Rihanna and the Emiratis


I don’t like Rihanna, neither her music nor her look.  Perhaps it stems from the time when she and Chris Brown were an item and allowed herself to be his punching bag.  I dislike like women who don’t have a high enough regard for themselves to keep from being abused by anyone, especially men with Napoleonic complexes, however I was slightly perplexed to hear she was thrown out of the Shaikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi for what some thought were inappropriate photographs she took there the day of a concert she was to perform later in the same city.     Looking at the photos, they are typically Rihanna, toned down quite a bit.

rihanna et.co

When you consider she sometimes looks like this, however Rihanna’s photo shoot was timid in comparisonrihanna swimsuit

Everybody knows Rihanna’s schtick, EVERYBODY except those in the UAE it appears.  She is no secret, she’s not an enigma she is what you see and as the photos and others on her instagram account show, sometimes you see more of her than at other times.

The UAE has had this problem however for some time of people who go to that country and flaunt themselves in ways Emiratis consider disrespectful of their way of life.  For many westerners, baring skin, drinking and carousing is as natural to them as it is for people of the Gulf praying five times a day or covering one’s self fully in 100 degree weather. How then do you reconcile the two opposites into a peaceful coexistence?  It’s clear for Emiratis, that kind of existence is not desirable if it means accommodating the likes of Rihanna which is why she was kicked out from the masjid.  It’s important to note that she was allowed to continue with her lackluster concert according to some, but the bigger problem is how can a country that wants to live its austere religious lifestyle justify making itself a center of tourism and commerce that invites a lifestyle completely opposite of those principles?  Emiratis want to have their cake and eat it too, they want to live as Muslims while entertaining people from all walks of life who are only interested in that country as a place of fun and sun and for the moment it’s hard to imagine how that integration can happen without conflict of the sort that resulted at Shaikh Zayed’s masjid.  Emiratis should not be surprised nor upset that what you see is what you get is coming into their country they just have to figure out if they want to keep having them come.

Music and Islam


I’m a big fan of Tariq Ramadan who has done a commendable job of incorporating his very Western personality into his Islamic way of life and I have often quoted him here at Miscellany101.wordpress.com.   He wrote a piece indirectly about music, more directly about Yousuf Islam and there are several points he made that resonated with me which I wanted to share here.

For Muslim women and men around the world, his story embodies a powerful lesson. We hear of “Islamic chants” (anacheeds) that are supposedly “Islamic” because they express religious themes, or because they employ no instruments, or because they are based on traditional or Qur’anic texts. In this light, only such chants are permissible (halal) in Islam, the only form of creativity recognized. There are indeed scholars who hold such a position, but it is far from unanimous. In To Be a European Muslim (written in 1996) I dealt with these views and took a clear position on music in Islam. Not only is it permitted, but Muslim women and men must also reconcile themselves with art, with creativity, and with the imagination in all its dimensions. Guided by their ethical bearings, they must not allow themselves to be enchained by the adjective “Islamic” that ends up isolating them, suffocating them, and depriving them of their creative energy in the universe of art, of music, painting, sculpture and literature. Muslims are constantly justifying themselves; they feel obliged to describe everything as “Islamic” to satisfy and to conform to the norm. But our ethical concerns must not force upon us an obsession with the norms of “licit” and “illicit” (halal and haram).

Seen in this light, any song, any form of artistic expression that celebrates humanity, love, justice, the quest for meaning, and peace is, in fact, in full conformity with Muslim ethics and needs no further qualifiers. Meaning, hopes and human edification are to be felt and to be lived; they have no need of a normative framework that bridles and ultimately annihilates them. The expression of ultimate ethical causes in art transcends the narrow limitations of specific ways of belonging, and brings together the universal quality of all that is most precious to humans, who can feel themselves uplifted, broadened, vibrating, becoming more human, more peaceful; who can feel themselves being regenerated by a voice, a hand, a pen or a brush. Music can be a prayer, a painting a path, a song a story: as long as art speaks to mankind of its heart, its wounds, its hopes, tears, smiles and aspirations, it forms the universal language of humankind and can bring about by way of imagination, emotion and the heart what no dialogue of reason or of civilizations can hope to offer.