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Native Deen: Islam through hip-hop

What do you picture when some one mentions hip-hop or rap to you? Maybe some “boot-licious” ladies dirty dancing, maybe some huge over-sized basket ball jersey wearing dude strewing out more swear words than a pissed off hobo in front of New Market or maybe some dimly lit cool jazzy dance floor playing “Its Getting Hot in Here…” So would you believe if I tell you that the lines below are essentially from an American rap band?

Paradise is only for the people who are righteous So accept Islam you might just get the mercy when you pray to Allah (God)
You know that we want to go to Heaven
When you pray to Allah, When you pray to Allah, When you pray to Allah

Neither did I, but no one does until they come to know about the awesomeness of “Native Deen” Instead of centering on themes of drugs, violence and sex which constitute most rap, these hip hop artists, born as devout Muslims, are spreading the message of Islam and peace in America and now around the world.

Native Deen is an American Hip-Hop trio featuring three African-American muslims, Joshua Salaam, Naeem Muhammad, and Abdul-Malik Ahmad. They met through M.Y.N.A (Muslim Youth of North America) RAPS an organization which tries to promote the music of young American muslims. They had their work published in MYNA RAPs' album but they eventually decided to come together to professionally create their own music- thus Native Deen was born.

Why the name? They say that 'Deen', an Arabic word, mean religion or the way of life and they believe that the way of life that is Native, or inherent, to all of creation is Islam because it is the religion where you submit yourself to the will of the creator. They identify themselves as Muslims by wearing Islamic dress like the kufi and loose fitting clothing and only use percussion instruments as many muslims believe that wind and string instruments should be avoided in Islam. They are, as you can see, really devout muslims and active citizens. Their songs are almost exclusively religious anthems in praise of Allah, but they are not hymns in a sense that they also seek to educate their audience on the good way of life. Having actively been involved in community service through out most of their lives (check out the amazing things they have done in www.nativedeen.com) their songs heavily focuses on the need to participate on your individual level to help the society even if it means doing simple things like helping out a guy whose car was broken. Check out their song, Simple Deeds!

On February 1st a webchat, titled Native Deen: Celebrating Islam and Promoting Tolerance Through Hip-Hop, was arranged by USINFO for people all over the band to talk to Native Deen about them and their recent trip to Turkey, Dubai and the Palestinian Territories where they have caused quite a positive stir with their music. Thanks to the American Center of Bangladesh, normal Bengalis like me were also given the unique chance to connect with them and know about them and what they seek to convey through their music.! Here are some of the edited excerpts of the chat session.

Why do you use hip-hop as your platform? Anything special about hip hop music which makes it especially effective to spread your message?

Native Deen: We use hip-hop as our platform because this was our natural music we were exposed to when we were young. In our neighborhood, all the kids were listening to hip-hop. So it's not like we choose hip-hop. It chose us when we were very young. And yes, hip-hop has a beat that everybody worldwide seems to connect to. That's why it has spread so fast.

What exactly do you mean by building up religious tolerance?

Native Deen: When we perform in Western countries people see a positive image of Islam. Much of the intolerance is due to ignorance - people just don't know enough about Islam. When we perform in Muslim coutries we are also promoting tolerance because some people believe that every person in the West is bad. There are a lot of good Muslims living in the west and good people in general. So this is one way that we help promote tolerance.

What impact, do you think you made among the muslim youth in the middle east?

Native Deen:I believe we had a very strong impact on the youth in the middle east because they were able to see young Muslims who were born and raised in a Western country but still be proud of their faith and be practicing Muslims. Islam does not favor one culture over another but seeks to embrace culture and refine it. I believe they saw that aspect of Islam embodied in Native Deen and our mission.

Have u faced trouble from Islamic clerics who do not believe in progress?

Native Deen: You would think that because our style is hip-hop that we would frequently get trouble from clerics. But in fact everywhere we go we are actually embraced by the scholars and people of knowledge. I think it's because we base everything on the Quran and the example of our Prophet (SAW). Even the instruments we use we are careful in choosing. So everywhere from Palestine to Africa to Dubai to Kuwait we were embraced by the scholars and ulema.

In the Middle East, hip hop can be stereotyped as a component of Western culture. Since you mix in traditional messages as well as support for religious beliefs, do you find your music more acceptable to conservative Middle Eastern audiences than usual hip hop would be? What comments does the audience express in their views of hip hop in that region, do they see hip hop as a sustainable form of music?

