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Saturday, 02 June 2012 16:10

I’m Sexier Than Britney Spears

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In my previous blog I wrote about how my path to activism was awakened through music.

As a songwriter, music is my contribution to counter the extremist face of Islam that the American public was suddenly introduced to. The genre is pop, the lyrics reflect Islamic values of inclusivity, promote equality of race, gender, religions, and female empowerment. I came from behind the scene where I was much more comfortable being, to sing the songs myself.

With the exception of two outlets, U.S. and U.K. based distributors all declined to distribute my CD. The reasons they gave was the full music instrumentation I used, and that for Islamic songs to be ‘halal’ (religiously approved or kosher), only percussion is accepted. “Just like Prophet Muhammad’s days. Plus, you as a woman are singing, this is definitely ‘haram’! We love your songs and we listen to them here in the office, Ani, but we will get into trouble if we distribute”. The upside of it - I realized I was the first female Muslim women singing Islamic pop in English in America.

It’s that religious switch again, folks. A man who happily listens to Britney Spears all of a sudden gets turned on by a Muslim woman singer in a straight jacket.

I discovered my female voice is sexually enticing! Male voices are apparently not. Sure.

For centuries there have always been female religious singers in many Muslim countries; from the Middle East, Persia, South Asia, Central Asia and the Caucasus. There has never been a ban against women singers or music in the Quran. Period. The interpretation from which music is haram comes from hadith, a collection of sayings claimed to be that of Prophet Muhammad, and compiled over 100 years after his death. This hadith use to only be accepted by the fringe, the Saudis and the Talibans but it is now imposed and enforced by the religious right in moderate countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia as well as in Sunni Muslim communities in America.

I know some of you are thinking “what’s the big deal; it’s just a woman’s voice?” But it is. This obsession of women as sexual objects is now no longer about her body, her hair, her honor, it has encompassed her female voice, which has resulted in the prohibition of women from speaking publicly, to giving lectures and sermons at mosques, which then deprives them of any leadership role. This is not a hypothesis. This is the reality in most mosques.

This is the same religion where Prophet Muhammad himself was a feminist, whose first wife was a well to do trader, his other wives a warrior, a teacher, where women in their community spoke up, prayed with men in the same space. That’s the Islam I want.

I get emails from female Muslim performers in other countries with the same complaints. Women performers in the U.S. have been struggling with this ‘voice’ issue for at least 10 years. I am just sharing my story. No, this is not just about female Muslim singers, it is about the larger picture of the role of women, or lack thereof, of Muslim women in their own communities.

Curtailing freedom of artistic expression whether that of a man or woman is inherently un-Islamic. Listen to the Quran’s melodic recitation. It is poetry sung. The voice is a spiritual instrument and the mullahs are telling us it is haram?

Come my Ummah of humanity, wake up!

By Ani Zonneveld, Aslan Media Columnist
*Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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0 # julio 2012-06-04 13:05
I'm so happy to see Ani's voice on AslanMedia. I want more more more!!!!
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-2 # Jade 2012-06-04 19:15
So, bottom line - Ani Zonneveld craves commercial success as a musician and Islam must now be re-imagined to facilitate that. Get real, Ani. The audacity to use the names of the wives of the Nabi (Peace Be Upon Him) to promote your absurdly self-serving agenda is pitiful. Whom do we serve? Of what value are your warblings in the Akhirah?
"SEXIER than Britney Spears" then whining about objectification of women in Islam?! You will no doubt fool many. MANY, but not everyone. Didn't you used to ramble about having to hide your 'Muslim' identity for the sake of your precious musical career and now you want to change how Islam should be interpreted so you can be openly Muslim and a big music star? Bah! You'll need to change your merchandise, because we're not buying what you're selling.
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+1 # Ani 2012-06-04 20:53
Jade, the title is suppose to be sarcasm! :sigh: If in our tradition we have had women scholars, fighters, imams, you name it, why can't women's voice be heard? We have to raise these issues and not be afraid to question the 'why'.
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0 # Ambreen Zahra 2012-06-04 21:26
No, Islam does not object to a woman's voice the way you put it. It is only enticing when a woman sings melodically. Haven't you read any modern scientific researches on music and its effects? Seriously they've been there for a while. Yes, a woman's voice IS "sexier" (if you would use the term) than a man's ONLY while singing it (and this doesn't mean that a man is free to sing in a sexually enticing way.)

