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Best Song…..EVER

By Hena Zuberi

Them: Hena Auntie – can you take us to the mall?
Me: “OK, get in the car, let’s go.”

A gaggle of girls in the car and they bust out A Capella style-

Tik Tok on the clock but the party don’t stop, no
Grab my glasses, I’m out the door, I’m gonna hit this city
(Let’s go) Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack

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I almost ran into the landscaper’s truck ahead of me.

Cause when I leave for the night,
I ain’t coming back
I’m talking pedicure on our toes, toes
Boys blowing up our phones, phones
Drop top and playin’ our favorite CDs
Pullin’ up to the parties
Tryna to get a little bit tipsy.

They lowered their voices at tipsy, perhaps realizing who they were singing in front of.

Me: “Jaani, do you know what Jack is or tipsy?”
I was surprised. Honestly, I thought they would just say no, but they told me exactly what it was.

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Awkward silence

One of them: “Why isn’t alcohol allowed?”

Another: “What does it do to you?”

At least they can talk to me I thought to myself…. and we did.

“We could halalofy the lyrics!” piped our resident bookworm and they spend the rest of the trip doing just that.

“(Let’s go) Before we leave brush my teeth, do wudu

cause when I leave for masjid school I ain’t coming back”

I Googled the rest of the lyrics, as soon as I got home. KE$HA – TIK TOK LYRICS

U huh! Lyrics of songs have gotten much more hard core since when I was a kid.

Katy Perry was another name I was hearing in this age group. So I checked her out on my own.

‘Go all the way tonight, just love – no regrets,’

Not quite the message I want to pass on to my children, with or without music.

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Check the lyrics of what they are listening to

Warning labels barely worked when the world used CD’s; now with instant iTunes downloads, there is nothing tangible to see before purchasing. Your child downloads songs and all you get is a $1.99 bill on your Am Ex Card.

If they are young, you can and should forbid them if you find them inappropriate; older teens need to hear your perspective and learn to be critical on their own on what they are feeding their souls.

I have two young boys ( 6 & 7). I want to be prepared for their teens and am rearing them in such a way that they don’t objectify women or treat them like toys and part of this is making them aware of the world around them that perpetuates these views, that includes the kind of music that is popular.

Many media studies show that sex is always the most popular theme in almost all types of music genres that are regularly listed in the top of music video charts and channels. This means that not only do these songs encourage profanity and sexual promiscuity through the lyrics; they also show it visually with the music videos. This leads to the socialization of the young adults who are watching them. Research also shows that the recurrent viewing of television and music videos is directly linked to the risk of increasing beliefs in sexual stereotypes and decreased body satisfaction like the obsession of gaining muscularity in boys and staying ‘thin and sexy’ in teenage girls in the hope of being recognized as sexually attractive.

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The words for the top rap songs for this year include calling women ‘hoes’, dreaming about bisexuality, and glorifying prison. Most songs on the top ten list take away all that is spiritual and magnificent about intimacy between a husband and wife, reducing it to an animal like gyration or glamorous fabrication. Even songs that contain ‘positive messages’ like staying away from drugs or corruption in the system are often so profane and have every swear word in the book.

 Song Lyrics across generations

We know how it works- this is not new. If it had a good beat most of us didn’t care (or don’t care) what the words were (are). When Akon started singing in Hindi movies, parents I know who listen to Hindi music didn’t realize they were letting a man in their homes, cars and iPods that glorified stripping and immorality and sang very sexually explicit songs. Side note: Akon says that he is Muslim (duas for his & our continued guidance).

When I was a kid, my friends and I listened to Tiffany and Debbie Gibson and their songs normalized dating and the hanging out with the opposite sex (both of them later went on to pose for an x-rated magazine, so Miley Cyrus’s recent act didn’t surprise me). Madonna and Cyndi Lauper messed with my mind in my teens. Research done in the nineties suggests that regular viewers of television programs (including MTV et al) featuring sexuality are more likely to be preoccupied with sex, will have a stronger belief that sex is more regular and popular among young people than it actually is, are more likely to be “sanguine about the sanctity of marriage,” believe that sex rarely has negative consequences, and are more likely to think they know more about sex, romance, and love than others. (Greenberg, Stanley, Siemicki, Heeter, Soderman, & Linsangan, 1993)

My dad’s generation listened to the Rolling Stones and Boney M which had its own misogyny and race issues. So each generation has their own demons.

One Direction- Capturing the Hearts of our Girls

One direction is a boy band. They sing about loving the girl regardless of how she looks or how insecure she may be feeling about herself. It sells.

1D fans who call themselves “Directioners”  crush over their favorite band members who “in turn cultivate their fan base minute by minute via social media, especially Twitter.” There are 1-D undies, jewelry, perfume in a pretty, pink bottle complete with a crown. Wattpad is filled with 1D fanfiction– stories written by fans with over 20 million reads each.

Why am I telling you this? If you have a directioner in your house you will  know that their lead singer is named Zayn Malik.
Let’s face it, he is ‘cute’ and tweets out La illah illalaha Muhammad ur rasulAllah. His name has made Zayn (and subsequently Zaynab) a ‘normal’ mainstream name here in the West, not an oddity. So Muslim girls feel a connection.

His being Muslim/desi interests girls who otherwise would not be attracted to celebrity of another or no faith. Sabby’s comments left on a website are classic.

Sabby:  it matters to muslim girls cuz we r muslim.. n we cant marry a non-muslim guy.. so am so proud he is muslim n he is keeping it up even thoh he grew up in UK! so am so proud and excited! … i guess u wont understand cuz ur not muslim.. so its like big thing for us!

………….

1d_futuremrsmalik_shirt.

Me (when I overheard her friends tease her): So you think you are going to be Mrs. Malik?

Daughter: Mama we joke about it but I really don’t, but I think my friend does.  She says he prays 5 times a day… but he does smoke … and he does have a girlfriend. I like his hairstyle. (UPDATE: since I wrote this he is now engaged to his girlfriend leading to the heartbreak of many a ZaynGirl).
This conversation a year ago was an ideal moment for some teaching time on judging, different sort of sins, huqooq (the rights) of Allah, and huqooq (the rights) of a person’s body over him or her. And we talked about that fact that yes, he is Muslim but that doesn’t make him her anything. We have had several conversations on what qualities make a good husband and most importantly about lowering the gaze. And we will continue to have them.

Fans were nutty when I was a teen too but this is seriously creepy. So if your child is a directioner, it would be a good time (since they have a movie coming out tomorrow) to have a chat about a ‘new kind of idol worshiping’, consequences of making threats online, the role of social media, and frankly, obsession.

All of us have had some sort of obsession at that age, so surely they will outgrow it. Many times crushes like these are opening the doors of sexual maturity. An important part of sexual exploration and growth takes place during adolescence, at which time young men and women begin to give thought to which sexual behaviors are enjoyable, moral, and acceptable for their cohort (LeVay & Valente, 2003).

I would talk about her feelings so she can handle and control them. Your guidance is crucial.

If she gets depressed because she can’t meet them or can’t go to their concert or imagines that she really knows them and if they are the only topic she talks about with interest, talk to her about that too. If her obsession, or any behaviors related to it, start interfering with salah, home, school or family responsibilities then there is a very serious issue.