Native Deen: Yes Hip-hop came from the west and then again it has origins from the east. No one owns music. The world has used it as a bridge to one another for centuries. But we do live with stereotypes. So when people hear muslim hip-hop they have an idea that comes to their head. But when they see us perform, we normally crush a lot of stereotypes. We have fans form all age groups and from all ethnic groups, and from all economic groups. It is the positive message that brings people together. So we normally hear positive comments about our shows and our message.

It is kind of problematic to promote muslim religion due to a typical muslim attitude of men towards women and women's rights in general. What do you say about that? Native Deen: It is very true that in many Muslim countries women are not treated properly and are subjugated. However this is not a problem with Islam. This is a problem with the culture that Muslims are living in. In many of our songs we indirectly promote the education of women. When women are educated in the religion they will understand their rights and will not be abused. We encourage women step up and be leaders in the community and help make a difference in this world. By the end of the Chat I was really moved! I was stuck by the devotions of these fellow muslims and their willingness to use progressive modern ways to spread the teachings of Islam. They really come out as a fresh relief and do an awesome job in removing the image of an aggressive bigot which muslims increasingly are being stereotyped as. Despite the fact that I am not that religious I cant help but shout out loud, May Allah Bless Their Souls!

To see more of their work, definitely go to

By Subehee.S.Ahmed

Make a papier mache mask

Mask making is a lot more fun than you think. The perfect excuse to get your hands messy, splash away some colour and let out your creative spirit, and the end product is magnificent---a creation of your own imagination, well… or not, if you want to make a mask of your favourite character. But anyhow it's a lot of fun doing it, as so I found out and if you're too old or not silly enough to go around wearing it to scare off your folks, you can nonetheless, hang it up and add some colour to your room. And if you're a craft freak, then I speak no more, gather your materials and start working!

You can make a mask with cardboard or other materials, but the best way is with paper mache. It is the easiest way and is more flexible and durable than with others.

The first step in making a paper mache mask would be to find or make a mold/form. You can use a ton of stuff as molds ranging from the commonly usedballoons to shoe boxes, cardboard, tissue paper rolls, aluminium boxes… the list is endless, well anything which would give your desired shape. But the perfect mold that I would recommend is to make one with earth. Gather up some good, thick soil from your garden and make the mold complete with the curves and facial features, it's sort of like making a rough sculpture of the face of which you want a mask of and if you can do this right, you are in for a great looking mask. But this method is more time consuming and messy and you have to let your earth mold dry for several days for it to solidify.

The next step is to make the paper mache paste. Once again there are several ways to do it: to make a glue paste, mix 2/3 thick white glue (aica) and 1/3 water and mix and stir well for some time. To make a flour paste, mix two cups of wheat flour and two cups of water. Use a large mixing bowl, the consistency you are looking for is like a thick soup. Not to thick and not to thin. Add a pinch of salt and a little white glue for extra strength.

Now get started with the real work and begin layering up the mold with paper mache. You can use newspaper or brown paper for the paper mache. But first put a layer of Vaseline and wrap the mold with a plastic cellophane wrap for easy separation of the mask with the mold. Now tear the newspaper into strips (do not cut it!). If you are using a balloon you can hang it from a string or just roll it over as you layer up. Dip one piece of newspaper at a time into prepared paper mache paste. Hold the strip over the paste bowl and run it through your fingers to squeeze off excess paste. Stick the newspaper strip over the form you want to paper mache, and smooth it down with your fingers. Completely cover your creation with a layer of newspaper strips. They should all be over-lapping. After one layer is applied, let it dry for a few hours. Repeat this process until you get the desired effect, but you should have at least three layers.

Pop the balloon and remove your mask from the mold. Paint and decorate your mask. You can use any water based paint, poster paint, fabric or ceramic paint to colour it, and decorate it with beads, feathers, fur, leather buttons, foil, sequins, glitter or in any way you want. The mask is all yours to enjoy!

By Subehee.S.Ahmed

Only for your heart

Let lanterns be lit
Along your path,
White petals be bathed
Each step apart,
Let rose water scent
The corridors of your heart,
The moon be-gone
From the pond by the stairs,
And each dew drop be warm
As dawn comes near…
For I will shower you
With my hidden tears
Shed silently on every sight
Of the moon, of rain
Of music tales
Of walks by the ponds
Of memories that we hold.
Be it in tears, or rain
Or music or pain
I will shower you
With every bit of my love
That I store so tenderly
Only for your heart.

By Adnan M. S. Fakir

What was the problem before?

Taxiing down the tarmac, the jetliner abruptly stopped, turned around and returned to the gate. After an hour-long wait, it finally took off.

A concerned passenger asked the flight attendant, "What was the problem?"
"The pilot was bothered by a noise he heard in the engine," explained the Flight Attendant, "and it took us a while to find a new pilot."


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