Academic Minute
12:49 pm
Fri August 19, 2011

Dr. Sylvia Alajaji, Franklin and Marshall College - Female Rap in the Islamic World

Albany, NY – In today's Academic Minute, Dr. Sylvia Alajaji of Franklin and Marshall College reveals how the music of Islamic, female rappers undermines dominant assumptions about gender in Islamic societies.

Sylvia Alajaji is an assistant professor of music at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She teaches courses on the music and culture of the Middle East and the use of music as a political weapon. Alajaji holds a Ph.D. in musicology from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester.

About Dr. Alajaji

Dr. Sylvia Alajaji - Female Rap in the Islamic World

The West's relationship with Islam often centers on the religion's treatment of women. Images and stories of oppressed Muslim women reify Islam as a religion that exists in opposition to the West. This limits our understanding of the female Muslim experience and Islam.

But then there's this: [Clip of Ya Emra3a by Malikah]

Yes, Muslim female rappers exist and we need to listen to what they have to say. As a genre historically rooted in expressions of marginality, rap allows these women to maneuver between the simultaneous dimensions of their reality. By claiming this space that hip-hop provides, Muslim women can address on their terms the complex, contradictory, and multifaceted identities they must constantly tread.

Hip-hop has become a powerful mode of communication for Muslim women, and for women of the Arab world. Whether Christian or Muslim, these women spit rhymes that challenge notions of submissiveness, invisibility, and voicelessness. Sometimes their songs are about love. Sometimes they're silly. And sometimes they address issues of gender inequality and give voice to their unique perspectives on the Arab uprisings, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 9/11, the West's relationship with the Middle East, and reflections on their everyday lives.

Take all this and package it in a genre that's wholly relatable and infectious, and the two-dimensional narratives too often put forth about Muslim women suddenly become refreshingly complicated, torn apart, and pave the way towards closing the gap between us and them.

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