Newsday on America to Zanzibar

Here is a Newsday article on the exhibit America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far, at The Children’s Museum of Manhattan, for which I was the lead academic advisor. It’s a good chance to shout out my friends from high school.

“Our goal is to have children deal with differences in a healthy, positive way and encourage them to be inquisitive while exploring the world instead of running away from its differences,” Rashid said, an experience not so different from his years growing up in Elmont.


Interview on NPR on Riyaaz Qawwali

I was recently interviewed on NPR about Riyaaz Qawwali, a group out of Austin, TX.

Hussein Rashid, a professor of religion at Hofstra University, says that many qawwaliartists working in South Asia today have limited themselves. He believes this American group is bringing the music back to its roots. 

“You know, I think there’s been so much concern about what is Islam, and what isn’t, politically speaking and artistically speaking,” Rashid says, “that there’s been a push in modern qawwali to actually sanitize it and make it very sterile — and almost rule-bound — rather than ecstatic and devotional. For me, I think what Riyaaz Qawwali is doing is trying to go back to that very exciting, innovative space that qawwali was.”

And so to Rashid, it’s totally logical that such a burst of inspiration would come from deep in the heart of Texas. “In fact,” he says, “it seems natural that we would get a new flourishing of Muslim devotionals in a place like America, where we do have this freedom of religion.”

I previously wrote about the group of OnBeing, in a piece called Qawwalis, Found Sounds, and Benghazi: Locating the Sacred in a New York Church

Music for Introducing Islam

I often give talks along the theme of introducing Islam for non-Muslims. I have a great deal of fun at these events because they are usually full of interesting, intelligent people looking to learn. My basic approach follows from the belief that “Islam doesn’t speak, Muslims do.” I try to emphasize the living traditions of Muslims. I’ve had my greatest success with music, and invariably I am asked for a list of the music I used. Below is the basic play list I rely on, with occasional additions depending on the audience and focus of my talk. Where possible, I have tried to link to the source on Amazon, otherwise you should be able to get the music on the iTunes music store.

  1. Adhan. Radio and Television Orchestra of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bismillah: Highlights from the Fes Festival
  2. Surah al-Fatihah. Yusuf Islam. A is for Allah.
  3. Recitation of Verses from the Qur’an. Various. Voices and Lutes: Music in the World of Islam.
  4. Rakan Selawat. Raihan. Puji-Pujian.
  5. Bismillah. Turkish Sufi. Ocean of Remembrance.
  6. Dhamal Qalandar. Sindhi Music Ensemble. Sufi Music from Sindh.
  7. Mahdiyu Laye. Youssou N’Dour. Egypt.
  8. Tala’a Al Badru Alayna. Yusuf Islam. Life of the Last Prophet.
  9. Sultan of Madina. Aashiq al-Rasul. Sultan of Medina.