The Salam Islamic Center, whose leaders have been praised by the FBI, staged a musical concert June 15 at the Crest Theater in Sacramento, California. “An Islamic Expression of Traditional & Contemporary Art,” came billed as the first event of its kind and one that “challenges the belief among some orthodox Muslims that music can lead to sinful behavior.”
Mohamed Abdul Azeez, imam of the Salam Islamic Center and winner of the FBI’s community leadership award, told the Sacramento Bee that staging the event was “risky” but “why not present an alternative? Instead of listening to rap music filled with filth, why not listen to clean rap?” The event, Azeez said, “represents a paradigm shift in the Muslim community. Kids are listening to this stuff, so why not be proactive and expose them to beautiful, inspiring music that promotes love of religion and country?” Imam Mahmoud Abdel of the Masjid Annur Islamic Center has a different view on music.
“Music actually makes you high, 100 percent,” he told the Bee. “It’s a chain reaction – when people listen to music, they ask for alcohol, which will lead to adultery. One step leads to another in the majority of cases. It’s well known that anybody who listens to music a lot will be distracted from his or her mission, which is worshipping God Almighty.”
Imam Mumtaz Qasmi of Sacramento’s Downtown Mosque said “Music has magic, it gets in your blood and makes you want to get up and dance and forget your personality. Your butt is shaking and she’s going to get up and her butt is going to shake – where is the religion then?” Mosques don’t allow music, the imam said, “So how can we allow it outside the mosque?”
Azeez argued that “there’s nothing conclusive in the Quran that states music is inherently wrong,” and in Egypt his parents listened to Oum Kolthoum, “the greatest singer in the Muslim world,” even though the local imam forbade it. But the FBI’s favorite imam still has reservations. He alluded to stories of how political leaders used music to sway people from the Quran and in some musical settings “really bad things took place, like the inappropriate mingling of genders, drinking or fornication.”
“An Islamic Expression of Traditional & Contemporary Art,” allowed no dancing and it may have consoled some that the event included recitations of the Quran along with the poetry and music. Performers included violinist Riad Abdel Gawad, known for improvisational playing, but rapper Amir Sulaiman might challenge imam Azeez’s concept of music that is “beautiful and inspiring.” And it’s a stretch that Tyson Amir’s music “promotes love of religion and country.”
Since tickets were $30, the event might have been construed as an example of capitalism. The news story, meanwhile, was highly promotional and included no contrary views from non-Muslims. Had a local Baptist minister said that rap was “full of filth” and declaimed against “really bad things” like “inappropriate mingling of genders,” the outcry would have been long and loud. Even so, the piece included more contrary opinion than those on more controversial issues involving the Salam Islamic Center, which has co-hosted events with CAIR, and Mohamed Abdul Azeez.
The recent terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon, for example, prompted Azeez to extend condolences to victims of the “explosions” in Boston. But the whole story had a “fishy stench” and the imam said he was “weary of having to deal with this pressure all the time, whenever something stupid happens in the world. I feel similar to a gun owner worried about gun laws all the time because people are shooting people, or a Jew who has to worry about the atrocities being committed in Israel.”
In similar style, the FBI’s favorite imam was not exactly outspoken on the terrorist attacks in Libya. But he’s okay with a musical concert, as long as there’s no dancing.