In my last post, I mourned at a complete lack of understanding of PR in the muslim community. As if to answer my woes Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, announced a return to making music after twenty-eight years. In a press release issued by his office, Yusuf says:
There were 100 reasons for leaving the music industry back in 1979, not least because I had found what I was looking for spiritually. Today there are perhaps 101 good reasons why I feel right making music and singing about life in this fragile world again. Much has changed but today I am in a unique position as a looking-glass through which Muslims can see the West and the West can see Islam. It is important for me to be able to help bridge the cultural gaps others are sometimes frightened to cross.
This is such a huge step. I am not sure how the extremist part of the Islamic community will be reacting to it? At present, music and dance are not popular choices for most Muslim scholars.
Another high profile convert Yvonne Ridley’s recently condemned Muslim women for enjoying an Islamic concert by Yusuf Sami.
Yusuf Islam’s decision has major implications. I admire him for being foresighted to realise the tide of Muslim community is going completely the wrong way and someone needs changing it. But while the news is interesting, I am more intrigued why he gave it up when he became Muslim in 1977.
It has been noted that Muslim converts in Europe follow the strictest and most literary interpretation of Islam. A few days ago, at a private meeting, Yvonne related her experience with Grand Imam Of Al-Azhar University, Dr. Muhammad Sayid Tantawy. She said as she was saying goodbye to the Imam after her interview, the Imam raised his hand towards her for a handshake.
Yvonne refused saying: “I am a Muslim woman”.
Unimpressed, the Imam persisted that she shake his hand and Yvonne kept on refusing until he said: “This is the problem with Muslim converts of the west. You follow the extreme interpretation. Yvonne, you are just like my daughter, and there is nothing wrong in a hand-shake.”
The issue of music is yet again a serious issue in Islam. A large number of Muslims listen to music but they are made to believe they are committing a sin. Pakistan’s pop star Junnaid Jamshed of Vital Signs group, followed the same path after reading Quran with translation. He has now returned with a CD on Islamic songs. (How Islam is fast becoming a commodity is a debate for another day).
People who favour music quote from Islamic history when women played drums and sang as the prophet Muhammed entered the city of Medina for the first time. Somehow I feel Yusuf’s decision to return to the pop world originates from the time he was stopped by the US authorities to enter the country.
Or maybe he also realised, as he says in his press release, there needs to be a bridge. And the bridge cannot be made by sitting in separate compartments. You need to get out and mingle with the rest of the world if you want them to understand your religion. What better way than choose the universal language of music.
It is appropriate to say: “The well won’t come to Muhammed, Muhammed will have to go the well.”
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