Let her know that she lights up your world like nobody else.

I, I want to save you, save you, save you, tonight

Hiding from the world doesn’t help. Many children and youth listen to music whether their parents know it or not.

I hear this a lot:
“My child goes to Islamic School”
“We have a strict environment in our house”
“My children don’t have an iPod.”
Unless you live on a secluded island with no one around you for a 1000 miles, you are being delusional if you think that your child is not being exposed to this at some level.

This is Us

We don’t listen to instrumental music in our house and do not have cable but my daughters were still exposed to it enough for me to be having these conversations with them. I moved from Los Angeles and now live in one of the most conservative Muslim communities in North America (most women and girls over the age of 13 wear abaya, strict segregation etc), and all I can say is teens are teens, in an abaya and hijab or t-shirt and capris. Being informed and updated, along with communicating with your children and dua are the best shields that a parent can have in this world. There simply isn’t enough being said to counter the exaggerated and misleading sexual images that is shown to our boys and girls on a daily basis.

So we Play, Play, Play on the same all Games

This is what I wish I could say to girls between the age of 10-18: Uploading a picture of One Direction in their undies on your phone is just as bad as your brother posting a poster of Selena Gomez in a bikini on his wall in your house. #realtalk

If that is not acceptable to you then stop sending emails of Harry stepping out of the shower to your friends. Just stop. (True story)

Little things add up to you.

I’m praying that your heart will just turn around

I just pray their hearts could be so consumed by the Love of God- this same burning desire to listen to/tweet/facebook/tumblr/instagram Zayn’s (insert object of crush) every word would be replaced by the words of Allah and his Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Gives “I think We’re Alone Now” a whole new meaning.

 

This post is not about whether music is halal or haram. Best Song Ever and other subtitles are the names of  One Direction songs.

Some good blogs to read:

Here is a man blogs about the need for fathers to sons about Robin Thicke (the man with Miley Cyrus).

Here a mom talks about Miley Cyrus and teaching our daughters about body image.

Here a mom talks to her son about the misogyny in rap music.  

This article teaches you how to delete songs off a child’s iPod.

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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.

Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She leads the DC office of the human rights organization, Justice For All, focusing on stopping the genocide of the Rohingya under Burma Task Force, advocacy for the Uighur people with the Save Uighur Campaign and Free Kashmir Action. She was a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

44 Comments

44 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Good POV

    August 29, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    But then how do non-muslims in corporate, science and technology manage to excel inspite of being exposed to such distractions? Muslims kids are always asked to check if the distraction affects their school/job responsibilities? Non-muslims never seem to be fazed or distracted by any of this, be it a minimally clothed colleague, or a girl friend, or other things which muslims label as indecent. Non-muslims always seem to be able to keep focus and complete their allocated tasks in spite of the distractions.

    • Avatar

      Walid

      August 29, 2013 at 11:14 AM

      It’s important to understand the true Islamic definition of “excel”. I do not think non-muslims excel as much as you claim. Look at the divorce rate in this country…70% divorce rate, their kids are more likely to be promiscuous (go ask any college student), etc. etc. So who really cares if they get an A in Science?!

      And the reason why they can “keep focus” is because they are more likely to engage in these “distractions” i.e. party/sex/drink/etc on nights/weekends.

      Again, I would not call that “exceling”.

      • Avatar

        salman

        August 29, 2013 at 12:08 PM

        Its so true Walid. They excelled in the making money, failing in their life and more importantly the Hereafter.

        • Avatar

          salman

          August 29, 2013 at 12:09 PM

          Reminds me of Surah Takathur in the Noble Qur’an.

    • Avatar

      mezaan

      August 31, 2013 at 1:57 PM

      Yea. I had a similar observation from a friend. This is a post hoc fallacy. You can excel in a domain, but it does not absolve anyone from engaging in deviant behavior nor does it explain why one is successful in science, technology etc. The Pharoah’s were extremely advance nation. They also engaged in slavery, abuse, and all sorts of malice. The Roman’s likewise were the same. They all seemed successful while engaged in deviant behavior. It too bit the dust eventually.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      September 4, 2013 at 1:04 AM

      Good POV Assalam alaykum. First may I request that you use your name or kunyah on MM as it helps you own your thoughts.

      Formalities aside. Good parents of any faith check their children for distractions. I have many neighbors and friends who share similar concerns about their children’s upbringing.

      When I mentioned an obsession with a crush on a celebrity, that was just good parenting advice and if you spoke to any good counselor they would also suggest the same thing, that if a child become obsessive about something to the point where it start interfering with school or work whether it is a sport, a game, a friend, a hobby then the parent needs to intervene.

      Additionally many Muslim children also excel in math and science despite these distractions so please excuse me but I don’t understand your point.

      The brothers have already addressed the Islamic values of excellence above so I will not go into that again.

      I hope that these points have answered your question.

  2. Avatar

    Muslim13

    August 29, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    Salaam,

    Good POV, you make an excellent point. Could the writer address this question?

  3. Avatar

    Walid

    August 29, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    Great post! I remember my little cousins (ages 8-10) going around saying, “Courvoisier and my 21 inch rims”. Of course copying from some rap song. The sad thing is/was my uncle/aunt had NO idea that “Courvoisier” is a type of alcoholic drink. I believe the “modern lingo” disconnect between 1st gen and 2nd gen “desi” (or any foreign) family is/will cause lots of problems.

    Music is the most popular way these shaitanic corporations infiltrate and program youth. I remember growing up (I’m 35), I NEVER remember listening to a “boy band”. Only singers I remember growing up were Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, etc. But this whole idea of “boy bands” didn’t exist. There was no 16 yr old Justin Beiber “singer” etc. Now it’s completely FLIPPED. There are nothing BUT boy bands. All music nowadays are marketed to your kids. When was the last time you saw a 2013 Michael Bolton or Phil Colins?

    Warning to parents: PLEASE, PLEASE do what Hena does and look up ALL/EVERY lyric for EVERY song your child mentions. Do not even wait to have them come ask you….you should be asking them! If you hear them singing lyrics to a song ask them what song is that and go look it up! Teach your kids, be patient, patient and more patient.

    Once again, great article Hena!

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      September 4, 2013 at 1:08 AM

      JazakAllah khayrun for your supportive words. I know you are a very involved father MashaAllah.

      I know growing up I think Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for as far as music went marketed directly to children- now little toddlers know lyrics to the most atrocious songs. I can’t imagine what our grandkids will face YIKES.

  4. Avatar

    hammadanwer

    August 29, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    Now you know why all forms of music are Haram!!

    • Avatar

      Walid

      August 29, 2013 at 11:18 AM

      @hammadanwer, Yes to an adult “all forms of music” can be haram. But to a child’s mind, it’s not. A parent MUST be patient and teach the kid as to WHY that particular type of music (mainstream pop music) is not good. TEACH them the WHY. Otherwise, they won’t listen to it at home, but first time they get an opportunity….they’ll listen to it. Educating them is key to LONG term success.

  5. Avatar

    hammadanwer

    August 29, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    Allah made music forbidden for reasons.!!!

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      September 4, 2013 at 1:13 AM

      Assalamalaykum Hammad,
      JazakAllah Khayr for reading and commenting.
      If that is all you are going to say to a young adult you will not get through to them- they hear the haram word so many times that it has lost its meaning.
      Talk to them so when they have question or are faced with an issue they know they can come to you without fearing the haram police.

