A World without Flags:
Punk Islam and other forms of Hope
Process theologians propose that Allah is continuously present in the world as the spirit of creative transformation. The creativity of this spirit is found, among other places, in musical aspects of Muslim youth culture: hip-hop, punk, and jazz. In their protests against colonialisms of the body and mind, whether imposed by the West or by the clerics, they remind us what Islam is supposed to be and can be: a tradition of beauty and justice, aliveness and intimacy. Their aim is to fight war not wars; to get rid of flags, not wave them in the faces of others and make them wave them, too. They do not want to convert the world to Islam, but to allow all people's to find their own hearts in divine beauty, through whatever faiths make sense to them. That, they believe, is Allah's will. Their hope for a world without flags begins in protest against colonialisms of various kinds and with a willingness to be "different." They follow in the footsteps of another man who dared to be different, too: Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
Interview with Hisham Aidi, author of Rebel Music
Hip Hop Hijabis
Taqwacore: Trailer for the Documentary
"This fascinating, timely, and important book on the connection between music and political activism among Muslim youth around the world looks at how hip-hop, jazz, and reggae, along with Andalusian and Gnawa music, have become a means of building community and expressing protest in the face of the West’s policies in the War on Terror. Hisham Aidi interviews musicians and activists, and reports from music festivals and concerts in the United States, Europe, North Africa, and South America, to give us an up-close sense of the identities and art forms of urban Muslim youth.
punk piety and protest
In situations of pain, hope begins with rebellion. It begins with saying "no" to what seems overwhelmingly oppressive and degrading of life as it can be and ought to be. There's a lot of anger in it, a lot of protest, and, if tempered by love, a lot of spirituality.
Middle-class, overly-satisfied people cannot see the spirituality. They see the anger as self-centered, hysterical, or dangerous, perhaps especially if it comes from youth. They associate spirituality with harmony but not with intensity, with equanimity but not with anger. They think Jesus blew it when he turned over the tables in the temple.
But there's a profound need for table-overturning in our world today, given the greed and injustice around us and within us. Many Muslim youth see it clearly, and this is why, among some Muslim youth today, hip-hop, reggae, and jazz are growing expressions of the Spirituality of Protest.
Make no mistake. The spirituality of protest is one of eighteen forms of spirituality that are found in human life; see the "Whiteheadian Wheel of Life" at the bottom of the page for all eighteen. There are other forms of spirituality that are quieter, happier, and gentler. Consider mindfulness in the present moment, or delight in beauty, or comfort of the familiar. They are so...nice.
But if you find yourself in a position where you are overwhelmed by rigid authoritarian powers within your community, or by colonizing powers from outside your community, you need a way to tell your story, to articulate your pain, to express your hopes.
In the mode of what Walter Brueggemann calls the prophetic imagination, you need to say "no" to the powers of injustice and "yes" to the possibility of a different way of living in the world. Music becomes one of best ways you can do this. If you are a process-relational Muslim, you will trust that the very Soul of the universe -- Allah -- both beckons and animates your prophetic impulses.
You need not pretend that your motives are always pure, that your pain is the only pain, that your hopes are the only hopes. Always the breathing of Allah gets mixed up with your own mixed motives and the ambiguities of life. It's important not to make a god of yourself. All spiritually-sensitive Muslims know that. And it is always important to temper justice with love. All spiritually-sensitive Muslims know that, too. They've read Rumi. They know that God's compassion trumps God's judgment.
Still, if you know the pain and the injustice, you can't just fall into the anesthesia of somnabulent pop harmonies.
You've got to tell the truth of nightmares, which is the flip side of the truth of hope. "Fight no wars," you say, "Fight War." "Throw down the flags," you say, because "Flags kill." There's protest in this, and also creativity. Whiteheadians speak of God as a spirit of creative transformation in the world. Surely, sometimes, it begins with getting a mohawk.
-- Jay McDaniel
Young Muslims Build a Subculture on an Underground Book (New York Times article, Dec. 22, 2008)
The Truth of Nightmares
People with strange dreams are not always happy people. And certainly they are not well-adjusted, if that means adjusted to the status quo. To the contrary they are often angry, frustrated, and discouraged about the way things are, even as they carry within themselves a hope for something better. The absence of love and justice in the world -- the sadness of greed, hatred, and violence -- keep them up at night. Whereas others sleep peacefully, trusting in the illusions of a well-ordered world, they are haunted by the truth of nightmares.