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Muslim Cool: Race, Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States

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Interviews with young Muslims in Chicago explore the complexity of identities formed at the crossroads of Islam and hip hop

This groundbreaking study of race, religion and popular culture in the 21st century United States focuses on a new concept, "Muslim Cool." Muslim Cool is a way of being an American Muslim--displayed in ideas, dress, social activism in the 'hood, and in complex relationships to state power. Constructed through hip hop and the performance of Blackness, Muslim Cool is a way of engaging with the Black American experience by both Black and non-Black young Muslims that challenges racist norms in the U.S. as well as dominant ethnic and religious structures within American Muslim communities.

Drawing on over two years of ethnographic research, Su'ad Abdul Khabeer illuminates the ways in which young and multiethnic US Muslims draw on Blackness to construct their identities as Muslims. This is a form of critical Muslim self-making that builds on interconnections and intersections, rather than divisions between "Black" and "Muslim." Thus, by countering the notion that Blackness and the Muslim experience are fundamentally different, Muslim Cool poses a critical challenge to dominant ideas that Muslims are "foreign" to the United States and puts Blackness at the center of the study of American Islam. Yet Muslim Cool also demonstrates that connections to Blackness made through hip hop are critical and contested--critical because they push back against the pervasive phenomenon of anti-Blackness and contested because questions of race, class, gender, and nationality continue to complicate self-making in the United States.

288 pages, Paperback

Published December 6, 2016

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Su'ad Abdul Khabeer

1 book8 followers

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5 stars
46 (34%)
4 stars
57 (42%)
3 stars
20 (15%)
2 stars
7 (5%)
1 star
3 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews
Profile Image for Yasmine Flodin-Ali.
85 reviews6 followers
February 19, 2017
This is an excellent piece of scholarship, and the best book I've read in a long time. Khabeer uses the phrase "Muslim cool" to explain how blackness is used as a liberating framework for Muslim Americans. For black Muslims, Muslim cool is a way to own their intersectional identity, to push back against both white supremacy and the cultural hegemony of South Asians and Arabs in Muslim America. Many young first and second-generation Muslims from immigrant backgrounds also identify with the black American experience. This is due to the increased racialization of Islam in America and the counter-culture appeal of hip-hop as an authentic American narrative of resistance. The impulse for non-black Muslims to adopt Muslim cool can be positive, leading to the creation of inter-racial coalitions, but it can also be negative, veering into cultural appropriation and a lack of awareness which further disenfranchises black American Muslims. This is one of the rare ethnographies that is written in an accessible matter that is enjoyable to read. Khabeer seamlessly integrates her own experiences with her interlocutors (who she refers to as teachers- such a wonderful choice of words). This is certainly a must read for anyone interested in Islam in America, but I'd recommend it to anyone interested in race in America more generally.
Profile Image for Afshan.
Author 1 book17 followers
February 25, 2021
First of all - this is the best book cover, ever. Second, this book is an epic read. The experience that Dr. Su'ad creates in understanding what Muslim Cool means to American Muslims through conversations surrounding race and hip hop is illuminating (and super academic, keep a dictionary around if you're a casual reader). She expounds on many intersections & disconnections in cultural and religious structures for Black and non Black Muslims in the United States, highlighting that Blackness and Black culture has been the foundation for United States Muslims establishing their identities. Chapters are rich with intense research, insightful conversations and jarring discoveries which unmask wider issues of racism within Muslim communities, alongside the overt consumption and personal ornamentation through hip hop and Black pop culture by non Black Muslims. My favorite chapter: Cool Muslim Dandies.
Profile Image for Zahreen.
388 reviews
February 6, 2017
This was a great read - super interesting look at the intersection of race and religion in forming the American Muslim identity.
Profile Image for Neil.
1,129 reviews9 followers
April 7, 2018
I had to read this book for an online course I took. It was okay. I would rank it 1.7-1.9 stars rounded to 2 stars. The book focuses on the relationship(s) between South Asian U.S. American Muslim communities and Arab U.S. American Muslim communities to Black U.S. American Muslim communities. The focus is primarily centered on Chicago, but she also shares times when she was traveling overseas for various studies.