  6. Avatar

    Mohammed

    August 29, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    A seriously worrying issue that corrupting this generation behind the scene! i’m glad that Sister Hena Zuberi has written this article on most relevant and dangerous issue that leading this generation destruction. unfortunately new parents have no idea about whats happening. If we don’t wake up now one day we will!!!

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      September 4, 2013 at 5:30 PM

      JazakAllah khayr for your kind words

  7. Avatar

    Ali (@Ruh_shu)

    August 29, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    When angels take the souls of those who die in sin against their souls, they say: “In what (plight) Were ye?” They reply: “Weak and oppressed Were we in the earth.” They say: “Was not the earth of Allah spacious enough for you to move yourselves away (From evil)?” Such men will find their abode in Hell,- What an evil refuge! – An-Nisa Verse No:97

    Allah knows best.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      September 4, 2013 at 1:14 AM

      Assalamalaykum wa rahmatulah, JazakAllah khayr for sharing that.

  8. Avatar

    Ali (@Ruh_shu)

    August 29, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    Why are u guys refusing to approve my comment in this article. Posted two times already. It a verse of the Qur’an which i think is appropriate for this article. Am i breaking some sort of rule?

    • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      August 30, 2013 at 9:47 AM

      Dear Ali

      Moderation Team is unfortunately not present 24/7. Often it is once or twice a day that the comments that are stuck in moderation are reviewed. We apologize for the dealy. There was nothing wrong with your comment and it is now approved.

      Best Regards
      -Aly

  9. Avatar

    Mohammad Syed

    August 29, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    Excellent post Sister, well written and to the point! As a young Muslim teen male growing up in the west (who also went to Islamic school for the majority of his academic career), it is safe to say to no matter what restrictions you place on your child, whether it be taking your child’s iPhone, blocking cable, moving to a different neighborhood, your child will be exposed to these things regardless. Not saying that these measures are completely useless, as they do have a lot of benefit, but we can’t be the uncle/auntie who lives in a mental bubble thinking their kids are angels in a perfect Islamic environment all the time.

    The important thing to note from this article is knowing HOW to approach our kids at these moments. You don’t want to be stereotypical Uncle guy who says “VHAT!!? MUSIC IS CUSSING AND SEX, HARAM!!!” (excuse the extreme example). Rather, be patient and understand where your child is coming from. Do what Br Walid said in the comments “A parent MUST be patient and teach the kid as to WHY that particular type of music (mainstream pop music) is not good. TEACH them the WHY. Otherwise, they won’t listen to it at home, but first time they get an opportunity….they’ll listen to it. Educating them is key to LONG term success”

    Subhanallah, I know many kids whose parents had restricted them so much when they were young and never really explained why many of the things they did/listened to were Haram that when they became of age, they went berserk. I remember at one point in my life, I would listen to a LOT of music (Drake, lil wayne, Eminem, etc.), but Alhamdulilah, Allah helped me dropped ALL of that and allowed to focus on better things. Your child will eventually grow out of it, but nevertheless, be patient and teach them the WHY. Jzk.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      September 4, 2013 at 1:22 AM

      Thank you for your wonderful insight. And trust me I am a very involved mom,
      creating the road blocks to open access is important too because children need rules and need to know that there are consequences for breaking the rules. I do believe in tying my camel but also have a very real approach to parenting where I know that my children have souls just as old as mine and they will have their own struggles and will make their own mistakes. I can just be a guide as they navigate this world and keep bringing their moral compass back to the straight path.

  10. Avatar

    Kirana

    August 29, 2013 at 7:47 PM

    This is a pretty good article.

    I tend to be in favour of parental controls, but I think we should remember that its aim is not to completely insulate the children from the world – because eventually they grow up and have to enter it. Rather its aim is merely to limit the influx so that the bulk of images and habits that build up are positive rather than habituating the children’s growing brains to addictive and unhealthy neural pathways when they have not yet the control developed to resist it. That influx is a tsunami today; the mainstream culture does not hold back to protect children’s and teens’ development years nearly as much as it used to.

    But in order to develop parental controls, parents need to understand what is in popular culture, and that you can’t really simplistically draw a line with a marker pen and say, this group of stuff is all bad, this group of stuff is ok. I’m shocked that so many parents don’t actually know pretty basic things like Ke$ha concerts are not child-friendly – I mean, no duh!

    In the long term, it is better for the child to have developed a core set of ethics to keep away from big stuff, even if they may listen to some music or make some mistakes or whatever that isn’t totally legit, but went through the experience of weaning away from it (this may be well into adulthood) – that experience of judgment, choice, responsibility and willpower is invaluable, and may never be learned if the child is never exposed to the possibility of error. Over-protectiveness creates people who assume that their religious adherence is the responsibility of other people or external conditions, and who are unable to have the empathy, wisdom and sense of timing to deal with moral gray areas they will encounter in life. Ironically this insular focus on ‘correctness’ actually renders them unable to contribute positivity to the culture. Nobody listens to advice from someone who obviously has no idea what any kind of life experience and the human emotional response is like.

    OR, it produces people who just suddenly go off the rails when they suddenly have to enter the real world (and they will have to), because they never were coached through the thought process for working out which things are Bad Ideas and why. if they survive that phase without dying, trapped in substance abuse, being jailed, contracting incurable diseases, damaging other people’s lives, or killing their illegitimate baby, then – by God’s grace – the experience may be good for them without too high a cost. but note the operative word “IF”. i think parents should NOT set their children up to fail like that, no matter what good intentions they may have for protectiveness.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      September 4, 2013 at 1:26 AM

      I’ll take pretty good ;)
      Thanks for the awesome comment. Like my good friend says hold on tight but let them breathe.

  11. Avatar

    Muhammad Siddique

    August 30, 2013 at 6:34 PM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    As a 23 year old Indian muslim reading this from UAE …..I must say my head begun to ache as i read through the first few lines. As someone who was born and raised in the gulf, its very very difficult for me to comprehend the lifestyle of muslims living in the west.

    And its suffocating to see how easily Muslim parents are losing their children to the satanic western culture . SOmetimes i wish i could wrap up every muslim living there in a huge bundle and bring them all here.
    Can someone please explain to me Why the western muslims don’t even try to make hijrah to muslim lands ??

    • Avatar

      Walid

      August 30, 2013 at 7:26 PM

      If you are an Indian muslim living in UAE…you must be oblivious to how the “Kings/Princes” live in Gulf countries. The amount of “satanic culture” that they imitate makes the west look good. I’m not saying ALL of them..but surely some of them.

      The point isn’t to make “hijrah” anywhere, THIS (America) IS our home. Born and raised. We need to learn that we cannot “run from our problems”. Learn to educate ourselves and raise our kids with dignity. That does NOT mean once they are 18 THEN teach them…NO. That means every single waking minute from the day they are born until they are well beyond the age of reason.

    • Avatar

      ZAI

      September 1, 2013 at 12:43 AM

      It’s not that easy for all of us Brother.

      #1 Many of us are from lands ravaged by intense oppression, war, or poverty. My parents are from
      Afghanistan for instance. We cannot go back.

      #2 As for “Muslim” countries aside from our ethnic homelands…well brother, most Muslim nations have racist citizenship policies. They will not let us immigrate. Once the iqamah(work permit) runs out, where are those of us who can’t go back to our homelands supposed to go? Add to that we’d be treated like 2nd class citizens with no protections or rights.

      It’s not as simple as you make it sound.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      September 4, 2013 at 1:45 AM

      Assalam ‘alaykum Br Muhammad,

      Which emirate in the UAE do you live in? Born and raised in the Gulf and you never heard pop music or rap? It plays in every mega mall there. If you haven’t, you truly must be blessed.

      This false dichotomy of East vs West is perpetuated and I don’t agree with it. The same cable channels play in homes there as they do here- (side note) at least we have parental controls here; I know my cousins who live in Dubai do not have any parental controls on TV.

      Perhaps you can acknowledge that kids there listen to the same stuff and share how you and your family was saved from the effects of the satanic culture.

  12. Pingback: Best Song…..EVER «

  13. Avatar

    Good POV

    August 31, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    Thanks mezzan….your point makes sense….

  14. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    September 3, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    Great article mash’Allah and one that’s worth spreading around! I pray that all the Muslims currently absorbed within the world’s entertainment industries (Hollywood/Bollywood/etc) are able to get out before completely destroying their souls and chance for salvation in the Hereafter. After thinking about what perils await those who enter such industries, I can’t help but feel like all the widespread fame, riches, and glory can’t possibly make up for all the depression, anxiety, fear, and misplaced love of the Dunya that becoming a world-renowned entertainer entails.

  15. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    September 3, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    I have a question now related to this article in regards to obsessed fans. While hopefully In sha Allah most of these kids will someday grow up and out of such teenage obsessions, what if you had a daughter/son who seemed particularly obsessed about their favorite celebrity and who behaved similarly to those fans spoken about in that documentary linked above? Could simply forcing them to stay away from any coverage re: their favorite celebrity be enough to stop them from obsessing over it or should some more things be done? I realize that as Muslims we should also teach them how to cleanse their heart of the Dunya (through perfecting their ibadah constantly) and return to Allah. I’m also wondering though if a handful of them will still also need special psychiatric care to overcome their addiction/obsession? Thanks and I look forward to hearing from anyone about this matter!

  16. Hena Zuberi

    Hena Zuberi

    September 4, 2013 at 2:09 AM

    Assalam alaykum wa rahmatulah,

    They may. This is what I read from a professional counselor:

    “It is only by internalizing socially appropriate rules, due to the admonishments of his/her parents and other authority figures, that the child learns the acceptable norms for thinking, feeling, living and interacting.

    Of course no culture or parent is perfect, nor can any parent offer the exact conditions that a growing child needs to feel completely fulfilled, so there is bound to be friction as he begins asserting himself as a separate being. The ways that parents and other authority figures deal with this friction has a great deal to do with whether a child develops a character neurosis. In general terms, we usually find that safe, loving, happy environments where the rules are clearly defined and the child is given freedom to be himself within those rules is fertile soil for healthy development and functioning. When a child knows that he is loved, is given the opportunity to express his true nature and try on many ways of being, and has predictable and fair consequences for going outside of agreed upon rules the outcomes are generally positive.

    On the other hand, a hostile, scary, uncertain environment where rules are not clearly defined and a child is not given free room to develop his real self is fertile soil for the creation of a character neurosis. In this setting a person starts to repress who he really is because of the tremendous anxiety present. He receives mixed signals on which thoughts, emotions, and behaviors will offer the highest levels of safety and security, and unconsciously decides upon a plan to try to make his environment seem more stable. Many character traits, abilities, ways of seeing the world, and emotions fall by the wayside as a person decides upon a compulsive way of living. Most people have their own neuroses to one degree or another because the environment in which a person grows up can never perfectly match that person’s needs and constitution.

    Whether a neurosis develops or not, being a fan is a great way to project unwanted or unrecognized characteristics onto another entity while getting to express many emotions, usually felt as dangerous, in a socially sanctioned environment. ”

    Until it becomes borderline pathological or intense-personal and then counseling is recommended.

    Allah knows best.

    • Avatar

      RCHOUDH

      September 4, 2013 at 4:55 AM

      Wa alaikum salaam wr wb,
      Jazakillah ul khair for your answer Sister Hena!

  17. Avatar

    Afzaly

    September 4, 2013 at 5:40 AM

    Im a teen, and i like One Direction. Especially Zayn Malik! i want to know, what is wrong in having a celebrity crush? plus, anyone can be a muslim but only a couple can be believers.

    • Avatar

      ashrafh

      September 5, 2013 at 8:14 PM

      @Afzaly, the guy has a girlfriend–do you know what that means? It means he has had relations with this girl, and probably numerous other women. I find it despicable that you don’t find that repulsive, and still are crushing on this guy. If you don’t have respect for our deen, then at least have some respect for yourself. You are better than this person and you don’t need him or his fornicating ilk.

      The kuffar are so hypocritical. When a person wants polygamy in marriage, then all hell breaks loose. But when a guy like Zayn has a girlfriend, these infatuated girls don’t mind him having multiple girlfriends if they can be one of the gfs…

    • Avatar

      gunal

      September 6, 2013 at 12:04 PM

      Afzaly and Good Pov, I understand where you two are coming from. Someone earlier used the term ‘Mental Bubble’. I think if anyone ignores or rejects your comments they must be such people (with a mental bubble that everything can be and will be controlled). Perhaps for those people it will. Through genuine understanding of the problem, and through vigorous praying, only then they can find guidance and help from God.

      The reality for the rest of us; media makes people how to think, how to feel and how to behave. Whether Muslim or non-Muslim a young human brain is very susceptible to media advertising. Music is a powerful tool in advertising by itself. Different melodies instigate different moods. Musicians study this and use these effects to benefit themselves. Unless you are a ‘strong’ believer there is no way you can realise how and in what ways others controlling those emotions (your emotions). You are not in control of that love towards a girl/boy band for eg.

      Hena Zuberi’s comment made on 4th Sep. Outlines conditions for good and bad upbringing. All of which are common sense in my opinion. I am hoping that everyone will agree on that… Common sense right? Then please tell me why “uncertain environment where rules are not clearly defined” (Hena Zuberi’s comment 4th Sep.) are still allowed by any society (regardless of Muslim or non-Muslim societies)? Can no one realise “Don’t do as you see it but do as I tell you” is the current message out there. It is a messed up message. I cannot justify to my child when I say no one is allowed to swear, yet we allow successful music companies allow to make music with swearing in them. They are the celebrated individuals of our society. Our children look up to them. We look up to them for our flourishing economy?

      Someone earlier asked a question –so much changed from my childhood to now I wonder what it will be like for our grandchildren? Well! I can say that my grandchildren will not have much luck! I cannot do this on my own. I cannot take the media on by myself. And with people on MM blaming me for not controlling, not being patient, not properly understanding my kid, I sure can see where this is all going with my kid let alone worry about my grand kids.

