The Spittin’ Light, Healing the Hood gigs in Glasgow and Edinburgh over the weekend were simply superb. Everyone had their own favourite lines, moments and artists e.g.:
- Edinburgh… It’s special, it’s special, it’s special… SPECIAL! (Mecca 2 Medina)
- You’re beautiful, you’re a star! (Poetic Pilgrimage)
- Hallelujah, Alhamdulillah… Hallelujah (Amir Sulaiman)
Videos will be out soon. I’d like to give due props to our partners at Radical Middle Way, who we were very excited to be working with on this, and who we look forward to collaborating in future with too.
We had some murmurings of discontent before the events from some questioning the religious credentials of this event. Some even suggested that the realms of Islam and culture should be kept separate.
This is a strange position for religious people to take. Surely if they are encouraging people to have faith as something central to their lives, this will manifest itself in their cultural expression? There are very prominent Muslim artists, singers and poets who express, for example, their love for God through their work. Is that wrong? Hip hop may not be something we normally associate with Islam, but if the content is orientated this way, how is that un-Islamic? It may not be Allama Iqbal, but just because people are outside their cultural comfort zone, it doesn’t make it wrong.
The view further flies in the face of reality. Muslims are not the same in Scotland as they are in Morocco, which is not the same as Saudi Arabia, and markedly different from how Muslims live their lives in Indonesia. Muslims are not the same now as they were 1,400 years ago either.
Throughout Islamic history there is a tendency to talk up the scientific and mathematical achievements, but perhaps artistic expression often gets overlooked. But like any strong civilisation, this was an incredibly important facet. In fact you can also measure the weakness of the Muslim world by how little artistic achievement there is. When people think of America, they think of movies, music and fashion. There is very little to compare to this in the Muslim world.
The artists we took in over the weekend were from the fields of hip hop and rap. That comes from a particular setting amongst African Americans. Granted, it is also very popular amongst young ethnic Pakistanis across the pond too, but in Scotland we see very little musical output from young Scottish Muslims. We would have loved to have had some local acts on stage, but let us say that there was not a stampede.
This is a shame and says a lot about how much encouragement there is to get involved in the arts among young Muslims. It may be telling that I understand all the performers at the weekend were converts to Islam and didn’t grow up amongst a body of Muslims.
This is why we took the opportunity at the concerts to announce the Salaam Scotland festival which will start in November this year. The series of events spanning six months will aim to highlight Muslim cultures through the mediums of art, music, film, theatre, literature and more.
The aim is to highlight excellent work in this space from around the world, creating opportunities for dialogue. Crucially, we also want to encourage the development of Scottish Muslim culture. There is often very academic debate about how our faith transcends borders, and while there are some common tenets across the world e.g. prayer, Islam can be culturally anchored anywhere.
Fundamentally, this is not something that can be articulated or explained through books. It’s about how people live their lives, and Scottish Muslims are creating that unique culture as we go along.
Posted by Osama Saeed