One thing that did stand out to me was how she referred to those she encountered as "teachers" regardless of their age, if they were younger or older than her. It was an interesting perspective to read about, as most people do not refer to others as "teachers" unless they actually have the title or label of "teacher." I should say, she described them as "teachers" in the book; she never called them 'teacher' when talking/interacting with them.

I am trying not to focus on the negative(s) in the book because I really did not like it that much. She made some interesting points throughout the book, but not enough for me to recommend it to anybody.
Profile Image for Miss Susan.
2,427 reviews52 followers
July 16, 2019
really interesting look at the relationship between hiphop and black islam (and non-black islam!) but it did have a whiff of rewritten thesis about it. i've got a huge list of songs to check out now though which is nice

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Alaa Adel.
144 reviews11 followers
October 29, 2022
مع أنه ليس كتاب تاريخ، فإن أهميته تكمن في مناقشته الشاملة والمستفيضة لتاريخ الهويات الدينية والعرقية داخل المجتمعات المسلمة في الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية.
في هذا الكتاب، تستخدم المؤلفة سعاد عبد الخبير مصطلح «المسلم العصري» والذي تصف به طريقة تفكير المسلمين الأمريكيين وتم��دهم على التسلسل الهرمي للأعراق في الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية ومن ثم إعادة تشكيلها، إذ يضع التسلسل الهرمي السائد هناك الأشخاص من ذوي البشرة البيضاء في المقدمة، والسود في الأسفل، أما البقية فهم في مكان ما بينهما.
ويفند الكتاب الآراء القائلة بأن الولايات المتحدة إما أنها في عصر ما بعد العنصرية أو أنها الدولة الوحيدة التي يعيش فيها الأبيض والأسود معًا، وهذا ما نفاه الكتاب مؤكدًا أن العرق والسلالة في الولايات المتحدة لا يزالان مهمان.
وتؤكد المؤلفة أن مجتمع السود له دور أساسي بالنسبة للإسلام في الولايات المتحدة، إذ كانت بداية معرفة الشعب الأمريكي بالإسلام من خلال المنظمات التي كان أغلبها من المسلمين السود مثل منظمة «أمة الإسلام» وحركة «أمة الخمسة في المئة» وغيرها من المنظمات السنية السوداء السابقة.
ويقدم «المسلم العصريّ» أيضا نظرة شاملة متميزة على أنشطة «شبكة العمل الإسلامي داخل المدينية» في مدينة شيكاغو بولاية إلينوي الأمريكية، وهي منظمة إسلامية غير الربحية تعد مركزا لــ«المسلم العصريّ» بسبب التزامها بالأعمال المناهضة العنصرية في المجتمع المحلي. كما أنها توفر نموذجًا فريدا في تكوين مجتمع متعدد الأعراق بسبب التنوع العرقي للعاملين والمتطوعين بها، إلى جانب التزامها بمكافحة معاداة السود داخل المجتمعات المسلمة وغير المسلمة.
وفي كثير من الأحيان، تستخدم منظمة «شبكة العمل الإسلامي داخل المدينة» موسيقى الهيب هوب وغيرها من التعبيرات الفنية للمساعدة في بناء جسر مع المجموعات العرقية المتنوعة لإعادة صياغة نظرة الناس العالمية وأنشطتهم لتشمل تحرير السود.
في النهاية يناقش الكتاب حركة حياة السود مهمة، ويكشف عن التوازن الدقيق بين المسلمين غير السود الذين يعتنقون الثقافة السوداء (الهيب هوب). وتسلط المؤلفة الضوء على المسؤولية الملقاة على عاتق غير السود حيال مبدعي الهيب هوب بالوقوف معهم في الحرب ضد مناهضة السود.
تختم الكاتبة تقريرها بالقول: هذه المناقشة مفيدة للأشخاص الملونين المهتمين بدعم حركة حياة السود مهمة ولكنهم يفتقرون إلى الارتباطات العميقة مع المجتمعات السوداء المحلية، لأنها توفر خارطة طريق للمشاركة الأخلاقية في النشاط المناهض للعنصرية.

