Vol. 3    Issue 02   01-15 June 2008
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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
The Holy Quran A Pictorial Gallery
Muslim Minorities in Non-Islamic Milieus
Virtual Museum of Islamic Arts and Culture

Sixty years of dispossession and displacement

Israel is currently celebrating the 60th anniversary of its creation with a great deal of fanfare. However, for the hapless Palestinians living in Israel and in exile this is a cruel reminder of their continued subjugation and humiliation.

In 1948, when the state of Israel was created, more than half the native population of Palestine, some 750,000 people, either fled in terror or were forcibly driven out of the land of their birth. More than 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed. In 1953, the Israeli parliament retroactively declared about 120,000 hectares of captured Palestinian territories to be state property, to be used later for either new Jewish settlements or security purposes. The six-day war in June 1967 forced some 250,000 Palestinians to migrate and brought the remaining 22% of Palestinian territories under Israeli control.

The Palestinian population is estimated to be around 10 million, more than half of them being refugees and their descendants. About five million Palestinians live in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza, comprising nearly 20% of the country's population.

There is a sizeable Palestinian diaspora which is dispersed across the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. In the Middle East, Palestinians have often been subjected to harassment and attack. In the 1970s Lebanese Christians attacked and destroyed the camps of Tel Zaatar and Qarantina and massacred thousands of Palestinians in Sabra and Chatila in 1982. In 1991, 300,000 Palestinians were driven out of Kuwait. There are 350,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon where they have no right to own property and are not permitted to work in dozens of white-collar professions. Nearly 450,000 Palestinians live in Syria, where they have substantial freedom but not the right to vote.

A substantial Palestinian diaspora exists in Europe and the Americas. The United States and Europe each have about a quarter of a million Palestinians. There are 100,000 Palestinians living in El Salvador and some 300,000 in Chile.

The Palestinians living in Israel continue to bear the brunt of oppression and humiliation. Nearly one-fourth of Palestinians have lost their ancestral homes. In the West Bank about a third of the Palestinian population lives in camps. In the West Bank-which makes up nearly one-fourth of the size of Israel-Jewish settlements and military zones occupy nearly 40% of the land. According to the constitution of Israel, Arab residents of the West Bank and Gaza who marry Israeli women are not eligible for Israeli citizenship, residency or work permits. Two human rights groups in Israel filed a petition in the country's Supreme Court for overturning this law, which was rejected. There are 250, 000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel in 1967. Though they have Israeli residence permits, they risk being denied permission to live in the city if they move to the West Bank or travel abroad to work.

A sinister aspect of the dispossession and demonization of Palestinians is the denial of their identity. Golda Meir, a former prime minister of Israel, stirred up a controversy in 1968 by saying that "there is no such thing as the Palestinian people". Right-wing Israeli politicians often accuse the Palestinians of being fifth columnists. In a recent poll, 62% of Palestinians expressed the fear that they would be driven out of their homes one day.

A sinister aspect of the dispossession and demonization of Palestinians is the denial of their identity. Golda Meir, a former prime minister of Israel, stirred up a controversy in 1968 by saying that "there is no such thing as the Palestinian people". Right-wing Israeli politicians often accuse the Palestinians of being fifth columnists. In a recent poll, 62% of Palestinians expressed the fear that they would be driven out of their homes one day.


The second Palestinian uprising (intifada) against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, which began in October 2000, was an expression of the deep sense of frustration and anger felt by the Palestinians. Israeli forces responded to the uprising in an extremely brutal manner. Thousands of Palestinians, including women and young children, were mercilessly killed by Israeli soldiers. The atrocities committed by the Israeli forces were extensively covered, with striking and heart-rending visuals, by Al Jazeera TV. During the intifada, a crew of Al Jazeera captured on camera the brutal shooting of a 12 year-old Palestinian boy by an Israeli soldier. This footage, which was repeatedly shown on the channel, had an enormous effect on the Arab world.

Since 2000, more than 4,700 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli forces while hundreds of them have been imprisoned. Israel has placed the Palestinian territories under virtual siege, with walls, fortifications, fences and checkpoints. Some radical rabbis have issued rulings forbidding Jews from renting apartments to Palestinians or employing them. The number of people living below the poverty line in Israel is three times more among the Palestinians than in the general population.

The situation has taken a far worse turn since 2006 when candidates representing Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Authority Parliament. Although the election was judged to be fair by international monitoring agencies, Israel and the US have refused to accept the right of the Palestinians to form a coalition government with Hamas and Fatah. As many as 41 of the 43 victorious candidates who live in the West Bank, together with 10 others who were members of the short-lived coalition, are in Israeli prisons. Israel has imposed severe restrictions on the movement of food, water, electricity and fuel to the Palestinian territories, which is causing immense hardships to the people. Recently, the former US president Jimmy Carter described the Israeli treatment of Palestinians as "one of the greatest human rights crimes on earth". Unfortunately, the UN and the international community have taken no cognizance of this gross violation of human rights.

Recently, the former US president Jimmy Carter described the Israeli treatment of Palestinians as "one of the greatest human rights crimes on earth".


Israel has stubbornly defied, with the backing of the US, all UN resolutions with impunity. The UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948 categorically states that "the Palestinian refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date". The resolution also decrees that compensation should be paid to the rest of the exiled Palestinian population. Israel continues to mock at this and several other resolutions of the UN mainly because it enjoys the unconditional support of the US. Israel receives substantial economic and military aid from the US-nearly $3 billion-annually.

The Aix Group, an Israeli-Palestinian-French economic study team, estimates that a fair package of resettlement and rehabilitation for the 4.5 million registered refugees would cost between US$ 55 and $85 billion. Israel has shown no interest in this package. All Arab nations have agreed to full recognition of Israel if it will comply with key UN resolutions.

Occasionally one hears voices of sanity in Israel but they are drowned in the paranoia surrounding the alleged threat to Israel's survival. Israel's first president, Chaim Weizman, had said that "the world will judge the Jewish state by how it will treat the Arabs". These words of wisdom and sagacity, alas, have fallen on deaf ears.

Israel's first president, Chaim Weizman, had said that "the world will judge the Jewish state by how it will treat the Arabs".


The 60th anniversary of Israel's creation has evoked some soul-searching in a miniscule section of mainstream Israeli society. An Israeli novelist, Alon Hilu, for example, says that Zionism tried to solve the Jewish problem, but created a very big problem, which is the Palestinian problem". He added, "Sometimes if you are too successful, it can be a disaster. This is what happened here. Our identity is too much associated with militarism".

An Israeli novelist, Alon Hilu, for example, says that Zionism tried to solve the Jewish problem, but created a very big problem, which is the Palestinian problem". He added, "Sometimes if you are too successful, it can be a disaster. This is what happened here. Our identity is too much associated with militarism".


The Palestinian problem has not only made the Middle East into a burning cauldron of violence and terrorism but has also widened the divide between the Islamic world and the West. This fact has been highlighted by the Alliance of Civilizations report sponsored by the United Nations in 2006. The report points out that as long as the Palestinians are forced to live under Israeli occupation exposed to daily frustration and humiliation so will passions everywhere be inflamed. A new book Who Speaks for Islam?": What a Billion Muslims Really Think (2008), by John Esposito and Dali Mogahed, points out that the primary cause of the anger and anti-Americanism prevalent in large parts of the Islamic world is not a clash of civilizations but the perceived effect of the US foreign policy in respect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular and the Muslim world in general.

It is remarkable that the Palestinians have kept alive a strong sense of identity and nationalism in the face of enormous challenges and hardships.


Global surge in Islamic finance

One of the salient features of the post-9/11 global scenario is the reawakening of Islamic consciousness and the resurgence of Islamic identity among Muslims across the world. This is reflected in the increasing popularity of Islamic literature, in the proliferation of mosques, Islamic schools and Islamic organisations, and in the growing interest in Islamic banking and Islamic financial products.

Islamic finance, which is basically premised on Shariah-oriented principles governing trade, banking and investment, is steadily gathering momentum across large parts of the world. Islamic finance embraces a wide range of institutions and products, including Islamic banks, Islamic investment companies, Islamic investment banks and Islamic e-commerce. The products include insurance securities, mutual funds, Islamic bonds and stocks. The clientele of Islamic banking and Islamic financial products are found not only in the Middle East, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan but also in Europe, the Americas and Australasia.

Currently, more than 300 Islamic financial institutions exist in 75 countries across the world, with an asset holding size of US$ 280 billion and financial investments of $ 400 billion. Moody's Investors Service, a global credit-rating agency, reckons that although Islamic finance was worth a measly $ 18 billion at the end of 2007, its potential is close to $ 235 billion-nearly as much as the GDP of Africa's Muslim countries.

