Live and Let Live

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The objective of the video, according to The Honesty Policy is “to show the world despite the negative press, stereotypes and discrimination we are burdened with we should respond with smiles and joy, not anger.”

Fortunately, it seems to have had its intended effect, going viral on social media, and being picked up by both the Independent and Huffington Post reporting it as a good news story about Muslims – something rare in today’s sensationalist, headline-seeking, “bad news sells” media landscape.

Whilst this may be seen as a good thing by most, unfortunately, some have come out as less than pleased with the video. The reservations boil down to two broad themes:

Impermissibility: the usage of Muslim women (in particular those who identify as Muslims by wearing a headscarf – “hijabis”) dancing to music e.g. Facebook posts “We complain about the state of Muslims, but we don’t see a problem with Muslims, especially sisters dancing to a song by an artist who has music videos sexually exploiting women?”

Capitulation to Western culture: attacks on the necessity of Muslims to making a video of singing and dancing, to show others they are happy and normal e.g. a blog entitled: I’m a British Muslim, and I don’t need to sing and dance to show I’m happy.

The proponents of the above themes of course have a right to their point of view but these analyses seem to overlook the fact is that “not everyone is like you”:

Legality in Islamic law is not monolithic: whether or not one individual considers this to be impermissible (which is their right), many others do not – in fact, this video explicitly includes a fantastic scene with renowned mainstream scholar Abdul Hakim Murad (aka T J Winters). The reality is that there are many different opinions on music and it is not a black-and-white issue. Whilst some might claim that those in the video were selling out their principles – for many of them, it very much was in line with their principles!

Everyone expresses themselves differently: whilst this may not represent how everyone expresses their happiness, for many it does. In a similar way to how some Christians who have lived in the Middle East, may have adopted the local culture, some British Muslims may have adopted a culture as their own here. For them, it is not a foreign culture – it is their culture!

Videos such as these have the greatest potential to influence others: with such a negative stereotype of Muslims in the press, using social media to show a good news story has the potential to counter the prevailing tide of negativity and influence the wider public. Other more fitting stories e.g. the Muslim News Awards for Excellence, where unsung Muslim heroes are celebrated and where the Prime Minister attended just do not get this kind of press coverage. In an ideal world we would not have to “show” anyone that we are happy and by doing this, we are not “proving” that we are. But we do have to try that little bit harder than others [whilst not selling out on our principles] given the cold truth – that we have a bad reputation!

In the end, just because one individual does not need or want to dance to show they are happy; and just because that individual does not want to use the media in this way to influence the wider public, that is the individual’s right – but as for me, I put myself firmly on the other side of the debate.

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