4. American hip-hop as a response and complement to Islamic hip-hop versus Islamophobia

9/11/01 was a terrible day

Thousands of innocents, all gone away

Fundamentalist terrorists tried to make infidels pay

But their deaths were not the only legacy


American racism brought terror to innocents all around,

Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, really anyone brown,

Terrorists they’d never met sent buildings into the ground

But also brought out the worst in each and every town


For every Saddam there’s a million “Salaams”

For every bomb there’s a million Muslim moms

For every terrorist there’s American racism

So is the real threat from without or within?


Muslims use song, ghazal, ink, and rap,

To show that they’re more than that terrorist crap,

IAM, Atlas, Fun-Da-Mental, we hear you,

And want to show that we don’t fear you.


This rap I wrote was inspired by Ted Swedenburg’s chapter in Global Noise entitled “Islamic Hip Hop versus Islamophobia.” I really enjoyed reading the verses written by Islamic hip-hop artists and think they serve as a powerful tool for anti-racism. I had no idea that hip-hop was such a prominent force in the Islamic world, let alone one used for such good.


Being a non-Muslim American, I thought the way in which I could best respond to these Muslim rappers was to respond by writing a rap of my own that reached out back to them. I wanted to  present an American view on the situation different from the Islamophobic one they responded to that so unfortunately represents the view of so many of my fellow Americans.


In the first verse, I wrote about the attacks of September 11, 2001, which arguably engendered the majority of Islamophobic sentiment in America. The first three lines represent a pretty simple view of 9/11, but I also add in the fourth line that the deaths of those people were not the only legacy lasting from that day.


In the second verse, I write of the other lasting legacy: the pervasive Islamophobia that these hip-hop artists try to counteract. I write of how Muslims and anyone who looked stereotypically Muslim bore the brunt of American racism post-9/11, and how the terrorist attacks served not only to take down the World Trade Center but also to bring out the worst in Americans across the country.

The third verse offers more direct contrast: there are many more “salaams” or sayings of peace from Muslims than there are terrorists like Saddam Hussein. There are many more mothers, and by extension, human beings, who are Muslim, than there are bombs made by Muslims. I question whether the threat comes from without (terrorist attacks) or within (applying our thoughts about a very, very limited number of Muslims to all Muslims). In the final verse, I address the Muslims who reach out through rap, and use rap to say that I hear and understand what they’re saying, and try to offer a peaceful vision to complement theirs.

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