Currently, more than 300 Islamic financial institutions exist in 75 countries across the world, with an asset holding size of US$ 280 billion and financial investments of $ 400 billion. Moody's Investors Service, a global credit-rating agency, reckons that although Islamic finance was worth a measly $ 18 billion at the end of 2007, its potential is close to $ 235 billion-nearly as much as the GDP of Africa's Muslim countries.


Islamic debt securities (sukuk) are the fastest growing investment in the Islamic financial world. Islamic bond sales totalled $ 15.7 billion worldwide in 2007. According to a report released by Moody's in February 2008, the global issuance of sukuk is expected to expand by 30-35% in 2008, maintaining the momentum of the last two years which took total volumes to $ 91.3 billion.

Bahrain has a fairly advanced Islamic finance industry with the amount of sukuk listed on the Bahrain Stock Exchange in June 2007 put at $ 3.45 billion. Bahrain's Ithmaar Bank and Abu Dhabi's First Gulf Bank have announced the issuance of Islamic sukuk bonds--$ 300 million five-year bonds and $ 3.5 billion Eurobonds. Dana Gas PJSC, Middle East's largest private sector natural gas company based in the UAE, has announced the sale of its $ 1 billion of Islamic bonds. At the moment the sale has been put on hold due to volatility in global finance markets.

Dubai, the world's largest exchange for sukuk by value, has $ 12.78 billion worth of sukuk listed, accounting for almost half of the value of global sukuk listings. Riyadh-based Dar al-Arkan Real Estate Development Company, one of the largest real estate developers in Saudi Arabia, has issued a five-year $ 1 billion sukuk al-ijara (Islamic bonds). Malaysia is the world's biggest issuer of Shariah-compliant debt. The government is keen to develop Malaysia as the global hub for Islamic finance.

The Malaysia International Halal Showcase, which is the world's largest international halal trade fair, was held in the second week of May this year. Begun in 2004, the fair is regarded as the largest annual gathering of halal industry players in the effort to ease the sourcing and selling of global quality halal consumables, products and services. The halal concept encompasses a wide range of institutions, products and services, including pharmaceuticals, herbal products, cosmetics, health care, Islamic investment and banking.

The growing worldwide popularity of Islamic finance has prompted several global banks and investment agencies to introduce Islamic financial products. In the UK a wide rage of Islamic financial products and services have recently been introduced for the professional and private market. The niche market for Islamic financial products is considered important in the UK in view of London's status as a global financial centre. Japan and Thailand are expected to launch debut sovereign sukuk during 2008 to cater to the expanding Muslim investor base. Tokyo-based Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the government's main overseas leader, plans to sell Islamic bonds backed by products traded on the London Metal Exchange. The Bank will sell $ 200-300 million of Islamic set in Malaysia.

Daiwa, Japan's second-largest securities house, recently announced plans to list on the Singapore Exchange an exchange-traded fund based on Japanese equities and screened by Islamic investment principles. Societie Generale, a French bank, plans to launch a Shariah mutual fund later this year based on Japanese equities.

African countries, whose economies are experiencing substantial growth, are offering a promising market for Islamic finance. The banking sector in some African countries is becoming increasingly sophisticated. A number of Gulf-based banks have joined forces with Sudanese investors to open Islamic banks. In 2007 the Kenyan government licensed two Islamic banks, Gulf African Bank and First Community Bank, both backed by Gulf investment. In 2006, Gulf Finance House, a Bahrain-based Islamic investment bank, signed a $ 1.4 billion deal in Morocco to fund two tourism projects. Western banks are also making a foray into this sector. South Africa's ABSA opened an Islamic banking division in 2006. In Kenya Barclays offers an Islamic bank account called la riba (no interest).


Islamophobia in Danish courtrooms

The undercurrents of Islamophobia run deep in many European societies. This is reflected in the controversy surrounding the Islamic headscarf, in the desecration of mosques and cemeteries, in protests over the construction of new mosques, in the stigmatization and demonization of Muslims by the Western media, in the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the far-right political parties, and in the discrimination and exclusion experienced by Muslims in housing and employment. In 2006, a Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten had published highly derogatory cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, which provoked huge protests and demonstrations by Muslims across the world.

