News / Middle East

Muslim-American Rapper Bridges Faith and Music

Cyrus McGoldrick aka the Raskol Khan
Cyrus McGoldrick aka the Raskol Khan


Arash Arabasadi

Music and religion often go hand-in-hand. The traditions of many religions bring song and prayer together to engage followers of all ages and faiths. This type of crowd participation helps create the religious experience. Often, the American popular music scene is at odds with the beliefs of devout, religious followers. But, for one American rapper, the mixing of those two worlds serves as a tool to bridge faiths, cultures and stereotypes.

Where else but in the heart of New York City could one find a Muslim, American, Irish-Iranian rapper?

His name is Cyrus McGoldrick. He says he tries to channel all of the cultures that he’s been a product. When he steps on stage he does so by assuming the role of Raskol Khan.

"The Raskol Khan is a character that's very much me; but it's also everyone: as a young man in the city trying to do the right thing, but fighting with himself and fighting with the powers that be."

A student at nearby Columbia University, Raskol Khan is a devout Muslim who prays five times a day.

"I'm always careful to say that I don't do Muslim rap, but I am a Muslim rapper, because I'm very proud of my practice; I'm very proud to be a practicing Muslim in America. I think New York City is a unique melting pot of cultures. So in that way, we can have a lot of spaces for us - a lot of spaces for Muslims - to live and interact in."

And that is where the music comes in for Raskol Khan.

"I try to show in my music that we're all humans. We all want a lot of the same things. For a practicing Muslim - but I think for any person of faith - it's important to show that our decisions definitely refer back to an idea of right and wrong. Those core concepts, principles, if they come through in the music that resonates with people, that unites rather than divides. People can see someone who identifies as a Muslim; who is proud to be an American."

His abilitiy to unite brings a smile to his proud parents' faces. His mother, Nikoo McGoldrick call him the United Nations of music. His father, Jim, takes pride in the hard work his son puts into his music and enjoys the pleasure it brings to other people.

Many kids have hopes of superstardom. It's a common theme in American pop culture, but few would call the life of a celebrity "pious." It seems those two worlds would be at odds. But in Raskol Khan’s world it’s a chasm that can be overcome.  

"Being a musician certainly involves being present in some venues and maybe around certain substances and people that a Muslim who wasn't on that scene would try to avoid. Being a musician and being a Muslim can go very well together. It really has to do with what your concept of being a musician is. If it's about the music, then that's one thing; if it's about the parties and everything else afterward, then that's a whole other story."

In Raskol Khan’s case, it’s most certainly about the music.

When not busy on stage or devoting himself to Middle-Eastern, Asian and African studies, this 20-something Rhode Island-native gives his time to the community, teaching reading, writing and basic literacy skills at a program called Community Impact.

“These skills will help people a lot in the future, inshallah. Anything that I can use my skills for to pass to them on, that's just a win/win. If I can make my living helping people and staying involved in the community, then that's perfect for me. My love for people; my love for family and friends; my love for what I study; the jobs that I go to… that gets me up out of bed every day by itself. I'm blessed to love everything that I do. I'm crazy busy and I'm always running, but I'm very lucky that everything that I do; that I'm running from one thing to another, I like all those things," says rapper Raskol Khan.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs