November 06, 2006
Researching Islamic rap I met Mohammed Yahya from Blind Alphabetz over the weekend who was selling his CDs in Carnaby Street. We spoke over coffee in nearby Golden square where he told me he had reverted to Islam after a trip to Gambia where 95% of people are Muslims.
Having passed through religions as diverse as Christianity and Buddhism he was in a phase of Rastafarianism and had dreadlocks. He was impressed with the feeling of brotherhood amongst Muslims there and the way Islam covered all aspects of life, nature and the community. He cut off his dreads and took "Shahada" (became a Muslim) a week after his return and has been a Muslim for almost two years now.
In the wake of the 7/7 bombings he said he was stopped maybe 15 times by Police in the West End and at Train Stations, but didn't seem overly concerned about it.
"They just wanted to look in my bag. They didn't arrest me. I took to carrying Dawa information, leaflets about Islam to give them. I also carried information about Buddhism and Christianity as well sometimes." he laughed. "They said,"So what are you then?"
Outside London is a bit of a diferent story but here race relations are OK. People can see what the government are doing is wrong. We are part of a festival: Love music hate Islamophobia. Islamophobia is just the new racism. Some people, even rap fans will refuse to buy my CDs because I am a Muslim. Two weeks ago my wife (also a rapper, part of Poetic Pilgrimage) and I were egged. The egg bounced off me, off my wife's leg and only broke when it hit the pavement."
Apparently this was a "Drive by" egging.
Mohammed asked me about Abu Hamza, saying that he had met Mustapha (Hamza's rapping son) and spoken to Muslims who had a lighter view of him. I told him where Hamza's khudbahs were available online. Can I get done for recruitment now? I spoke of the dificulty of filming in Finsbury park and of maintaining a relationship with the Islamists there. I also said frankly that coming from a background I'd call "festival anarchism" I couldn't really connect to the atmosphere of deference around Hamza by Muslims and as a media spectacle.
"They are against music there?" asked Mohammed.
"As far as I know, yes." I said "One of the people I got on with the best put up a curtain when his wife came home and she went to another room. In his life pre-Islam he had been organising nightclubs and she had been a rapper."
"When you spoke on the phone about "Jihadi rap", that isn't how I would describe myself. I am into peace, Islam is a religion of peace. We are a positive influence on our community."
here is a link to a fatwah, or Islamic ruling about Music from Blind Alphabetz MySpace page.