The Danish government announced in May it would bar judges from wearing headscarves or similar religious symbols (such as the Christian crucifixe, the Jewish yarmulke and the Sikh turban) in courtrooms. The move, which is seen as being largely aimed at Muslim judges, came as a result of the campaign by the far-right Danish People's Party (DPP), known for its anti-Muslim rhetoric. It argues that the veil is a symbol of submission and tyranny. Denmark's Justice Minister, Lene Espersen, said the ban on religious symbols was needed because judges "must appear neutral and impartial". But Court President Torben Goldin said the ban is absurd because judges in Denmark go through 15 years of training to ensure that they are acting according to Danish law and not influenced by their religious or political beliefs.

The ban has evoked controversy and dissent, even among Danish ministers. Danish Integration Minister, Birthe Ronn Hornbeck, for example, is opposed to the move, calling the Danish People's Party's campaign "fanatical and anti-Muslim" in tone. Significantly, the DPP's second-in-command, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, confirmed this charge and brazenly said, "To a great extent, we are anti-Muslim". A survey published in the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende found that 51% of Danish voters support the ban on religious symbols in courtrooms. The DPP has said it intends to work for a further ban on Islamic headscarves to include school teachers and medical personnel. However, the presidency of the Danish parliament, the Folketinget, has said it will not bar parliamentarians from wearing headscarves.

Danish Integration Minister, Birthe Ronn Hornbeck, for example, is opposed to the move, calling the Danish People's Party's campaign "fanatical and anti-Muslim" in tone. Significantly, the DPP's second-in-command, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, confirmed this charge and brazenly said, "To a great extent, we are anti-Muslim".


Most European countries allow headscarves as well as turbans in courtrooms. However, in France veils and other religious symbols are not permitted in schools, courtrooms, offices and hospitals.


Restoration of the headscarf in Turkey

On February 9, 2008 Turkey's parliament voted in favour of overturning a ban on Islamic headscarves in universities. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan argued that changing the relevant clause in the Turkish constitution was necessary in order to ensure that all women had equal access to higher education without any discrimination. The ruling Justice and Development Party has been under popular pressure to scrap the headscarf restriction. Polls showed that a majority of people in the country are in favour of lifting the ban.

More than two-thirds of women in Turkey cover their heads. However, women have been prevented from wearing the headscarf in educational institutions and state offices for decades. No female member of parliament can cover her head in parliament. In 1999, Merve Kavakci, a computer scientist who was elected a member of the Turkish parliament, was prevented from taking oath and was subsequently stripped of her Turkish citizenship because she entered parliament with her headscarf. Earlier, her father, Yusuf, Ziya Kavakci, had to resign as dean of the Faculty of Islamic Studies at Ataturk University for supporting women's right to wear the hijab. Her mother lost her teaching position at the same university for wearing the headscarf. The family had to migrate to the United States. Some of the women who wear the headscarf were deliberately let off the guest list for the Republic Day reception at the presidential palace in Ankara in 2006.

In 1997 the wearing of headscarves was banned in all universities. Students who were used to wearing the hijab had to remove it before entering the university. Turkish women who wear the headscarf complain that they are unfairly discriminated against for their religious belief. "I have been wearing my headscarf since I was 14. This is how I express myself. I do not aim to impose anything on others," says Leila Shahin, who was expelled from medical school for refusing to remove her headscarf.

"I have been wearing my headscarf since I was 14. This is how I express myself. I do not aim to impose anything on others," says Leila Shahin, who was expelled from medical school for refusing to remove her headscarf.


The lifting of the ban has evoked some controversy and protests, especially from the country's well-entrenched secular elite. Some university rectors have declared they would continue to debar girls wearing the headscarf from entering the campus. Opposition parties have vowed to challenge the ruling in the constitutional court. However, there is widespread popular support for the move. Interestingly, the number of women covering their heads in public in Turkey is rapidly increasing. Traditional fashion shops say that business in headscarves has boomed in recent years.

The ruling Justice and Development Party is struggling to restore Turkey's Islamic legacy despite formidable odds, especially from the secular elite and the army. An insidious consequence of the process of modernization and secularization set in motion by Kemal Ataturk was the emergence of a secular elite who adopted a Westernised lifestyle and enjoyed alcohol and pork. Turkey's Agriculture Ministry now refuses to renew licenses for the existing pig abattoirs.

