Inventing the Muslim Cool: Islamic Youth Culture in Western Europe
May, 2014 Paper, 270 pages, 17 b&w 1 color
ISBN: 978-3-8376-2511-0 Transcript-Verlag
In the current environment of a growing Muslim presence in Europe, young Muslims have started to develop a subculture of their own. The manifestations reach from religious rap and street wear with Islamic slogans to morally impeccable comedy. This form of religiously permissible fun and of youth-compatible worship is actively engaged in shaping the future of Islam in Europe and of Muslim/non-Muslims relations. Based on a vast collection of youth cultural artefacts, participant observations and in-depth interviews in France, Britain and Germany, this book provides a vivid description of Islamic youth culture and explores the reasons why young people develop such a culture.
Dr Maruta Herding is a sociologist at the German Youth Institute (Deutsches Jugendinstitut e.V.) in Halle, Germany. The book «Inventing the Muslim Cool» is the publication of her doctoral research, which she conducted at the University of Cambridge. Her research interests include the study of young people, subcultures and Muslims in Europe.
The subject matter of “Rebel Music: Race, Empire and the New Muslim Youth Culture” could not be more far-reaching unless its author, Hisham D. Aidi, had unearthed data about youth culture and musical influences on other planets. As far as Earth goes, his highly original and ambitious book has got it covered.
“Rebel Music” exhibits a breathtaking familiarity with different forms of radicalizing music and the widely different ways it is understood in different cultures, with a special emphasis on Islamic youth. Mr. Aidi starts his book simply in the South Bronx, an epicenter of young Muslims’ hip-hop obsession.
Mr. Aidi goes there, in part, because he hopes to talk to the French rap crew 3ème Oeil (Third Eye) from Marseille. They are equally glad to meet him when he tells them he’s from Columbia, mistaking the university (where he is a lecturer) with the record company. No matter. He has the illuminating experience of finding a French D.J. who says he has dreamed of visiting the Bronx his whole life, because his role model is the Bronx D.J. Afrika Bambaataa. Mr. Aidi meets others there who are simply searching for a Muslim-friendly environment. If this book has a unifying theme, it is the eagerness of young Muslims in every culture to find musical expression that feels honest and a safe haven in an endlessly combative world.
“Rebel Music” has no chance of ending on a note of peaceful resolution. But it does lay out an array of fascinating conflicts, taking on a subject that has rarely been addressed in book form. Its most tender chapter describes Judeo-Arabic music, which flowered in Algeria in the 1960s but later became a lightning rod for controversy. Like every topic brought up by Mr. Aidi’s jampacked compendium, it deserves a closer look.
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.
Young Muslims revealed the future of British Muslim music and art when four up-and-coming acts from across the UK triumphed at the Young Muslims (YMUK) national talent competition. Hamza Fletcher, Asia Ali, Rabi Niam and Safina Qamar performed their poetry, comedy, music and art alongside the leading Islamic Nasheed group Native Deen, before a packed audience in central London this weekend.
For the second year running the YMUK Talent Search highlighted some of the best and most successful Muslim upcoming artists across the UK. Hamza Fletcher, the extraordinary beat boxer from Birmingham, Asia Ali, an exciting new Somali comedian from Manchester, Rabi Niam, a unique and inspirational poet from East London, and Safina Qamar, the stunning visual artist from Manchester, all triumphed at this year’s event. The competition reflects the huge diversity of talents among today’s young Muslims.
The internet is a place for experiments, for pushing boundaries that mainstream television hasn’t yet got the stomach for. Living with the Infidels falls into this category. It’s a comedy — made, it should be emphasised, with the full blessing of the Muslim Council of Great Britain — about an inept Islamic terror cell based in Bradford.
The focus of the series, unsurprisingly, is the unlikely sounding prize of the 72 virgins that will greet a Muslim martyr in heaven, rather than the carnage that will get them there. It’s when two of our potential jihadi warriors are discussing this promised paradise in episode one that a buxom blonde, Abi, walks past them, and their urge to self sacrifice waves discernibly in the presence of such attractive earthly delights. As the series evolves we will see that the qualities of the opposite sex and a good night in the pub persuade the jihadists that the West may be for them after all.
The creator of a bestselling comic designed to show the world the tolerant and peaceful face of Islam has written an open letter to his young sons explaining how the project grew out of 9/11.
In the letter, written for the BBC News website, Kuwaiti psychologist Dr Naif al-Mutawa, says his superheroes – inspired by the Koran and known as THE 99 – were designed to “take back Islam” from militants who had taken it hostage.
The comics, which now sell about one million copies a year in several languages, are soon to be made into an animated film by Dutch media company Endemol. Early last year, Forbes magazine announced THE 99 were one of the 20 top pop culture trends sweeping the world.
Muslim hip hop is as British as morris dancing — if not more so, claims a Sunderland lecturer. World-renowned academic Dr Amir Saeed from Sunderland University is fronting an event which aims to celebrate the true meaning of Britishness.
The senior media and cultural studies lecturer is chairing the “Music and Us” event on Sunday at Spitalfields Music Festival in London. “Being British doesn’t just mean playing cricket and the floral dance — if it ever did mean that,” said Dr Saeed. “It is important to celebrate multiculturalism in Britain, especially at a time when the BNP are beginning to have a real impact on politics in the UK.”
“Music and Us” will feature multicultural musicians and films by local people, as well as looking at how important music is to the way young people express their identities in modern Britain.
It all started with a T-shirt bearing the slogan “I Love My Prophet.” That’s when a designer in Germany discovered a booming market for modern, urban clothes and accessories with a Muslim message. People from many different cultures are likely to agree: slippers are rather uncool. But in Styleislam’s fashion design office, everyone walks around in them.
Here, in the small German town of Witten in the middle of the industrial Ruhr region, chic clothes and accessories are designed for fashion-conscious but devout young Muslims. Styleislam was the brainchild of Melih Kesmen, a stocky man with a ponytail and goatee. “Here are a few examples of our designs, like one about the hijab – the headscarf,” he said, pulling a black handbag out of a cupboard in the company’s small stockroom. “Hijab, My Right, My Choice, My Life,” is written on the bag in big white letters. “If a woman wants to wear a headscarf, then she should be allowed to,” said Kesmen.
The motto on the bag could provoke hours of discussion, and so could plenty of other motifs on the entrepreneur’s shelves, such as baby bibs printed with the word “Minimuslim” or a call to prayer: “Salah, Always Get Connected.”