governors Island, with the Statue of Liberty visible over his shoulder, Mr. Bloomberg said: “We would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in Lower Manhattan.”

 

Last week, during a news conference in City Hall, the same mayor snarled at a judge for ruling that in searching the pockets of millions of young black and Latino men who had done nothing wrong, the police and the city had violated their constitutional rights. The moment lacked even a whisper of the grace that had made his voice so powerful on Governors Island.

 

But the Constitution protects the rights of individuals and does not recognize the laws of large numbers. It requires that the more invasive an action the authorities take against a person, the greater the cause must be.

 

Asked on Monday about a judge’s order that the police wear body cameras in five precincts for a year, to document precisely what was happening in the streets, Mr. Bloomberg seemed especially angry. A “nightmare,” he said. He insisted the test would fail: a police officer might turn his or her head and the camera would miss the action.

 

The judge said it would be an experiment, a pilot project for a year, but Mr. Bloomberg wasn’t having it. “It is a solution that is not a solution,” he declared.

Young Muslim musicians marry faith, hip-hop, rock ‘n’ roll

In the early 1970s, singers such as the late Larry Norman transformed Christian music from hymns to rock ‘n’ roll by asking one simple question:

Why should the devil have all the good music?

Now a group of young Muslim musicians is doing the same for Islamic songs known as “nasheeds,” by combining hip-hop, country and pop music with the traditional message of their faith.

“Nasheeds are supposed to remind people of God,” said 22-year-old Mo Sabri of Johnson City, Tenn., one of the first Muslim singers with his own channel on Pandora.com. “If it has a good message, a song can be a rock song or have guitars and still be a nasheed.”

Sabri, 22, first began writing hip-hop nasheeds about two years ago. He sells his songs on iTunes and posts videos on YouTube. His first, called “Heaven Is Where Her Heart Is,” is about finding a girl who puts God first in her life.

His most popular song, “I Believe in Jesus,” has already been viewed on YouTube more than 1 million times.

Sabri said he wrote the song as a reminder that Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet and that all faiths should follow Jesus’ command to love their neighbors. It’s an idea that’s easier to spread in a song than in a debate because people will sing along before they have a chance to argue.

 

Supposed Fatwa against Iranian Rapper Shahin Najafi *”We Will Continue with Our Work”*

Iran’s grand ayatollah has issued what many have interpreted to be a fatwa against the rapper Shahin Najafi, who has lived in Germany for the past seven years. In this interview with Shahram Ahadi, Najafi gives his take on the situation

Shahin Najafi is an Iranian rapper who has lived in Germany since 2005. His songs are known to be critical of socio-political developments in his home country. His latest song, “Naghi”, which was named after the tenth imam in Shia Islam, has caused a stir in Iran. The lyrics call on him in a sarcastic and almost obscene way to come back to life and end the catastrophic status quo in Iran. Iran’s 92-year-old Grand Ayatollah Safi Golpaygani said: “If the song contains any insults or indecency towards Imam Naghi, then it is blasphemy, and God knows what to do.” The Iranian press interpreted the statement as a fatwa against Najafi. But a theologian in Tehran on Thursday, 10 May, put the comment into context: “The grand ayatollah has not issued a fatwa. He was answering a question about the defamation of a Shia saint … “


Diam’s, France’s female rapper: the rebel submits to Islam

France’s currently most successful rapper, Diam’s, has turned to an entirely religious life. The 29-year-old woman, who converted to Islam in 2000, has so far not displayed her religion publicly or reflected about it in her lyrics. She was rather known for her rebellious and feminist position, voicing the needs of youths from Paris’s banlieues.

Now Diam’s has released a new album, “S.O.S”, which is very different from her previous ones in terms of lyrics and underlying ideas. Diam’s struggle is no longer for freedom and equal rights, but rather for traditional gender roles. “Because no one can change these roles,” she assured in her song “Rose du bitume”. If her husband was a Kalashnikov, she sings, she would gladly be the shoulder supporting him.

Diam’s has also decided to put on the veil, which many fans and feminists regard as a step backwards. The artist, who suffered mentally from a difficult upbringing, claims that where doctors failed to help her, religion will now step in. She refuses to explain her decision to journalists.

Yusuf Islam embarks on his first tour in 33 years

Musician and song-writer Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, is going on tour again after a 33-year break. After converting to Islam in 1977, he stopped performing altogether, and only resumed his musical career around 2001. He slightly changed his position on the permissibility of music in Islam, and from then on performed music that he considers halal, using only particular instruments and placing a strong emphasis on the spiritual or philosophical lyrics.

He opened his comeback on stage with a concert in Dublin, which saw a sold-out arena and enthusiastic fans, but also some angry reactions. A small group within the audience marred the show by booing and some abusive comments. In a reaction statement in The Times, Yusuf Islam said he was shocked and these people should not expect him “to return to the Cat Stevens persona of yesterday”, but also that he is glad to be back.

Dutch broadcaster airs “Islam song” for children

Kinderen voor Kinderen (Children for Children), the children’s choir of Dutch public broadcaster VARA, has composed a song featuring Islam. The well known choir releases a CD every year that they subsequently sing on VARA. On Tuesday evening the annual performance included a song with the refrain “Allah Akbar”.

The song has drawn criticism from the Freedom Party (PVV). Telegraaf reports that party spokesperson Martin Bosma questions why the broadcaster is showing a song which repeats “Allah Akbar” 27 times. Bosma claims this is the third time that the public broadcaster is directing “Islam-propaganda” at children, and references events earlier this year around a children’s television show depicting the celebration of Eid al-Adha.

Jihad in Web 2.0: Interactive Propaganda

For years now extremist websites have been spreading the word of Osama bin Laden via his video messages. Now the propaganda of hate and violence is also turning increasingly to the so-called Web 2.0.

To the strains of Arab-Islamic melodies a masked Muslim sings about Jihadism, his song providing the background to images of Islamic terrorist attacks.

Jens Kutscher, lecturer in law at the University of Erlangen, came across the Islamist propaganda film on YouTube, together with hundreds of others of a similar nature calling for armed struggle to be taken up against the USA and the rest of the western world. Jens Rosbach reports.