Turkey stands at crossroads. On the one side, the powerful military junta and a section of the elite are fanatically committed to the secularist creed and are inimical to the restoration and revival of the country's Islamic heritage. On the other, there is a deep yearning in the masses, students and the professional elite for Turkey's return to its cherished Islamic values and traditions. The Justice and Development Party is committed to fulfilling people's aspirations in a democratic framework.

Turkey stands at crossroads. On the one side, the powerful military junta and a section of the elite are fanatically committed to the secularist creed and are inimical to the restoration and revival of the country's Islamic heritage. On the other, there is a deep yearning in the masses, students and the professional elite for Turkey's return to its cherished Islamic values and traditions.


Democracy taking roots in Kuwait

Autocratic rule, absence of political and civil rights, suppression of freedom of expression and association, media censorship and institutionalised gender discrimination are among the conspicuous features of many Muslim societies around the world. According to the rankings of Freedom House (an independent American-based monitor of political and civil rights), almost two-thirds of the 192 countries around the world are now electoral democracies. But among the 47 countries with a Muslim majority, only one-fourth are electoral democracies and none of the core Arabic-speaking countries falls into this category. Out of seven world regions, the Arab countries have the lowest freedom score. Political participation is much less developed in the Arab world than in other developing countries in Latin America, East and South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The Arab Human Development Report 2002 identified lack of freedom as one of the three major deficits of Arab countries.

It is significant to note that there is a great yearning among the Muslim masses for democratic freedom and participation. Two recent World Values surveys conducted in 1995-96 and 2000-2002, based on questionnaires that explored values and beliefs in more than 70 countries (comprising nearly 80% of the world's population), indicated that societies throughout the world (including Muslim societies) see democracy as the best form of government. Most of the Muslim populations surveyed thought highly of democracy.

Kuwait, an oil-rich nation of 2.6 million people, is the most democratic country in the Arab world. It has a powerful and democratically elected 50-member parliament, which serves as the country's only source of legislation. After Kuwait gained independence from the British in 1961, the Emir of Kuwait approved a written constitution that sharply limited his power in relation to parliament. Kuwaiti women gained the right to vote and run for office in 2005.

Kuwait has the world's fifth largest oil reserves. There is, however, growing frustration in the population over the slow pace of economic development and insufficient business and investment opportunities compared to the neighbouring countries of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Bahrain. Infrastructure and human development in the country leave much to be desired. Some sections of the population have begun to feel that democracy in the country is holding back economic progress.

Frictions, squabbles and scandals led the Emir of Kuwait to dissolve parliament in March 2008 for the second time in less than two years, forcing new elections. Economic issues dominated the election campaign. Parliamentary elections were held on May 17. When the results were declared, Islamic-minded candidates won 24 of 50 seats in parliament, a gain of two seats over their share in the previous election. Unfortunately, none of the 27 women who had filed nominations won.


Islamic environmentalism in Indonesia

The concern with the preservation of the environment and its linkage with Islamic tradition in Indonesia dates back to the 19th century. Muhammad Syarqawi, a religious scholar and teacher, was greatly perturbed by the environmental degradation in the island of Madura off north-eastern Java. The island was dry and there was scarcity of fresh water. Syarqawi set up a small school, Pesantren Guluk-Guluk in Madura in 1887 where he taught the villagers about environmental conservation in an Islamic framework.

In the course of time the school began attracting students from other villages and islands as well. It has experienced substantial expansion during the past decades and attendance in the last 20 years has gone up to more than 6,500 from 1200. Guluk-Guluk, whose students range from elementary to university age, has won several prestigious local and international awards. The alumni of the school have opened similar type of institutions all over the country.

Nasruddin Anshory, a former researcher, established Iimu Giri, an Islamic school devoted to environmental conservation in 2003. The syllabus focuses on environmental conservation in the light of Islamic principles. In recent years Anshory and his school have become increasingly popular. During last Ramadan thousands of people visited Iimu Giri. The UN conference on global climate change held in Bali in December 2007 added to the popularity of Anshory and his school.

Before embarking on his new mission, Anshory had carried out researches for several private organizations and had visited more than 60 countries around the world. He is also an award-winning poet. In the early years he offered local farmers seedlings. Last year he organised the planting of 1000 trees. As a result of his sustained work, hillsides that had been stripped of foliage have turned green again.

