Tea Time with Tagwa: Islam is not a for-profit aesthetic

Illustration by Karly Andersen

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Tea timers, the practices of religion are sacred. They are meant to be private and held with the utmost respect. Yet, modern entertainment culture exploits religion — specifically Islam — for profit.

I can’t count the number of films and television series that take place in some Middle Eastern nation, all opening up with the Islamic prayer call looped over some scenic, desert view. 

Music producers utilize prayer calls, Quran verses, Hadith and other sacred Islamic recitations as ad libs and samples on their songs.

Most recently, Rihanna received extensive backlash for using a song that featured Hadith in her Savage X Fenty fashion show.

Hadith, a collection of traditions of the Islamic prophet Muhammed, is one of the Muslim community’s most valued texts. Second to the Quran, Hadith hold an abundance of knowledge and teachings. We live by the words of the Quran and Hadith.

Therefore, watching an artist whom I adore and admire act with such carelessness was disappointing. The pop star issued an apology and admitted it was a major oversight on her end. 

While the apology was appreciated, Rihanna is not the first — nor the last — celebrity or big-name icon to exploit Islamic culture. 

Muslims are consistently viewed as strict, unwavering extremists. We are constantly on the defense. When things like this happen, we find ourselves staying quiet in hopes that we won’t upset the rest of the world. We always have to redirect or suppress our anger because we already have two strikes against us on everything.

For a community that is viewed as violent and terroristic, people sure do love appropriating our religion and culture.

My problem isn’t solely with Rihanna, it falls on the Black community as well. As I went to Twitter to see the reaction of both my Mulism and my Black communities, I was in awe. Many Black people were insinuating that Muslims were overreacting. 

Listen, I’m not saying what Rihanna did is the end of the world. Quite frankly, I wasn’t angry at the situation. Disappointed? Sure. But I could have gotten over it quickly.

As a Black Muslim, I am piqued at the constant neglect the Black community has for the Muslim people. Religion and race are not mutually exclusive. I can be both Black and Muslim. And I am. 

So, to say that my feelings or the feelings of my people are invalid triggers irritation and resentment. 

The idea of marginalizing an already marginalized group of people has always baffled me. As a Black American, I have dealt with the unwavering trauma that being Black in America carries. Furthermore, as a Muslim American, I have also stomached the disgusting and vile stereotypes thrown at Muslims.

My race and religion are out of my control. However, that does not mean I am not proud to be either and both. I would not trade my Islamic beliefs or my Black culture for anything in the world. All I yearn for is a simple sense of understanding from both communities. 

Rihanna’s use of Hadith was not the exclusive problem. She did not fully comprehend the gravity and essence those words held. The biggest issue laid in the reaction of the Black American homebase as Muslim Americans voiced their indignation. And that’s the tea.

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