Hip Hop & Extreme Islam
You’ve probably never heard of him, but he’s well known to the US government and Islamic Jihadists. He goes by the name of Sheikh Abu Mansoor al-Amriki. He is rare due to the fact that he is Caucasian and one of the faces of al Qaeda-linked terrorist organization al-Shabab. He’s appeared multiple times in online propaganda videos. In most Islamic circles he is simply known as “The American.” His English name is Omar Hammami and he was raised in Alabama and converted to Islam in high school. It is widely reported that he is an American Muslim, and ex-US Special Forces. His current location is Somalia where he is training new recruits, many of whom have migrated to America and are of Somali descent. What makes him even more interesting is his rising “star” in the organization called al-Shabaab, an Islamic militia with an increasingly deadly role in the civil conflict in Somalia. A recent video utilized hip-hop as a method to deliver an anti-American message and as a recruiting tool aimed at young Westerners. It’s not hard to miss the hip hop beat and background lyrics prevalent throughout the video.
Hip-hop music has been a catalyst for social protest and change among youth in the US and all over the world since it’s beginnings. Even the government joined the charge as late as 2004 when the U.S. State Department funded a project aimed at promoting young rappers in Morocco. The goal was to promote Democracy using hip hop’s powerful draw. In decades past, it has been a force that has inspired youth for positive as well as negative change.
Frustrations and ambitions have been channeled and realized by youths well into adulthood and that legacy is carefully re-structured and carried on with each passing generation. There are underground, commercial and conscious Muslim hip hop artists in the US who have accepted Islam as their faith.
They include well known artists such as Mos Def, Common, Chuck D, Rza and the Roots just to name a few. Also included are lesser known yet popular underground Islamic artists such as Blakstone and Khalil. Islam and hip hop have blended and mixed over the years with no real warranted criticisms until the terrorists attacks of 9/11. And with recent events there could be an even deeper ripple affecting those with extreme messages and the call to action through violence as this latest video by al-Shabaab has demonstrated.
Conscious Muslim hip hop artists continue to counter negative messages they feel being undue scrutiny to Islam as a whole. They write and rap about about every day struggles, but ultimately these real life situations present the fuel needed to fire the determination necessary to rise from their situations and be lifted onto success in music and life, which carries on to influence everyone around them.
“Question the message not the genre.”
I’m not a proponent of censoring music. Parents should continue to encourage their young people to question everything and explore the unexplored together if at all possible. Lost youth are the heart and soul of successful terror recruitment campaigns such as these. If you’re a hip hop head as am I, please continue to support positive and conscious hip-hop artists whose messages do not promote terrorism against ones own people and government.