3. Blackness as a Blueprint for the Muslim Self

From: Muslim Cool

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109 3 Blackness as a Blueprint for the Muslim Self SCENE: SARA (A sample from “Doo Wop (That Thing)” by hip hop artist Lauryn Hill plays as three models come onto the stage and do coordinated shouldershimmies reminiscent of a 1960s female R&B group. As the sample ends, the models freeze into poses and Sara enters.) NARRATOR This here is Sara. SARA (Waves and smiles brightly at audience and excitedly walks between the models, examining them) NARRATOR She’s decided that she is going to start wearing a scarf. Tomorrow she will join the ranks of the hijabis. Today, she has to pick what kind of hijabi she’ll be. You see, as personal as her choice might seem, it is also a very public one. Her choice will be her first voice in the world. She could go for Traditional . . . TRADITIONAL (Comes to life, yawns, and looks bored at the audience) SARA (Stops, examines, and interacts with Traditional) NARRATOR Traditional . . . is, well, what people think of when they think of wearing a hijab. Ok, maybe not all people but most people. Oh well, maybe not even most people but some people, in some parts of the world, in some 110 | Blackness as a Blueprint for the Muslim Self parts of their brains would say, “This is Tradition!” but maybe some others might just say it’s “modern Middle East conservative,” and still others might call it “extremist” gear. Hmm . . . Traditional is pretty loaded, and since her family is already trippin’ that she’s about to hi-jab, Sara’s gonna pass. HIJABI-LITE (Comes to life and begins to model her outfit) SARA (Moves over to Hijabi-lite and follows the model’s movements) NARRATOR Then there is always the old standard: Hijabi-lite! From Friday prayer to Islamic conventions, this virtual uniform is donned by hijabis from California to the New York Island, marking them Muslim and just short of suspicious. Hijabi-lite features a mid-length tunic or dress, purchased from H&M, that is paired with pants. While having graduated from wearing a white cotton lace scarf with everything, Hijabi-lite is not a risk-taking ensemble; it’s moderate , middle class, mostly mainstream, and halal-certified! HIJABI-LITE (Smiles and gives a thumbs up) SARA (Turns her thumbs down and moves over to ’Hoodjabi) NARRATOR The newest addition to the hijab choices is edgier and grimier than the rest and comes with street cred—that no longer needs to be earned! ’HOODJABI (Throws her hands in the air into a B-girl stance and does break dancing moves during the narration) SARA (Struggles to follow ’Hoodjabi’s dance moves) Blackness as a Blueprint for the Muslim Self | 111 NARRATOR Great choice if she wants all the coolness of Blackness and ’hoodness without all the struggle. Now, she’ll have to bear with the “partial hijab” comments , and everybody’s fear that she’s becoming like [whispers] “those shiftless negros.” But the hip hop style is cooooooool! Colorful scarf-tothe -back and “’hood” gear. And she so desperately wants to be cool. . . . Don’t we all? And just ’cause she comes from the suburbs don’t mean she’s out of touch. SARA (Throws a Black Power fist in the air) NARRATOR She learned that slavery was really bad and some of those Africans were Muslim . . . and she’s going to do something about all this injustice! So it doesn’t matter if she’s never been south of Roosevelt; at the end of the day aren’t we all being screwed over anyway? At least that’s what she’s heard somewhere. SARA and ’HOODJABI (Smile at each other and stand with backs to each other in a B-girl stance) NARRATOR Yeah, ’Hoodjabi could work. (Lauryn Hill sample plays again as Sara intertwines arms with ’Hoodjabi and they go off stage. At the same time Traditional and Hijabi-lite look on in shock and dismay, shrug shoulders, and intertwine arms as they go off stage.) END SCENE I composed and performed this scene as part of my performance ethnography Sampled: Beats of Muslim Life during my last few months in the field. The scene is inspired by the vignette “The Hairpiece” in the 112 | Blackness as a Blueprint for the Muslim Self play The Colored Museum (Wolfe 1987) in which two wigs owned by a U.S. Black American woman, who is primping in front of a mirror, argue over which style the woman will choose. The...


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Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Relations with Muslims.
  • Muslims -- United States -- Social conditions.
  • African American Muslims -- Social conditions.
  • African Americans -- Race identity.
  • Hip-hop -- Social aspects -- United States.
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