Even if it does mean blowing my own trumpet I do see myself as the (if not, one of the) original proponent of seeing women in a hijab as human. But just to reiterate the more subtle point of that post, I wasn't excusing egregious behaviour but more arguing that the standards to which any person is measured should depend on more the specific attribute of whether a woman happens to have her hair covered or not.
I mean hey, it's not like I'm particularly modest or well behaved myself. A case in point: I love music way more than I should and I still have N.E.R.D.'s Lapdance on my track list and loved Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines (and not just because of that video). Both tracks happen to feature Pharrell Williams, someone who won't need any further introduction if you happen to be in that most wonderful and cherished of demographics - a Muslim on the Internet - right now.
But seriously, I'm really not sure what's the worst thing about this whole Hashtag Happy Muslims topic (and no, you won't find any links to the video here) that's keeping everyone so busy on Twitter and Facebook right now. The video itself was bad enough but at least that just made the makers of it look like fools, however the following halal vs haraam debate, although inevitable, made common folk like us really look dim and shallow. That debate was such a pointless distraction that I wonder if it was actually deliberate and strategic - perhaps it came for free with whatever paint-by-numbers media consultant was hired to advise on the video?
I can't write such strong words without actually explaining why the video really was such an awful thing, not just for Muslims, but for the universe as a whole:
- The insecurity and irony of it all. Just like their rich and religious counterparts, truly happy people really don't need to shout it out.
- And even if you did want to tell people how happy you were, creating videos backed by chart hits just smacks of tacky overcompensation. Happy people generally do not suck up either.
- It's inconsistent. If any of these guys and gals danced at a non-segregated (I'm pushing things, I know, but baby steps eh?) Muslim wedding, then maybe I'd give them a round of applause. If they instead made an exception for some media exercise, then no, sorry, you're fired.
- It should have at least tried to plausibly deny its political agenda loading. Even worse, the people behind the video seemed ready to fall on their swords and defend themselves before they had even published it. But hey, martyrdom is our thing I suppose.
- The only thing worse than the professional management of an idea is when that professional management tries to dress things up as a grass roots enterprise. At least be subtle about the spin - although admittedly this is harder to do when your KPIs are measured in "number of retweets and likes". But hey look - rock star imams, yay!
- The Internet sucks, and anything that relies solely on in will remain virtual and always lack credibility.
- For heavens sake stop making Islam a brand. I have no intention of buying your blummin' t-shirt.
- And finally, it's a bit outdated. There's a reason why we don't see happy happy joy joy United Colours of Benetton and Gap ads any more: they're lame.
There's more here on Fug's blog. And hey: all of the above is invalid and void if, as I'm still hoping it will be, the video turns out to be a massive joke and example of some genius satire.
You see, here's the thing. This isn't about religion or Being a Muslim™, but about our shocking level of creativity, depth and critical thought, the lack of which we so desperately seem to want to hang on to. The dumbing down and common denominating of such a rich way of life is disappointing at best, and it seems the only way we can think of making it accessible is by creating some kind of Islam-by-numbers, easy listening variant that also happens be easy on the eye.
The consequences of this are both internal and external. Bandwagon jumping is obvious to all but those doing the jumping and as we continue to dumb ourselves down and volunteer for these self inflicted lobotomies, we push others away. On the other hand, the self harm comes in the form of us normalising our ever increasing shallowness. It's just so immature and not only unhealthy for us, but unattractive for those we may want to collaborate and work with.
The real shame is that we were doing pretty well for a bit. Outlandish are an excellent example of a truly creative and spiritual venture (although it doesn't count if you only liked Aicha because: OMG hijab). Real grass root initiatives like those from Imran JK (<3) and the much loved Rebel Muzik did more for us than this video ever will. But things seemed to have stagnated over the past decade as things like the GPU become the main event of the calendar with which we're all associated. Because, well, Islam innit.
The real measure of maturity, confidence and security of us as Muslims will come when we don't see these kind of stunts any more - when we'll be provoking instead of responding, actively pushing forward with society instead of actively defending ourselves against it. Will it come soon? Who knows, but I certainly hope so.