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6 Insha'Allah/Ojalá, Yes Yes Y’all Puerto Ricans (Re)examining and (Re)imagining Their Identities through Islam and Hip Hop Omar Ramadan-Santiago I had just arrived in Puerto Rico to start my summer research for my master’s thesis in June 2010 when I found out that somewhere on the island in a few hours there was going to be an educational panel on Puerto Rican Muslims. I quickly informed my aunt and we made a few calls to figure out where it was and, more important, how to get there. The event turned out to be a few blocksawayfrommycousin’sschool,sowehoppedinmyaunt’svanandmade our way. Once there I witnessed how some Muslim Puerto Ricans are able to create their own identities, using cultural and religious influences to shape the persons they see themselves to be, despite being seemingly at odds with mainstream conceptions of what “Puerto Rican” means. This apparent contradiction inspired my interest in the ways in which Puerto Ricans construct and choose to express their identity in the United StatesandinPuertoRicoand,inparticular,inhowthisidentityisshapedboth by being Muslim and through their involvement in Hip Hop1 art and culture. It is my hope that my work expands the narrow definitions of what it means to be Muslim as well as Puerto Rican in the United States and in the Caribbean by exploring how Puerto Rican Muslims make use of music, art (movement andvisual),language,culture,religiousdoctrine,andself-educationtorewrite their histories and create for themselves new identities that challenge existing stereotypes they refuse to fit. In this essay I analyze how some Puerto Ricans consider themselves genuine members of Muslim and Hip Hop communities, often citing history as a means of validating their membership status. A growing literature is now focusing on the relatively recent attraction to Islam by various Latin Ameri-· 115 · 116 · Omar Ramadan-Santiago can and Caribbean populations (e.g., Aidi 2009a; Martinez-Vazquez 2010; Smith 1999: 66–67). My focus is on Puerto Ricans because their status in the UnitedStatespoliticalarena,aswellasinHipHop,isuniquecomparedtothat of other Latin American groups. As Juan Flores notes, Puerto Rican rappers have something that other Latino rappers do not: “a history in hip-hop” and an involvement in Hip Hop culture that has persisted since its birth in the Bronx in the 1970s (Flores 2000: 116). Islam has also been a large part of the Hip Hop scene through the participation of African American Muslims and such educational and religious organizations as the Universal Zulu Nation, Nation of Islam, and Nation of Gods and Earths. However, Muslim identity within Hip Hop, in fact, is not limited to the Americas but is a growing global phenomenon,demonstratedbytheemergenceofHipHopmusicamongSenegalese Muslims, the prevalence of North African Muslim Hip Hop artists in France, and the popularization of Arab Hip Hop with such documentaries as Slingshot Hip Hop (Salloum 2009). My fieldwork was centered on Puerto Rican Muslims involved in Hip Hop as DJs, MCs, aerosol/graffiti artists, and b-boys (each of these representing one of the four fundamental aspects of Hip Hop art and culture, to be discussed in fuller detail). It was conducted from the fall of 2009 to the summer of 2010, taking place on the north coast of Puerto Rico and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey, and New York City. All my interlocutors are male and living in either the United States or Puerto Rico and have embraced Islam later in life. In Puerto Rico, I interviewed MC Correa Cotto at a mosque and MC Profound in his home. I spoke with MC and aerosol artist Hamza Perez of the Mujahideen Team or M-Team (a music group consisting of his brother and himself and featured in his documentary New Muslim Cool) at his mosque in Pittsburgh. Finally, I conducted a telephone interview with David Muhammad, a Wisconsin-based DJ. With the growing number of Latinos/Caribbeans/Latin Americans becoming Muslim, developing a more capacious understanding of the meanings of religious identity among Puerto Ricans is key to understanding the wider lived experiences of people of Latin American and Caribbean descent (Galvan 2008; Martinez-Vazquez 2010; Viscidi 2003). It is my hope that this project supplements popular and academic discourses addressing the rise of “many Islams” and religious identity transformations in the current post-9/11 moment in the Americas.2 Predominantly Christian, and to a greater or lesser degree unfamiliar with or fearful of Muslims and Islam, these societies traffic in discourses about East and West, self and other, and traditional versus...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813055077
Related ISBN
9780813060132
MARC Record
OCLC
904754963
Pages
352
Launched on MUSE
2015-03-14
Language
English
Open Access
No
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