      I am not so lucky as some of you who are able to send their children to Islamic school. However, I don’t think the Islamic schooling matters much. Because, Christians once upon a time were not allowed girlfriends (sex outside marriage). I feel today’s Christians are the product of a society where rules/common sense environments are ignored; Rules are not clearly defined and been confused by people who doesn’t give a toot about rules – it is okay to play with children’s emotions as long as they make money out of so called music. I am angry to read that I will be blamed when my child doesn’t turn out right but no one is pointing any fingers to the wrongness of the society in general. More importantly; not done anything about THEM. Without them nothing will ever change. Parents can’t do this alone! Come out of your bubble!

      • Avatar

        RCHOUDH

        September 9, 2013 at 2:45 AM

        Gunal,

        I agree with you so much re: society’s massive influence upon our children. I also hate when people are quick to blame parents for how their kids turn out, as if to say that if only the parents had “turned off the TV” kids wouldn’t be getting such terrible messages from the greater pop cultural landscape. What they don’t want to realize or admit though, is that these messages are so pervasive nowadays that even if you’re able to completely control every single media device within your own home (a feat that gets harder and harder to do as kids get older and as media technology evolves) you can never completely shield your kids from being influenced once they step outside the home (and this goes for every part of the world now, not just the West).
        The only things we can do right now as parents is keep doing our best to shield our kids from the media’s influence inside our homes, as well as try to educate other members of society about how damaging such media influences are, not only for ourselves but for the greater society. Teach people how to critique the racist, sexist, misogynistic, classist messages brought forth by these images. We also have to make these billion-dollar industries accountable for what they do. Here’s a really good article from The Guardian about this new disturbing phenomenon about the media’s influence upon today’s teenagers: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/sep/08/beeban-kidron-inreallife-interview-teenagers

        • Avatar

          gunal

          September 9, 2013 at 8:56 AM

          Thank you RCHOUDH. Wow! (The streets of London!) I know how easy for my son to get exposed to those harsh absurdity. He, probably, has seen and heard quite a lot of it already.

          • Avatar

            RCHOUDH

            September 10, 2013 at 5:13 AM

            You’re welcome gunal!

  18. Avatar

    Hyde

    September 21, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    This is the difference between men and women. No man, especially a practicing Muslim man or even a boy would ever say [openly] that he has a celebrity crush on any of these “famous stars”.

    I just say Nicki Minaj latest video. Did not know who she was, but after watching the latest video, I can honestly say there is so much occultish satanic overtones that it is difficult to to even listen to her gibberish nonsense. This is NOT music anymore. There is a reason in the year 2013, “a muslim” is a lead singer of a boy band.

    Keep believing in serendipity folks, until it catches up to you.

    (Ironically all these young girls that are manipulated into listening to these songs and wasting their childhood become ardent feminist down the path and want to change the mosques and whatnot)

    • Avatar

      mahmoud

      September 23, 2013 at 9:09 AM

      @Hyde, you nailed it

  19. Avatar

    Brenda G.

    June 10, 2016 at 9:01 AM

    I like another song by Ke$ha “Animal” http://lyricsmusic.name/ke-ha-lyrics/animal/ from Lipsha album

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#Culture

Messiah, A Fitnaflix Production

Netflix released Season 1 of a new thriller series called “Messiah”. The series imagines the emergence of a character claiming to be sent by God, the Messiah, or Al-masih (messiah in Arabic) as he is referred to in the television series. 

This so-called Al-masih first emerges in Damascus at a time when ISIS is about to storm the city. He then appears in Palestine, Jordan and ultimately America. Along the way, he performs miracles and dumbfounds the Israeli and American intelligence officers charged with tracking him and figuring out who is enabling him. The season ends with a suggestion that he is truly a divine man, with the ultimate miracle of reviving the dead.

The entertainment value here is quite limited. Some stretches of the series are just flat or straight out boring, and the acting is not all that great. However, the series does create an opportunity for discussion about Muslim eschatology (the knowledge of the end of times), response to fitnah (faith testing tribulations) and Muslims portrayal in and consumption of entertainment media. 

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The series shows some sophistication in the portrayal of Muslim characters relative to what people have been accustomed to with Hollywood. Characters that are situated in the Middle East are performed by actors from that region who speak authentic regional Arabic (including Levantine and North African dialects). The scenes appear authentic. While this is progress, it is limited, and the series falls into oversimplification and caters to typical stereotypes. While several Muslim characters draw the viewers’ empathy, they are not used to provide context or nuance for issues that the series touches on: ISIS, refugees, the Israeli occupation and suicide bombings. The two American Muslim characters are never really developed. In fact, all Muslim characters tend to be “flat” and one dimensional. This is in contrast, for example, to American and Israeli characters which appear multi-dimensional and complex, often dealing with personal challenges that a Western audience is likely to identify with (caring for an aging parent, mourning the loss of a spouse, balancing career and life, dealing with family separation, abortion, etc.). While Muslim characters are shown as hapless refugees, terrorists, religious followers, political activists, a university professor and student, their stories are never developed.

The show repeatedly refers to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. There is also consistent normalization of Israeli occupation and glorification of the occupying forces.  

Islamic eschatology 

Orthodox Muslims affirm a belief in “the signs of the End of Times, including the appearance of the Antichrist, and the Descent of Jesus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) the son of Mary 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), from the celestial realm. We also believe in the sun’s rising from the west and the appearance of the “Beast of the Earth from its appointed place” [1]. Dr. Omar Al-Ashqar gives a detailed review of the authentic narrations regarding the signs of the end of times in his book Al-Qiyamah Al-Sughra [2]. When it comes to actual figures who will emerge in the end of times, Sunni scholars generally affirm the following:

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  • Imam Mahdi, who is a just ruler who will share the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) name. 
  • The False Messiah (Antichrist), or Al-Masjih Al-Dajjal, who will be the greatest fitna to ever to afflict this Ummah. 
  • The True Messiah, Isa ibn Maryam, who returns in the end of days, kills the Antichrist and rules for 40 years and establishes justice and prosperity – close to the time of the day of judgement. 

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) warned that the fitna of Al-Dajjal will be the most severe ever. In a hadith narrated by Ibn Majah and others, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is reported to have said, “Oh people, there has not been a fitna on the face of the earth, since God dispersed the progeny of Adam, greater than the fitna of Al-Dajjal. Every prophet of God warned his people from Al-Dajjal. I am the last prophet. You are the last Ummah. He will appear amongst you no doubt!”

Al-Dajjal comes after a period of famine and drought. He will be one-eyed and will claim to be God. Believers will recognized a mark or word of disbelief on his forehead. He will perform many miracles. He will endow those who follow him with material prosperity and luxury, and those who deny him will be inflicted with deprivation and suffering. He will travel at high speeds, and  roam the whole world, except Makkah and Madinah, which he will not be able to enter. He will create a heaven and hell, command rain, the earth, animals, and resurrect the dead – all supernatural occurrences that he has been afforded as a trial and test for others. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) went as far as encouraging us to flee from confronting him, because it will be a test of faith like no other.

Reflections on the series and lessons to be learned

The Prophets and the righteous are not tricksters and riddlers.

The Netflix series portrays the character ‘al-masih’ as someone who speaks cryptically; it is never clear what he is teaching and why. He leads his followers on long physical journeys without telling them where they are going or why. He speaks in riddles and tortures his followers with mental gymnastics and rhetorical questions.

