Live8 – Mullah style!

Last night I found myself at Wembley arena again. The last time I was here was to listen to a Shakira concert. Back then, I found myself surrounded by a plethora of people out to enjoy what promised, and indeed turned out to be, a mesmerising performance. All around, people were jumping, screaming and shouting like only Latins can, which the gifted minority successfully able to emulate the movement of Shakira’s “un-lying hips”.

8 months later, and there I am again, almost in the same seat, with the same person next to me. Only this time, provocatively dressed Latin ladies are replaced by modestly dressed Muslim sisters, and the macho latino’s are replaced by Molvi’s and other bearded brothers. The screams from last time persist, only this time it’s the youngsters they have brought with them. All around me, children, as young as 5, are screaming at the top of their voices. “Sami! Sami! Sami!”.

What everyone was hear for was the much awaited, and equally well publicised Muslim Live8 – a concert for peace in Darfur. And there I was, offering my small hands and the little change I had in my pockets as support towards a cause I have felt particularly strongly about for several years now.  

So whats happening in Darfur? Put simply, its not too dissimilar to Iraq. Only the Muslim on Muslim fighting can’t even be blamed on divides within Islam like the Sunni/Shia divide. The conflict in Darfur is very much political, not religious, and is between the janjaweed, supposedly supported by the Sudanese government, and coming from the Arab Baggara tribes, and a variety of non-Baggara rebel groups. The conflict has been ongoing since 2003, and has left the Darfur region in Sudan as one of, if not the most acute humanitarian crises today.  

So there you had it. All in one place. A fantastic line up, including, as supporting acts, no less than the Danish outfit, Outlandish, the even more impressive Muslim country and folk singer from the US (yes, he is the only one!), Kareem Salama. Add to this an energised crowd, contributions from 2 Muslim ministers from the current government, and messages from mssrs Brown and Cameron themselves, as well as the headline act, Sami Yusuf (who I admit I hadn’t actually heard of until this point) and you had a great evening in the making. And true to its word, the evening did not disappoint. 

Several things struck me through the course of the evening though. The first is the obvious, which still deserves to be said. A sell out crowd of 12,000 mostly bearded men, and veiled women, making a statement; “WE ARE NOT EXTREMISTS…… WE DON’T SANCTION VIOLENCE…… WE DON’T CARRY BOMBS……… WE ARE BRITISH AND PROUD OF IT”. Interpret it as you will, but for me the statement was clear. We are Muslim, but we are not so different to everyone else in Britain.  

Even more encouraging was learning of the backgrounds of some of the headlining acts. Outlandish are one Pakistani, a Moroccan and a Cuban. Kaleem Salama grew up in Oklahoma listening to country music artists at the county fair and watching his favorite cowboys at the rodeo every year. And Sami Yusuf, the headlining act, himself studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London.  

The statements coming from all of these clear. Being Muslim does not stop one integrating from western society. Even more, that each one of these 12,000 Muslims were standing up to say the same thing, and that they had something huge in common with the rest of western society – support for peace in Darfur. What a shame there weren’t more non-Muslims in the crowd to see a truer face of Islam that is generally portrayed in the media!  

What else struck me? Again, contrasting back to the last time I was in the same seats, I was surrounded by hoards of happy people, more than a few who had been drinking, and a minority who had been drinking heavily. Now for someone who stands at the (not so) impressive height of 5’7’’, and has an ability to fight or defend himself equivalent to one of the teletubbies, not being surrounded by the few yobs, who having drunk too much, end up looking for fights, was great just in itself.  

Earlier this year, the London School of Economics Students Union became the first university in the UK to organise a freshers week event that was truly inclusive to Muslims i.e., Alcohol free. I say bring on more music concerts where Muslim needs are catered for! Why don’t we have alcohol free sections during mainstream pop concerts? Its as much good commercial sense as it is having an inclusive society.  

The final thing to strike me. The whole concept of this concert was initiated by a group of students! For people like me, who claim to be Young British Muslims, the gauntlet was thrown down – If you get out there and try to do something constructive in the community, it can be done! 

The first Muslim Live8 concert turned out to be huge success for me, and combined with the money raised for Sudan, it was a huge success all round! My only wish is that the next time such an event takes place, it is attended by more non-Muslims. Now that would be real cultural integration!

            

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3 Comments

  1. Mashallah! This is a great post and a great cause.

  2. really enjoyed this. groundbreaking stuff from an amazing group of people!
    May God bless them all…

  3. In terms of your last paragraph ,you know ,I would agree with you 100%. However, Awakening records need small little tweeks to its events. This is, the first time they have done this so I would expect floors to be there! This could have been sacreligious if not spotted! Sami came on TV stating that no alcohol would be there and only halal food would be served! quite the opposite happened! To which I made sure everyone was informed!! and put a stop to the selling of haram chicken burgers!!

    now its not an issue that we should not mull over, You know the saying by Jack Walch ” Never mull over why n why it happened. Learn from it and move forward! This needs to be sorted as it could have the potential of blowing!

    I must say, credit should be given where credit is due!


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