- من ترجمة تقرير للكاتبة كايلا رينيه ويلر، الأستاذ المساعد للدراسات العرقية النقدية في جامعة كزافييه بولاية أوهايو الأمريكية، نشره موقع «ميدل إيست أي» البريطاني. https://www.sasapost.com/translation/...
Profile Image for Yazeed Shamieh.
34 reviews2 followers
May 7, 2019
I first heard about this book when some scholars and speakers who I followed posted about it when it first came out. The title showed that the book covers three areas that I really like to read about, so I threw it on my wishlist.
Muslim Cool analyzes the relationship between race, religion, and hip hop culture among U.S. Muslims of various races and ethnicities. The identities of U.S. Muslims is formed through their interactions with hip hop culture, which was originally shaped by the ideals and practices of Black Muslims. These interactions lead back to Black Islam, forming a loop of Muslim Cool.
This was a very enjoyable and insightful read. Dr. Abdul Khabeer covers a bunch of aspects of the culture, and the historical context she provided was really helpful to understand the connections between Islam, race, and popular culture in America today. The relationship between Islam and hip hop is decades old, and the exchange between the two has not only framed the American Muslim experience, but has also introduced many Americans to the Islamic faith. Muslim Cool is a way of life that is necessary to oppose anti-Blackness within Muslim communities and in the American community at large. Highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Nausheen.
149 reviews6 followers
September 7, 2020
This was specific to Chicago for the most part but I think the idea of the choosing dissimilation from "American life" in Black American Muslim populations or choosing assimilation into "American life" in South Asian and Arab American Muslim populations is a universal concept. I ended up thinking a lot about what my Islam is shaped against, and whether or not that has been an intentional choice. The discussion around "bad Blackness" and "good Blackness" also felt applicable to model minority discourse:

"Blackness is stigmatized as 'bad Blackness' when it is related to other kinds of bodies and behaviors, such as single mothers on welfare, and these forms of racialized privilege and stigma naturalize structural inequalities. The figure of the Black president, then, is marshaled, as 'good Blackness': a US Black American performativity that is appropriately different and aligns with the state’s vision of itself as officially antiracist."

To be Muslim within the confines of state approval is ultimately limiting and working one's way around that takes intention and effort, seems to be Su'ad Abdul Khabeer's ultimate takeaway. There is a tradition of this in Black American Muslim communities, and less so in other American Muslim communities.
Profile Image for Byron.
Author 9 books100 followers
April 7, 2019
This was much more information than I required about things like the politics surrounding the specific way Muslim girls tie their head scarves, which of course is of no real interest to me (I thought it might be more of a hip-hop thing). And yet, it doesn't really engage with some of the main controversies surrounding Muslim girls wearing head scarves, e.g. places where it's supposedly required by law, Mia Khalifa, etc. Also, it doesn't seem nearly as concerned as it should be with anti-black attitudes in Muslim communities. It's politically correct to a fault, and dense with academic mumbo jumbo. Avoid unless you're trying to get Ph.D. in black Muslim feminist studies or whatever.
17 reviews3 followers
February 21, 2021
A must read for any Muslim Leaser in the US

This book was a joyful, insightful, moving, and powerful read about Islam, hip hop and anti blackness. It perfectly challenges the racist assumption that blackness is an “add on” to Islam. Definitely a book worth rereading over and over again.
Profile Image for Paul.
692 reviews63 followers
May 29, 2022
As far as content, this is a great book. Its exploration of what it means to be Black and Muslim in the United States is well done, and I learned a lot from reading it. A far as writing, it's a dense slog, and I'm just never going to give books like that a high star review, even if the things they say are important and worth the effort.
Profile Image for mo .
44 reviews
May 31, 2021
this book cemented ethnographies as my favourite genre of academic text to read. su'ad abdul khabeer offers not only an essential read for anyone studying religion and race in the united states, but is also a page-turner with a fresh voice and perspective.
Profile Image for Bridget Arnold.
48 reviews
December 13, 2021
This ethnography was a little hard to understand seeing as I am neither Muslim nor Cool, however, I learned a lot and this has certainly broadened my understanding of the intersections of religion and race and what it means to be cool and how that interacts with antiracism and combats white supremacy.
Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews

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