On the other hand, a true prophet of God offers real guidance and brings clear teachings and instructions – the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) spoke clearly to his followers, he taught them how to worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) alone, to be just, to uphold the ties of kinship, to look after one’s neighbour, and so on. He did not abandon them in a state of confusion to fend for themselves. Moreover, “al-masih” deceives his followers by concealing his true name (“Payam Golshiri”) and background – something a righteous person would never do, let alone a prophet.

What Netflix got right and what it got wrong

The Al-masih character initially emerges in Damascus (and the Islamic tradition mentions Isa ibn Mariam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will descend in Damascus). However, the character is eventually revealed to hail from Iran. A number of ahadith refer to Al-Dajjal first appearing in Khurasan, which is part of modern-day Iran. He poses as a righteous person, but it is revealed that he doesn’t pray at all. He quotes religious scripture, but only to service his cryptic speeches. That Al-Dajjal would pose as a religious person would not surprise Muslims, since some hadith mention he will emerge from the remnants of the Khawarij, a heterodox group known for overzealousness and fanaticism [3]. Al-Dajjal travels the world at fast speeds, disappearing from one land and appearing in another, just as the character in the series does. 

messiah

photo credit: IMDb

However, numerous features of Dajjal would make his identity obvious to believers, not the least of which is that the word ‘disbeliever’ will be written – whether literally or metaphorically (scholars differ) – on his forehead in such a manner which even those unlettered would be able to read. Physically, Dajjal is a short man, with a deformity of his legs, and one of his eyes is likened to a “floating grape”, sightless, and “green like glass”. The Prophet is said to have focused on these physical features because they are so manifest and eliminate any confusion.

Al-Dajjal’s time overlaps with that of two other eschatological figures – Imam Mahdi and Esa ibn Maryam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Imam Mahdi is prophesized to fill the world with justice and rule for seven years, after which Dajjal will emerge. While the Muslims following al-Mahdi are taking shelter in Damascus, Prophet Esa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will descend and eventually slay the Dajjal. Therefore, according to the Islamic eschatological tradition, things will get better before they get worse before they get better again – Imam Mahdi precedes Dajjal and Dajjal precedes Prophet Esa [2].

Safeguarding against tribulations

The best safeguard is to have sound knowledge of theology and law, and to have our iman rooted in revelation and reason. For example, the most basic understanding of Islamic theology would lead us to reject any man who claims to be God, as Al-Dajjal will claim. With basic Islamic knowledge and reasoning, we would know that Allah does not manifest in human-like form, much less one that is deformed, as Allah is the all Powerful and Perfect. Could it be that at the end of times even such essential Islamic knowledge is lacking? 

walking on water

Al-Dajjal deceives people by his miracles and supernatural abilities. Our iman should not be swayed by supernatural events and miracles. We should measure people and ideas according to their standing with the Shari’ah. We must keep our heads level and not be manipulated because we cannot explain an occurrence. 

Al-Dajjal also lures people by his miracles and by his ability to give them material prosperity, comfort and luxury. We must tie our happiness and sense of satisfaction to eternal spiritual truths, not to the comforts of this life, and be willing to give up what we have for what we believe. We should live simply and not follow into the path of excessive consumerism and materialism.  

Another important consideration is not to base our connection to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) on another human being (except the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Scholars, celebrity preachers, imams and teachers are all prone to error and sin. We must use the Shariah and the Prophet Muhamamd’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) character and teaching as the filter by which we evaluate them, not the other way around. Despite his obvious deformities, the Antichrist will be a mesmerizing blinding celebrity, but whose falsehood will be uncovered by believers who make judgements based on loyalty to principle, not personality. 

Is it time to live on a remote mountain?

The clearest indication of the nearness of the Day of Judgement is the prophethood of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). The Prophet likened the difference between his time and the Day of Judgement as the difference in length between the index and middle fingers. However, before we sell everything and move to a remote mountain, let’s exercise care in projecting Islamic eschatology on the political events of our times. The reality is that no one knows when these things will happen. Explaining the current phase in our history away by end of times theories or conspiracy theories, are simpleton intellectual copouts that lead our Ummah away from actively working towards its destiny. Anyone who has claimed that this event (remember Y2K) or that event is a major sign of the Day of Judgement has been wrong, so far. There were scholarly guesses in the early centuries of Muslims that expected the Hour 500 years after the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) death. Yet, here we are. No one knows.

The best you can do is stay calm and make salat!

Muslims and the entertainment media

This increased sophistication and the apparent familiarity with Islamic sources exhibited by Messiah producers should lead us to value the importance of producing accurate, authentic and polished material and content about Islam and Muslims and our community’s role as a source of information. 

It is also important for Muslims to produce works for the mass media and entertainment industries. This is no longer the era of the sole MSA Da’wah table. Sophisticated, entertaining and authentic media production is an imperative for modern Muslims.  When we don’t tell the story, someone else will. 

Make it a Netflix Night?

We may refer to it as Fitnaflix, but let’s all admit that we cannot avoid television and the entertainment industry, for better or for worse. We can however moderate, guide and channel its use. Start breaking the isolation in which many of our children and young adults consume media. Families should watch TV together and use it as an opportunity to model how we select appropriate material and to create teaching and discussion moments. Parents should know what is influencing their kids even if they don’t like it. 

Some parts of the series Messiah, despite its flaws (and an explicit sexual scene in episode 9, not to mention profanity), could be used as a teaching moment about trials and tribulations, the end of times and the importance of Muslims engaging in the entertainment industry in a principled and professional manner. 

Ed’s note: Much of the series’ content is R-rated. Besides depictions of terrorism and other mayhem, sexual activity and brief rear nudity are shown. Mature themes include abortion, adultery, infertility and alcoholism.

Works Cited

[1] T. C. o. I. Al-Tahawi, Hamza Yusuf (trans), Zaytuna Institute, 2007. 
[2] O. Al-Ashqar, Al-Qiyamah Al-Sughra, Dar Al-Nafa’is, 1991. 
[3] [Online]. Available: https://abuaminaelias.com/dailyhadithonline/2014/06/23/dajjal-emerges-khawarij/.

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#Culture

The Creation Of The Stereotypical Arab

stereotype Arabs

Robert Entman, professor of media and public affairs, published an excellent study in  1993 in which he explained the inner workings of framing. Framing is a well-known concept within communication sciences and the study of mass communication, and concerns according to Entman both selection and promotion. He describes it as:

“The selection of some aspects of a perceived reality to make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation and/or treatment recommendation for the item described”. (Entman 1993)

A typical frame consists therefore of four qualities. It selects a specific problem by considering and checking the related actors, with which resources they act and observed from their own cultural framework. Then, the greater forces behind the problem are identified, i.e. the broader context. Subsequently, ethical questions are raised that interpret and evaluate the effects and actions of what is taking place. Eventually, solutions and treatments are offered.

Entman illustrates this by giving the example of the Cold War. According to him, American media made during that time frame extensive use of the so-called “Cold War frame”. This frame selected for example the Vietnamese Civil War as a specific problem. It then identified the actors and greater forces behind that war, usually Communist rebels supported by the Soviet-Union and China. Subsequently, these media ethically appraised the whole situation, interpreting the war as instances of severe Atheist agression. This frame could then eventually lead to the promotion of specific solutions being presented to the common man, among which support of the United Stated to the opponents of Communism, and military intervention.

