"I don't battle anymore! I uplift motherfuckers!" - GZA
Monday, August 28, 2006,3:52 PM
Let Us Be Moors Pt 1
by Hisham Aidi

"Seamos moros!" wrote the Cuban poet and nationalist José Martíí in 1893, in support of the Berber uprising against Spanish rule in northern Morocco. "Let us be Moors...the revolt in the Rif...is not an isolated incident, but an outbreak of the change and realignment that have entered the world. Let us be Moors...we [Cubans] who will probably die by the hand of Spain." [1] Writing at a time when the scramble for Africa and Asia was at full throttle, Martí was accenting connections between those great power forays and Spanish depredations in Cuba, even as the rebellion of 1895 germinated on his island.

Throughout the past century, particularly during the Cold War, Latin American leaders from Cuba's Fidel Castro to Argentina's Juan Peron would express support for Arab political causes, and call for Arab-Latin solidarity in the face of imperial domination, often highlighting cultural links to the Arab world through Moorish Spain. Castro, in particular, made a philo-Arab pan-Africanism central to his regime's ideology and policy initiatives. In his famous 1959 speech on race, the jefe maximo underlined Cuba's African and Moorish origins. "We all have lighter or darker skin. Lighter skin implies descent from Spaniards who themselves were colonized by the Moors that came from Africa. Those who are more or less dark-skinned came directly from Africa. Moreover, nobody can consider himself as being of pure, much less superior, race." [2]

With the launching of the "war on terror," and particularly with the invasion of Iraq, political leaders and activists in Latin America have been warning of a new imperial age and again declaring solidarity with the Arab world. Some refer rather quixotically to a Moorish past. Linking the war on Iraq to Plan Colombia and to the Bush administration's alleged support for a coup against him, the erratic Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez has repeatedly urged his countrymen to "return to their Arab roots," and attempted to mobilize the country's mestizo and black majority against white supremacy. "They call me the monkey or black," Chavez says of his domestic and international opponents. "They can't stand that someone like me was elected." [3]

In less contentious terms, Brazil's left-leaning President Lula da Silva will visit the Middle East in early December 2003 to seek "more objective" relations with the Arab world, to call for an "independent, democratic Palestinian state" and to launch a common market with the Arab world as an alternative to the North American market (particularly with many in Arab countries boycotting American products). [4] Brazil's largest trade union federation strongly denounced post-September 11 US intervention in Colombia, Venezuela and the Middle East, praising the protest movements that have appeared against US and Israeli "militarism" and calling on Brazilian workers to join in the struggle "against Sharon's Nazi-Zionist aggression against the Palestinian people" and in support of the intifada. [5]

The Other September 11 Effect

In the age of the "war on terror," such expressions from the Western world of affinity with the Arab world are not confined to statements of political solidarity. In Latin America, Europe and the US, for example, there has been a sharp increase in conversion to Islam. At the first world congress of Spanish-speaking Muslims held in Seville in April 2003, the scholar Mansur Escudero, citing "globalization," said that there were 10 to 12 million Spanish speakers among the world's 1.2 billion Muslims. [6] In the US, researchers note that usually 25,000 people a year become Muslim, but by several accounts that number has quadrupled since September 11. [7] In Europe, an Islamic center in Holland reported a tenfold increase and the New Muslims Project in England reported a "steady stream" of new converts. [8] Several analysts have noted that in the United Kingdom, many converts are coming from middle-class and professional backgrounds, not simply through the prison system or ghetto mosques, as is commonly believed. [9] The Muslim population in Spain is also growing, due to conversion, as well as immigration and intermarriage. [10]

Different explanations have been advanced to account for this intriguing phenomenon, known as "the other September 11 effect" -- the primary effects being anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant backlash and infringements upon civil liberties. Commenting on how the accused "dirty bomber" José Padilla and the shoe bomber Richard Reid converted to Islam, French scholar Olivier Roy observes, "Twenty years ago such individuals would have joined radical leftist movements, which have now disappeared or become 'bourgeois'.... Now only two Western movements of radical protest claim to be 'internationalist': the anti-globalization movement and radical Islamists. To convert to Islam today is a way for a European rebel to find a cause; it has little to do with theology." [11] This portrayal of Islam as an outlet for the West's political malcontents ignores the powerful allure of certain aspects of Islamic theology, and begs the question of why for at least a century, even when communism was still in vogue, minorities in the West have seen Islam as a particularly attractive alternative. Roy's formulation also neglects the critical elements of racism and racialization. At least since Malcolm X, internationalist Islam has been seen as a response to Western racism and imperialism.

