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New World Muslims

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mr1_019.jpgWith all the talk about “Clash of Cultures” and “Muslims adjusting to the West,” and all the rest of that jazz, there’s something that has been overlooked. Muslims in the West do have their very own sub-culture!

We have music (anasheed). We have art. We have movies. We have food. We have clothing. We have comedy. We have intense spiritual leaders and religious institutes with high standards. We have religious conferences that hundreds, if not thousands, attend regularly. We have a pretty big chuck of the World Wide Web that’s all ours. We even have a political system (Let’s-Sit-Around-And-Argue-Over-Random-Useless-Points-For-Hours-On-End-Without-Any-Conclusion-ism) that is unintentionally implemented in most of our masaajid!

Does anybody realize how rockingly awesomely cool that is?

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This post is dedicated to all those things which make up the very cool (if somewhat dysfunctional at times) sub-culture of Western Muslims… you’ll notice that I’ve only got a few things listed under each category, and am leaving out a lot of big names, but that’s because I’m being biased here and going with what I know and like. Please don’t hate on me for that :D

Music

Anasheed have become a staple in the audio diet of those of us who like to bob our heads to a tune that’s halaal. Over the years, various munshideen have established themselves and many of their songs have become classics. (There are of course a lot more nasheed artists than the ones I’ve listed below, but these are just a few of my favourites.)

  • Dawud Wharnsby Ali. I grew up listening to “The Veil,” “The Everything Song,” “Sunshine, Dust, and the Messenger,” “Madinatun-Nabi.” I’m sure loads of you have also experienced moments where someone will mention the name of a song, and suddenly everybody will be either humming the tune or singing in chorus! (If you don’t, then I guess that’s just me! :P)
  • Yusuf Islam. “Alif is for Allah” and “Afghanistan, Land of Islam” were – and still are! – amongst my favourites. Zain Bhikha’s anasheed collections are also enjoyed in my household.
  • Ahmad Bukhatir. His nasheed “Last Breath” has probably made as many rounds online as the hujjaaj have around the Ka’bah.
  • Random Jihad anasheed. A bit politically incorrect, perhaps, but admit it – who hasn’t blasted a CD of Jihadi anasheed in their car and pumped their fists to the sound of gunfire and grenades in the background? My personal favourites: Idhrib Yaa Asad al-Fallujah and Sabran Yaa Baghdad.

Art

  • Arabic calligraphy is the first thing that jumps to mind. The cool thing is how it’s evolved – no longer just in black and white, and on parchment paper, but in different styles and colours and through different mediums. “Aerosol Arabic” and Izzy Mo are two Muslim artists whom I think are pretty well known.
  • Architecture. There are so many beautiful masaajid in North America and the U.K.! Although many are based on the traditional structures we find in the Muslim world, they also have a unique flavour of their own.
  • Computer graphics. Muslim computer geeks rock. Without them, we wouldn’t have Islamic wallpapers, screensavers, avatars, website backgrounds, hordes of Islamic lectures available for download, and more!
  • Comics. I discovered NaseehaMan, rahmatAllah ‘alayh, after he passed away. May Allah reward him immensely for his hilarious 100% halaal comic strips!

Movies

Clothing

Comedy

  • Baba Ali from Ummah Films! The Reminder series has become one of the greatest on-line Muslim hits ever, mostly with the younger generation but surprisingly, even with the older ones!
  • Allah Made Me Funny comedy tour. Azhar Usman and Preacher Moss are the best, in my opinion.
  • Maniac Muslim aka Hamza Moin. Good stuff all around.
  • Aman Ali. He’s an up-and-coming comedian, “specializing” in desi comedy… and you gotta admit, when it comes to desis, we never run out of material!

Islamic Educational Institutes

Masha’Allah, today we have so many Islamic institutes in the West which teach the traditional sciences of the Deen, as well as approaching Islamic issues from a unique perspective – and best of all, being taught by those who are qualified to do so!

Islamic Organizations

  • CAIR and CAIR-CAN: The Council on American-Islamic Relations is a much beleagured organizations whom many of us love to hate… but may Allah reward them for their efforts, ameen!
  • ISNA: Islamic Society of North America. No comment on them from me.
  • CIC: Canadian Islamic Congress. Good intentions, but… yah, I’ll leave it at that.

Conferences

  • Texas Da’wah Convention: The legendary conference that I hope I’ll be able to attend one day, insha’Allah!
  • Annual ISNA conference.
  • Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference.

Of course there are many more conferences organized throughout the year and in different locations, but these are the ones that seem to be the most popular.

Disclaimer: I’m not neccessarily endorsing the conferences or everything that happens during them… *cough*

The IslamoSphere

Without a doubt, the Muslim presence in the blogosphere has increased exponentially since… well, since even before I discovered it! Muslims from all over the world, with vastly different backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints have been sharing their thoughts, criticisms, analyses, and more; stirring up debates, flamewars, and even spurring action in real life.

