Winning Hearts and Minds With a Bit of Hip Hop Soul

July 23, 2011  |  

(New York Times) — In 2005, when the State Department invited Native Deen, one of the most prominent Islamic hip-hop groups in America, to do a good-will tour of Mali, Senegal and Nigeria, the band’s members did not know what to do.  “We had a debate in the community,” said Abdul-Malik Ahmad, one of the three members of Native Deen. “ ‘Should we do it?’ ‘Should we not do it?’ Some people were saying, ‘Y’all are going to be puppets, going over there saying: ‘Everything’s O.K. We’re bombing your country, but we have Muslims, too!’ ”  The United States was not bombing those countries, of course, but the band was aware of the animosity in the Muslim world toward the American government. So Mr. Ahmad, now 35, and his collaborators — Naeem Muhammad, also 35, and Joshua Salaam, 37, who all live outside Washington — convened a shura, or community consultation. They asked for help to determine the proper course of action.

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