The voice issue, in no way prevents a woman's voice to be heard or undermines her role in public. She is simply, not to sing in public. You paint a gory picture of how Islam treats women "on the basis of hadith."

Since more than a few decades, the majority of religious and hair covering women of Iran have been pursuing university and religious education while speaking and maintaining jobs in public!
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+2 # Ambreen Zahra 2012-06-04 21:37
P.s- a Muslim man is not supposed to listen to Britney Spear's voice either.. you know when she sings, "hit me baby one more time!"

Peace :)

I appreciate you speaking out for Muslim women, Ani. Just that I do not find it very logical and in line with my own liberal thoughts on Islam and Women. I wish you well.
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0 # Ani 2012-06-04 22:15
Ambreen your point is taken. My point though is about American Sunni communities, and I wasn't talking about secular environments from which women over excel. I made sure to make that point. I am speaking strictly about religious communities and yes, hadith is the culprit. Muslim women in Muslim majority countries such as Malaysia are allowed to sing religious Islamic songs in public. Why are those countries more liberal than the American (Sunni) Muslim communities? Thanks for your comment and I wish you well too! :-)
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0 # Jade 2012-06-04 22:20
"Our tradition"? Really? In what tradition did our Nabi Sallallahu Alayhi wa sallam perform salaah behind female imaams? - Something you merrily promote. The wives of Rasulullah (SAW) strove in the cause of Islam, in the cause of Allah. To compare your endeavours to their purpose or invoke their names to that end is all kinds of offensive and you either cannot or will not see that. There is always room for disagreement between scholars of Islam, but there is NO contradicting the Sunnah and most certainly not the word of Allah. When Allah PERFECTED Deen Islam for us, there was no clause that stated "Unless it somehow interferes with one's career ambitions in modernity or upsets man-made constitutions". Dear Ani. We are not here to serve our nafs. We are here to serve Allah.
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0 # Ani 2012-06-04 22:31
Jade, you need to do more reading about women imams. I don't make religious statements lightly. In your opinion it is quite alright for women to be discriminated against DESPITE what the Quran states. If you're interested in reading legal justifications, here's one by a Muslim scholar on female Imams. : http://www.mpvusa.org/uploads/Laury_Silvers_Legal_Arguments_on_Woman-Led_Prayer.pdf

Truth is, if I was a man, a bearded Sheikh, you probably wouldn't be challenging my stance. What's sad is women are their own worst enemy.
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+2 # Jade 2012-06-04 22:45
Ha ha. Trust me Sis, I'm WAY harder on the guys!! Particularly the sort who seem terrified of a thinking woman. You know the kind of which I speak, because if I've dealt with them, then you have, too. Gender is irrelevant when we skirt bid'ah, work against the Sunnah and/or contradict Al Qur'an. I will always take issue with 'Reformation' talk as it rarely doesn't touch on the aforementioned. Some well-meaning Muslims, in their interfaith efforts, have walked straight into the practice of shirk and can't even see it. So, no, your gender is irrelevant to me, but relevant to what you're doing.
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+3 # Jade 2012-06-04 23:16
Mind you, earlier today, I had it out with one of those 'bearded sheikhs' you refer to about his ridiculous theory that women should cover our feet. Apparently, he's discovered that our feet are now part of our aurat. Al Qur'an CLEARLY states the opposite, but our bearded sheikh thought differently. Bah!
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0 # Ani 2012-06-04 23:27
Quoting Jade:
Mind you, earlier today, I had it out with one of those 'bearded sheikhs' you refer to about his ridiculous theory that women should cover our feet. Apparently, he's discovered that our feet are now part of our aurat. Al Qur'an CLEARLY states the opposite, but our bearded sheikh thought differently. Bah!