I was going to mention those blogs which are extremely popular and which I read myself, but that’s what blogrolls are for :)

Miscellaneous

  • Halaal meat shops and corner stores. Where there’s always a funny smell, an auntie or uncle manning the counter, snacks you won’t find anywhere else in the country, and many interesting discoveries to be made.
  • Masjid uncles and aunties. Much as we complain about them, you also gotta love them. Imagine how boring it would be if we didn’t have them around to criticize our every word and move, or running after the kids yelling at them in Urdu/ Arabic/ <insert other languages here> and brandishing their sandals at little kids.
  • Scratchy sound systems. One thing you can always expect with Muslims: you’ll usually miss out on large chunks of khutbahs and halaqahs because you either go temporarily deaf from the screech of static in the beginning of the lecture, or you won’t hear a word because some genius forgot to turn the speakers on.
  • Sunday Schools. Oh, those good ol’ days of spending hours in the masjid basement, either freezing your butt off or feeling ready to pass out from the heat as the auntie/ uncle grills you on the Arabic alphabet or drones on about how if you don’t listen to your parents, you’re going to burn in Hell. (But don’t forget the really amazing teachers out there also – may Allah reward them!)
  • Islamic bookstores and libraries. SubhanAllah, we really do have a lot available when it comes to books! It shows, too – any place with a decent sized Muslim population is bound to have a store or two that sells Islamic books, which are snapped up by those eager to expand their private library at home. As for public Islamic libraries, I don’t know how common they are, although in my old city my dad started one up as part of our Islamic centre. Al-Hamdulillaah, it’s a success! (Library fines and all; and no, we don’t give Fee Sabilillaah discounts :P)

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women's issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da'wah. She was also an original founder of MuslimMatters.org.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. MuslimJobsOnline

    January 13, 2008 at 1:24 PM

    i am not a comment spammer but since its appropriate to mention this. I had the blessing to start the first full-function Job website for Muslims.

    http://www.MuslimJobsOnline.com

  2. BrownSandokan

    January 13, 2008 at 1:28 PM

    SubhanAllah .. you’re absolutely right. Muslim immigrants and their progeny have indeed carved a niche culture here in the West. I’d say it is the result of having smart and sensible people in supportive communities.

    While I recognize the merits of that, and in no way knocking the theme of this post, I would like to ask: At what cost? Waves and waves of immigrants have come here from Arabia and the sub-continent. The best of the people there! The distribution of education, money, and sensibility among the Muslim Ummah back home is quite skewed partly as a result of this (at least in India). Of course, one may argue that the conditions of those places would not have rewarded such creativity and innovation, but doesn’t change begin with precisely people of this caliber?
    It would be interesting to weigh these two things against each other: 1) the progress in deen and dunya of a fraction of immigrants here and 2) the progress this entire set of immigrants may have been capable of causing back home. The points outlined in this post should not come as a surprise, given that they are driven by the cream of the Ummah.

    Again, this is just food for thought, provoked by my experiences as a grad student still new to Umrica.

  3. H. Ahmed

    January 13, 2008 at 3:34 PM

    Mashallah, great article. You have complied quite a comprehensive list, but with all due respect only a vast minority of Muslims in the United States take part in the sub-culture defined above. But it is a great start!

    Inshallah lets pray for the success of all those working to help define the American-Muslim experience.

    Also, I highly recommend the following article:

    Islam & the Cultural Imperative (http://www.nawawi.org/downloads/article3.pdf) by Dr Umar Faruq Abdallah who “addresses the fundamental need for American Muslims to consciously establish a new, unique cultural identity”. I would suggest that you provide a link to this article at the beginning of your post :).

    Jazakallah Khair

  4. mcpagal

    January 13, 2008 at 4:40 PM

    It’s refreshing to hear something good about Muslims in the West, keep it up!

    Also, I’ve been thinking that Muslim nasheed artists have pretty much every style covered:
    -Pop: 786 etc
    -Rap: Native Deen
    -Gospel: Raihan
    -Country: Kareem Salama
    -Indie: DW Ali?
    And so on. I suppose there’s still dance and rock to be covered… let’s hope no-one goes there!

  5. mcpagal

    January 13, 2008 at 4:44 PM

    While I recognize the merits of that, and in no way knocking the theme of this post, I would like to ask: At what cost? Waves and waves of immigrants have come here from Arabia and the sub-continent. The best of the people there!

    A lot of the time the kind of initiatives and projects mentioned are started up by 2nd gen Muslim immigrants or reverts to Islam, I think that’s partly what makes this subculture unique to this environment!

  6. Umm Layth

    January 13, 2008 at 7:15 PM

    We are also very blessed with Zaytuna INstitute and SunniPath. Insha’Allah courses with SP will be starting in a few weeks.

    Alhamdulillah for the variety that we do have in the west.

  7. Umm Layth

    January 13, 2008 at 7:16 PM

    Also, Naseehaman, masha’Allah, he was an amazing brother. Anyone that knew him can give witness to that. May Allah accept his efforts and his family’s efforts. ameen

  8. niamah

    January 13, 2008 at 7:52 PM

    Yes i am a bit disappointed that you left out Zaytuna…but khayr each to his own..especially after the pledge of mutual cooperation =)

  9. ajsuhail

    January 14, 2008 at 2:50 AM

    on a different note, a wonderful conference is currently underway in Madras(chennai)INDIA with speakers like Yasir Qadhi, Bilal Philips,Abdur Rahim Green and others participating in it.You can follow the live streaming on

    http://www.peacevisionofislam.in/

    Great talks on Aqida, Dawah and contemporary issues facing the ummah.

    Believe me, the conference is very well organised and a pleasure to attend.

  10. Molly

    January 14, 2008 at 4:49 PM

    Amen. I love some of the cool things we get in Muslim communities here in the west. We have our ups and our downs, but I really do love the community feeling we have.

  11. Izzy Mo

    January 15, 2008 at 10:13 PM

    Salaamz

    Thanks for linking me!

    Izzy MO

  12. Shaykha

    January 18, 2008 at 4:57 PM

    Salaamu Alaaikum sister,

    jazaakAllah Khair,

    wa’alaykum asalaam

  13. SoulZ

    May 22, 2008 at 7:29 PM

    alsalamo alaykom, :)
    just wanna say way to go! you have a future ;)

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