The success of the movement for Islamic environmentalism in Malaysia highlights four important points. First, sincere, dedicated and sustained efforts by individuals and grass roots organizations can yield positive results. Second, in order to be effective and sustainable, a social movement needs to draw upon local resources and initiatives. Third, the creative potential of Islamic tradition can be harnessed in the service of environmental conservation and other noble causes. Fourth, institutional and organizational linkages and networks play an important role in sustaining such movements.

The success of the movement for Islamic environmentalism in Malaysia highlights four important points. First, sincere, dedicated and sustained efforts by individuals and grass roots organizations can yield positive results. Second, in order to be effective and sustainable, a social movement needs to draw upon local resources and initiatives. Third, the creative potential of Islamic tradition can be harnessed in the service of environmental conservation and other noble causes. Fourth, institutional and organizational linkages and networks play an important role in sustaining such movements.


Brunei: Planning for the future

Brunei, a tiny kingdom in South-east Asia, is among the world's top 30 richest nations. Crude oil accounts for almost two-thirds of the country's export revenue. The recent spurt in oil prices-at over $ 135 a barrel-has come as a bonanza to Brunei and other oil-producing countries. However, Brunei is worried over state of the economy after its hydrocarbon reserves run out after two decades. It has started working out a long-term plan for the future.

Currently, the energy sector accounts for 94% of government revenue, 96% of exports, 74% of investment and 69% of GDP. In the next three decades, Brunei's oil reserves and natural gas resources will be exhausted. In January 2008 the government unveiled its first long-term national development plan called Wawasan Brunei 2035 (Vision Brunei 2035). It focuses on the need to explore a sustainable path for the non-oil economy. The plan also aims at elevating the kingdom into the ranks of the top 10 nations in the world in terms of GDP per head by 2035. The plan focuses on information technology, incentives to small businesses and investment in petrochemical production and other industries. The government also hopes to develop tourism and is targeting a 50% increase in tourism-related employment by 2010.

In January 2008 the government unveiled its first long-term national development plan called Wawasan Brunei 2035 (Vision Brunei 2035). It focuses on the need to explore a sustainable path for the non-oil economy. The plan also aims at elevating the kingdom into the ranks of the top 10 nations in the world in terms of GDP per head by 2035. The plan focuses on information technology, incentives to small businesses and investment in petrochemical production and other industries.


The government also plans to promote industrial investment in non-energy sectors. The Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB), in addition to focusing on business development schemes, is also devoting attention to promoting Islamic businesses from halal food production to Islamic finance.

The oil-rich Arab nations can draw some lessons from Brunei.

Islamic hip hop

Hip hop is a genre of Western music consisting of rhythmic style of speaking called rap over backing beats performed on a turntable. It is part of the hip hop culture that was popularised by African Americans and Latinos in New York City in the 1970s. A new genre of faith-inspired music is rapidly catching the attention of large numbers of men and women in Western countries, which is attested by the huge popularity of Jesus Walks. In the US, the faith-based music industry is worth around $1.8 billion a year.

Islamic hip hop, a faith-inspired form of modern music is becoming increasingly popular among young Muslim men and women living in Western countries. Islamic hip hop works on a limited repertoire of beats and vocals. It arose partly as a reaction to mainstream hip hop which glorified youth subculture centred on women, money, drugs and guns. Islamic hip hop rejects the hedonistic trappings of gangsta rap. Rather, it is used as a means of disseminating the Islamic message of peace, human brotherhood and moral virtues.

One of the earliest Islamic hip hop bands in the UK was Mecca2Medina which emerged in the late 1990s. In the US, prominent Muslim rapstars like Mos Def, Chuch D and RZA have rapped about their Islamic inspiration. Muslim rap is big business with annual sales in excess of $1.8 billion in America alone. The events that unfolded in the wake of 9/11 led a growing number of young Muslims living in Western countries to engage in self-introspection and to search for identity. The soul-searching produced an outpouring of artistic expression.

The Internet has played a highly important role in globalising and popularising Islamic hip hop. Listeners can plug in to Islamic hip hop through Myspace sites on the Internet. Platform Magazine, a British publication devoted to Islamic hip hop and started by Tony Bilal Ishola in November 2006, acts as a link among the admirers and followers of Islamic hip hop.

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