See!!! It just never ends! Bah back. :D
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-3 # Nada 2012-06-06 15:07
Get off your high horse Jade. If anything here is un-islamic, it's your hostility! Don't let the self-righteous, judgmental people get to you Ani. You're doing a great job!
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+3 # Ambreen Zahra 2012-06-07 15:16
Hadith is not the culprit. We maintain a dire need for it, as the Prophet (s) said we are to hold onto both The Qur'an and his Household (a.s) (for hadith)

What we need it correct INTERPRETORS of hadith, and we must look upto those we believe have most correct knowledge. And if that person for me happens to be a bearded sheikh, well, what did he do wrong to be stereotyped like that?!

The Science of Hadith exists to help us know the correct ones from the fake.
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+2 # Ambreen Zahra 2012-06-07 15:21
My point here is that Muslim women excel even in religious environments simply because Islam has provided for them to excel. And it is very possible (and seen) that a Muslim woman DOES excel without singing in the presence of na-mahram men.

If it is about the artistic talents of the woman in that area, by all means, unleash them and let others profit from it, BUT only in the presence of mahrams. Our professor of Tajweed of Qur'an is a woman who only works with female students, and women sing and we enjoy hearing them sing religious songs in women-only gatherings. I do not accept that a woman's and man's voice is equal on sex appeal.

Not just Malaysia, but even Pakistan lets women sing religious songs in public, but how does that matter?
Shouldn't we be looking at what Allah would like us to do than what certain state boundaries would?

Peace :-)
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+3 # Jade 2012-06-13 14:21
You're right about one thing,Nada,my tone was aggressive and disproportionat ely so, and for that, I do apologize to Ani. However, when it comes to whether we are here to serve Allah or serve our nafs, I stand by Al Qur'aan, the Sunnah and the hadith. Self-righteous? Hardly. Every DAY, a Muslim strives to earn Allah's rahmah. None of us are assured of Jannat-ul-Firdo us. Every single warning Rasulullah (SAW) gave us regarding deviations is being disregarded in the philosophies of self-described 'Progressive Muslims' in America. Remember the Sermon on Mount Arafat? Quoting the very 'scholars' who misguided one in the first place does not validate one's argument. Allah, the ALL-KNOWING, perfected Deen Islam and does not require our feeble-by-compa rison minds to rewrite it to suit modernity
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-3 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-06-17 12:24
Quoting Jade:
You're right about one thing,Nada,my tone was aggressive and disproportionately so, and for that, I do apologize to Ani. However, when it comes to whether we are here to serve Allah or serve our nafs, I stand by Al Qur'aan, the Sunnah and the hadith. Self-righteous? Hardly. Every DAY, a Muslim strives to earn Allah's rahmah. None of us are assured of Jannat-ul-Firdous. Every single warning Rasulullah (SAW) gave us regarding deviations is being disregarded in the philosophies of self-described 'Progressive Muslims' in America. Remember the Sermon on Mount Arafat? Quoting the very 'scholars' who misguided one in the first place does not validate one's argument. Allah, the ALL-KNOWING, perfected Deen Islam and does not require our feeble-by-comparison minds to rewrite it to suit modernity


Jade, serving nafs- that would be the men who can't control their desires don't you think?

There is a huge difference between your interpretation of Islam and mine. You prefer to fit people into a box called Islam whereas I look at Islam as lifting people out of their boxes. . It's a difference in philosophy, and that's ok. People need to disagree respectfully. No human beings are created the same, and God is rich like that! Peace.
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+4 # Jade 2012-06-19 19:41
Ani, surely you understand that 'Nafs' refers to a whole lot more than 'men and their desires',no? Indeed,we do NOT share the same understanding about Islam. You don't know me personally so I'll excuse your erroneous assumptions about 'putting people in boxes';-)
Meanwhile, proclamations of 'waking up!', "MY" Ummah' and general denouncing of how traditional Muslims practice Islam sounds way more like pigeon-holing than you might be willing to admit. We are the Ummah of Nabi Muhammad Sallallahu alayhi wa Sallam and none other. Our purpose is to serve Allah Azzawajal and no other. We are to earn the favor of our Rabb for salvation in the Aakhirah and no other. Pre-occupation with the dunyia will lead to great despair in the Aakhirah. Make your choices as you see fit, but know that on Yaum-ul Qiyamah, we will each answer ALONE and no amount of support from like-minded souls in the dunyia will serve us on that day. I remind MYSELF of this first. May Allah guide us all.Ameen
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