News / Arts & Entertainment

Muslim Rapper Offers Virtuous Alternative to Mainstream Music

Muslim Rapper Offers Virtuous Alternative to Mainstream Musici
X
September 10, 2013 6:30 PM
Muslim hip hop artist Mo Sabri sings about pious themes in a genre that's not exactly known for godly messages. The Tennessee-born son of Pakistani immigrants is following in the footsteps of Christian rock musicians who have done that for decades. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Muslim Rapper Offers Virtuous Alternative to Mainstream Music
Hip hop artist Mo Sabri began a recent performance in Washington, DC, with “Heaven Is Where Her Heart Is,” a song about a virtuous girl who travels to Mecca for the holy Muslim pilgrimage. For the past year, Sabri has been singing about pious themes in a genre not exactly known for godly messages.

“There’s too many songs on the radio these days encouraging girls to do bad things,” he told the audience of Muslim families attending the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which included screaming girls who were obviously excited by the 22-year-old Muslim hearththrob.

The son of Pakistani immigrants, Sabri grew up in Johnson City, Tennessee. He's one of a growing cadre of young Muslim American musicians who write “anaasheed,” or songs with religious Islamic themes, that are beginning to appeal to a broader audience.

One of Sabri’s latest songs got more than one million views on YouTube. He says the song, "I believe in Jesus," was written to show the people of east Tennessee that Muslims revere him.

“I grew up in an area that did not really have any Muslims, and I was able to see that they were all more similar than different,” Sabri said. “For me, I was like, 'I want to reach out to my neighbors and show that Muslims and Christians as a whole can experience what I experienced.'”

In the song, Sabri points out that “In the West, they call him Jesus, in the East they call him Isa, Messiah, Christ,” and he asks, “Why does our religion always have to cause division?”

The Muslim rapper’s song about Jesus spiked in popularity recently as another video involving a Muslim and his view of Jesus went viral. In that video, a Fox News host suggests the author of a book about Jesus, religious studies scholar Resa Aslan, is biased because he is a Muslim.

The interview drew condemnation from liberal commentators who attacked the premise of the suggestion.

Sabri notes that while Muslims reject the Christian view that Jesus is the son of God, they do consider him a prophet.

“There’s so much misinformation about Muslims, to think that a Muslim can’t talk about Jesus, or can’t love Jesus, is just the wrong idea, and my goal is to dispel that idea,” he said.

Sabri turned to “anasheed” after the focus on sex and alcohol in many hip hop songs turned him off. He says one of the main inspirations for doing so was Hasidic artist Matisyahu, who gained a wide following rapping to reggae about Jewish spiritual themes such as the hope for the return of the Messiah.

“I just liked how he did not have to succumb to any of the pressures of writing music, and he was different," Sabri said. "He had uplifting songs that were spiritual.”

After his performance, Sabri was crowded by fans seeking autographs. By offering a virtuous alternative to pop culture he is following in the footsteps of Christian rock musicians who have done that for decades, and proving that it also works in Islam.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: GregAbdul from: Miami Gardens
September 11, 2013 11:02 AM
Religious rap is merely rap. I am an old school black American. The only talent involved in rap is the message which usually makes religious rap kind of vanilla. "Muslims love Jesus." is not a wow new sort of message. I am not offended at the young man. I am offended at VOA for hyping something that's not very big because it is a blend of things that are almost impossible to pull off. The thinking behind this article is, you are encouraging a young person. But really are you encouraging this young man into something that is even more dead end that sports. A feel-good, mislead-someone-else's-kid attitude is what created this article.
In Response

by: Michael Thomas from: Dallas, Texas
September 15, 2013 11:13 AM
Greg, you are being ridiculous. You sound more like jealous person who wanted to rap but couldn't or are mad that he is doing things differently than your "old school" rap.
How in the world would his music mislead "someone else's kid"? He is rapping about virtuous things and uniting religions while others seek to cause problems. Greg, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Mo Sabri, keep making your music and doing good in the world. Don't let haters like Greg bring you down. VOA, kudos for this. Thank you!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”