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The caption of the Looney Tunes show Ali-Baba Bound reads: “Ali Baba, the mad dog of the desert.”
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Framing is a means used by mass media to transmit specific messages to the audience. This is accomplished by using the classic transmission model, i.e. the sender who sends a message to the receiver through a channel/medium. However, Entman adds culture as an additional element for the transmission of a frame. Professor mass communication, writer and expert on racial and ethnical stereotypes in the media, Jack Shaheen, expands on this theory. After all, the framing phenomenon can not be completely understood when detached from the social and cultural context in which the message is transmitted to the audience. The era of Communism and the “Cold War frame” may be over, traditional mass media keep using frames to promote specific images among their audience.

Images that would certainly have a hard time to take root where it not for it adaption to existing and established cultural convictions. Convictions that were built up and developed through decades-long illustrations and representations within cultural productions, most notably in the movie industry.

Hollywood

Shaheen did some extensive research on the cultural depiction of Arabs in the Hollywood society. The results of his observations were brought together in the documentary Reel Bad Arabs (2006), one I’d recommend everyone interested in this subject. “Arabs are the most malign group in the history of Hollywood. They’re portrayed basically as sub-humans,” says Jack Shaheen to open his argument. “These images have been with us for more than a century.”

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During no less than thirty years he watched thousands of movies, from the oldest ones to modern blockbusters, to observe and analyse the depiction of Arabs en Muslims in Western cinema. He subsequently discerns a dangerous and systematic pattern of hateful and racist stereotypes that strip a whole people of its humanity and depicts them as the embodiment of evil, fanaticism, and ignorance. According to Shaheen, this is an established fact from which filmmakers rarely deviate.

The land of the Arabs! An image Hollywood eagerly adopted from long-lost British and French explorers and writers that depicted the Arabs based on their own biased imagination of the Orient, the strange and exotic land that seemingly emanated stories like “One Thousand and One Nights”. The land with its eternal deserts, its threatening roughness, and ominous music. The desolate wilderness littered with palaces of rich and decadent pashas and their harem. The mysterious melodies that guide the movements of voluptuous belly dancers and snake charmers, watched by the all-seeing eyes of the scimitar wearing guards in movies like Invitation to the Dance from 1956.

Even today, such stereotypes are being used, even in children’s movies. Disney’s Alladin (1992) has been watched by millions of children all over the world but recycles nearly every stereotype that had been already used by the silent black-and-white Hollywood past to depict the so-called Arabland. A rough, unfriendly desert landscape where “they cut off your ear when they don’t like your face”, as stated in the opening song of the movie.

In the Looney Tunes animated cartoon Ali-Baba Bound (1940), we see the fairy tale character depicted as a cunning, insidiously grinning Arab with a beard, big nose and evil eye-brows who calls his companions by literally barking at them like a dog. The caption of the show reads: “Ali Baba, the mad dog of the desert.

Not only children, but adults as well see Arabs depicted in movies as hot-headed and impulsive simpletons who deliver some cheap and funny laughs. Take for example the India Jones movie Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), in which Indiana ends up face-to-face with a threatening and completely random armed Arab. The man tries to impress the American hero with his evil smile and some sword tricks, to which Indiana simply shoots him dead and runs off to continue his adventure.

The same Arab that prefers dogs over women. Indeed, an Arab states in The Happy Hooker goes to Washington from 1977 that “dogs are better than sheep. They’re cleaner, I know, I’ve tried dogs.” And if it isn’t dogs or sheep (think of the popular nickname “goatf*#ker” used by Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh to publicly denote Moroccans), than it is blond, American women.

The stereotype of the obtrusive Arab obsessed with white women appears so many times that it becomes ridiculous.Click To Tweet
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Two Lebanese terrorists from “The Delta Force” (Cannon Film) – 1986

 

In the Bond movie Never Say Never Again (1983), Kim Bassinger is being undressed by a filthy  Arab businessman to be sold, with an unintelligible gurgling and crackling (Hollywood Arabic), to a bunch of miserable Bedouins. Arabs are being depicted as primitive and aggressive desert dwellers obsessed with American women as a welcome change to their usual covered and invisible womenfolk hidden in their palaces.

Those Arabs, on the other hand, that do effectively have access to modern society, technology and progress are being imagined as a faceless nuisance to Western society or death and destruction craving terrorists anxious to ruin the West.

Two businessmen in The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) jokingly state that Arabs “don’t go anywhere without their animals.” Note that they were talking about a recent trip by plane!

How was London?” the main character of the movie Chapter Two (1979) is being asked. “Full of Arabs,” he replies. Movies that are in no way related to Arabs or Muslims and aren’t connected to the Middle-East in any way still can’t resist to the urge of making racist and humiliating comments on screen.

Back To The Future

Even in the hugely popular Back to the Future from 1985, the above statement is sadly the case. The movie is a plain, American Sci-Fi picture for teenagers in which stereotypes about Arabs are nevertheless again introduced. Emmett Brown, scientist and the inventor of the time-traveling car is minding his own business when he suddenly gets shot at, without any motive or reason, by a bunch of Libyan terrorists. They shoot him and then focus on the main character Marty McFly. The shooter curses violently when his weapon jams and fails to kill McFly. When he finally resolves the issue with his machine gun, their car breaks down so they again fail in an almost cartoonish way to continue.

The reason for this sudden and random occurrence is completely unknown, and all throughout the rest of the story no reference is made to it. But the fact remains established, a group of inept Arabs killed the beloved professor.

Foreign Policy

Just like the above-mentioned Cold War frame, this frame on Arabs and Muslims is a perfectly suited tool of the mass media and the political establishment to help shape American foreign policy in the Middle-East and North Africa in the minds of the American citizens. Four different events caused Hollywood to radically increase its use of Arab and Muslim stereotypes. Before anything else, the creation and establishment of Israel in 1948 en the subsequent Arab-Israeli wars resulted in a clear positioning of the United States and Hollywood on the side of their Israeli ally. The Arab embargo that hit Europe and the USA during the 1970’s and the Iranian Revolution further contributed to the role of Arabs as thugs and greedy businessmen. The notorious War on Terror could count as the fourth reason for the establishment and representation of the Arab and Muslim as enemy of progress and freedom.

Take for example the plans of a rich Arab oil sheikh to buy his way up through the United States, conquering it in the process. In the movie Network from 1976, it’s insinuated that a group of Arab businessmen threat to almost run over the Unites States financially by buying up several companies and building plots. The character of Howard Beal than calls live on television to rise against these Arabs, that are planning to buy his TV network. A memorable and frightening scene than follows in which the audience can see a mob of angry citizens take to the streets to express their rage, an image of social hatred against a common enemy, the Arab.

The Ultimate Demon

If it’s not an evil, perverse, and decadent Arab businessman, the Arab gets the role of dangerous and hostile terrorist assigned. Reserved for Russians and Cubans during the days of the Cold War, Palestinians would later figure as the antagonists of the hero in American action movies. The terrorist antagonist stripped from any bit of motive and humanity, serving as fleshly embodiment of the ultimate evil.

This image is already used as early as 1960 in the movie Exodus, where the Palestinians are depicted as invisible enemies hiding in the desert who perform appalling acts against the innocent Jewish colonists because of their radical antisemitism. It’s no wonder that this movie was considered a major promotion for Zionist thought and a support for the Israeli cause.

Theologian and writer Roland Boer writes in his 2009 work on Biblical themes that the depiction of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in American cinema still influences American citizens to this day with regard to their opinion on the conflict.

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Palestinian terrorists in “True Lies” – 1994

Over a decade later, we find the same old story in the movie Black Sunday (1977). A Palestinian female terrorist wished to detonate a blimp over a typical American sports stadium during the Super Bowl, with about 80.000 ordinary Americans present. The caption of the movie on its release poster reads: “It could be tomorrow!” Again, a decade later, Arnold Schwarzenegger faces a group of Palestinian terrorists that wishes to destroy American cities with nuclear missiles in True Lies from 1994. Again and again, Arabs and Muslims are being identified with hatred, terror and the ultimate failure of their plans due to the American action hero.

An image that, not unimportantly, was fed extensively by two Israeli producers, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who created The Cannon Group company. For over twenty years, The Cannon Group produced at least thirty movies in which everything Arab is being mocked and demonized. Yes, the political relationship between the USA and Israel does indeed trickle in the world of cinema. What could be a more effective weapon than a seemingly unending source of full-length movies in which enmity and distrust against a certain people is promoted? A cultural alliance to dismiss these Arabs, “sand n#^*rs”, “goat f*^#rs” and “ragheads”, fed by a billion dollar business.

The most striking example of this would be the movie Rules of Engagement from 2000. The film leads the audience to Yemen, where a mob of dusty Yemenis are protesting loudly in front of the American embassy. American marines are being asked to evacuate the present staff, when they suddenly open fire and mow down every single protester, including women and children. As a result of this event, an investigation is started to examine the decision of the marines to open fire. Towards the end of the movie, however, the audience is revealed a whole other story than initially portrayed. Plot twist, the Arab protesters were armed themselves and they opened fire on the American soldiers.

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“Rules of Engagement” (Paramount Pictures) – 2000

Men and woman wildly brandishing guns and even a little girl that aims her pistol on an American soldier. A little, Arab girl that wasn’t nearly as innocent as she looked. A whole bunch of Arabs that weren’t as innocent as initially thought. They deserved to die! It was their own fault they attacked the mighty American army of the free! The marines had the right to kill them, to protect themselves! Sure, it was a massacre, but a legitimate one against the enemies of the USA. Against faceless, unknown human beings killed like animals.

Debunking Cultural Practices

Such movies present complicated and nuanced conflicts as a caricatural fight between Good and Evil. They polarize the wars in the Middle-East and North Africa by presenting the American cause as the necessary and just fight against demonized and inhuman enemy, an intrinsic evil. A propaganda weapon arises on a massive scale because of popular cultural injections.

Entman also describes culture as the “stock of commonly invoked frames“. In fact, he defines culture as “the empirically demonstrable set of common frames exhibited in the discourse and thinking of most people in a social grouping.” The fact that framing is then used extensively in the mass media, which includes movies, soaps and news reporting, could be explained from this point of view.

Because of the prolonged cultural impact of Hollywood, the frame of the Arab and Muslim is undoubtedly established within those societies that lie within its sphere of influence. The frame is developed as a cultural element within that society and determines how people look at messages and images that fit within that frame. The Arab that appears in the news is usually no individual. He’s a terrorist, a religious extremist, a zealot, a Muslim, a Palestinian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Syrian or Iranian. These are all frames that evoke certain connotations among the traditional receiving audience, developed within a shared consciousness.

It’s a dangerous trend, but the best solution is the simplest one of all: look beyond the message alone. Don’t let popular culture or traditional news reporting decide how you see the world, because there’ll always be agendas being followed to guide and manipulate you. Common sense, an open mind, and sufficient dialogue can debunk the most stubborn cultural prejudices.

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#Culture

Prayers Beyond Borders Offers Hope to Separated Families

border wall in tijuana

On the border of San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico, several families live their lives torn apart—they were born on the wrong side of a wall. Now, faith groups are joining together to give them hope through prayer. Since the Mexican-American War in 1848, the boundary that divided the two countries transformed from an imaginary line, to a monument, to a simple barb-wire fence where people on either side could meet, greet, hold hands, or exchange a warm smile, to a heavily monitored steel wall stretching across almost 15 miles between San Diego and Tijuana. 

In recent years, crime, drug trafficking, an influx of undocumented workers, and increasingly white nationalism created stricter immigration policies in the U.S., directly impacting those who live straddling both sides of the border. Included in these are families whose loved ones have been deported – parents, spouses, children, and other relatives – to Mexico, undocumented workers providing for their families, and relatives who have not made physical contact with each other in years, sometimes decades. They gather along the steel mesh barriers of the border wall at Friendship Park to touch each other’s fingertips and pray.

The documentary, “A Prayer Beyond Borders,” produced by CAIR California, MoveOn, and Beyond Borders Studios captured some of these emotive moments during a Sunday prayer service held by the Border Church in partnership with the Border Mosque. Christians and Muslims came together in solidarity at Friendship Park on September 30, 2019, and held a joint bilingual ceremony, led by Reverend John Fanestil, Pastor Guillermo Navarrete, Imam Taha Hassane, and Imam Wesley Lebrón.

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Imam Lebrón, National Hispanic Outreach Coordinator for WhyIslam, witnessed the nightmare families separated at the border endure when he was invited to participate in this first meeting of the Border Church and Border Mosque. As a Puerto Rican, U.S. born citizen who never experienced the hardships of immigration, he was moved by what he witnessed. He said, 

“I entered Mexico and reached the border at Friendship Park and immediately noticed families speaking to each other through the tiny spaces of an enormous metal wall. They were not able to touch except for their fingers, which I later learned was the way they kissed each other.”

He described families discussing legal matters and children crying because they could not embrace a parent who traveled for days only to speak to them briefly behind the cold steel mesh partition. 

“Walls are meant to provide refuge and safety from the elements and they are not meant to prevent human beings from having a better life,” he explained, “As I stood behind that wall, I felt hopeless, angry, and had many other mixed emotions for our Mexican brethren who have been completely stripped of the opportunities many of us take for granted.” During the service he addressed the crowd gathered on the Mexican side of Friendship Park and recited the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer. It was the first time the call was heard in Friendship Park, but not the last. 

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The Border Church and Border Mosque will continue to provide a joint service on the last Sunday of every month and are calling for a binational day of prayer on Sunday, October 27th. They will be joined by Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and indigenous spiritual leaders to “Pray Beyond Borders.” The event will be filmed and possibly live-streamed to a global audience with the objective of raising awareness and requesting financial support to address issues related to family separation in the region. 

On October 7th CAIR California with MoveOn, Faith in Action, MPower Change, and a social media team and distribution partners released the film “A Prayer Beyond Borders,” With the digital launch of this film in English and Spanish they wish to reach millions of viewers in telling the story of the Border Church and the Border Mosque and bring more faith leaders and activists on board to protect families’ right to gather. Please join them at Pray Beyond Borders – A Binational Day of Prayer – Sunday, October 27th at Friendship Park. 

when the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles(Psalm 34:17 – NIV).

“And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah ]” (Qur’an 2:45)

Photo by Max Böhme on Unsplash

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