Though Westerners of different social and ethnic backgrounds are gravitating toward Islam, it is mostly the ethnically marginalized of the West -- historically, mostly black, but nowadays also Latino, native American, Arab and South Asian minorities -- who, often attracted by the purported universalism and colorblindness of Islamic history and theology, are asserting membership in a transnational umma and thereby challenging or "exiting" the white West. Even for white converts, like John Walker Lindh, becoming Muslim involves a process of racialization -- renouncing their whiteness -- because while the West stands for racism and white supremacy on a global scale, Islam is seen to represent tolerance and anti-imperialism. This process of racialization is also occurring in diasporan Muslim communities in the West, which are growing increasingly race-conscious and "black" as anti-Muslim racism increases. To cope, Muslims in the diaspora are absorbing lessons from the African-American freedom movement, including from strains of African-American Islam.

Over the past two years, Islam has provided an anti-imperial idiom and imaginary community of belonging for many subordinate groups in the West, as Islamic culture and art stream into the West through minority and diaspora communities, and often in fusion with African-American art forms, slowly seep into the cultural mainstream. Subsequently, many of the cultural and protest movements -- anti-globalization, anti-imperialist, anti-racist -- in the West today have Islamic and/or African-American undercurrents. At a time of military conflict and extreme ideological polarization between the West and the Muslim world, Islamic culture is permeating political and cultural currents, remaking identities and creating cultural linkages between Westerners and the Muslim world.

Latino Back Channels

Recent journalistic accounts have noted the growing rate of conversion to Islam in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, and the often violent clashes between Christian and Spanish Muslim missionaries proselytizing among the indigenous Mayan community. The Muslim campaign in Chiapas is led by a Spaniard from Granada, Aureliano Perez, member of an international Sufi order called al-Murabitun, though he is contending with a rival missionary, Omar Weston. Particularly interesting about the several hundred Mayan Muslims is the view of some of the converts that, though some of the missionaries are Spanish like the conquistadors, their embrace of Islam is a historic remedy for the Spanish conquest and the consequent oppression. "Five hundred years ago, they came to destroy us," said Anastasio Gomez Gomez, 21, who now goes by Ibrahim. "Five hundred years later, other Spaniards came to return a knowledge that was taken away from us." [12]

The view of 1492 as a tragic date signaling the end of a glorious era, and the related idea that conversion to Islam entails a reclaiming of that past, is common among the Latino Muslim community in the US. That community, estimated in 2000 at 30,000 to 40,000 members, has grown in the past two years, with Latino Muslim centers and da'wa (proselytizing) organizations in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Fresno and Houston. [13] The banner hanging at the Alianza Islamica center in the South Bronx celebrates the African and Islamic roots of Latin America: against a red, white and blue backdrop stands a sword-wielding Moor, flanked by a Taino Indian and a black African. The Spanish conquistador is conspicuously absent. Imam (Omar Abduraheem) Ocasio of the Alianza Islamica speaks passionately about the continuity between Moorish Spain and Latin America: "Most of the people who came to Latin America and the Spanish Caribbean were from southern Spain, Andalusia -- they were Moriscos, Moors forcefully converted to Christianity. The leaders, army generals, curas [priests] were white men from northern Spain...sangre azul, as they were called. The southerners, who did the menial jobs, ...servants, artisans, foot soldiers, ...were of mixed Arab and African descent. They were stripped of their religion, culture, brought to the so-called New World where they were enslaved with African slaves.... But the Moriscos never lost their culture...we are the cultural descendants of the Moors." [14] The Puerto Rican imam writes, "Islamically inspired values were conveyed ever so subtly in the Trojan horse of Spanish heritage throughout the centuries and, after 500 years, Latinos were now ready to return." [15]

In the past two years, Islam and the Arab-Muslim world seem to have entered even more poignantly into the Latin American imagination, gaining a presence in political discourse and strongly influencing Hispanic popular culture. This Arab cultural invasion of Latin America, which has reverberated in mainstream American culture, is often attributed to the Brazilian telenovela El Clon and Lebanese-Colombian pop icon Shakira.

El Clon, the highest-rated soap opera ever shown on Telemundo, a US Spanish-language channel, reportedly reaches 2.8 million Hispanic households in the US, as well as 85 million people in Brazil and tens of millions across Latin America. The series, which began broadcasting shortly after September 11, tells the story of Jade, a young Brazilian Muslim who returns to her mother's homeland of Morocco after her mother's death in Brazil. There she falls in love and settles down with Lucas, a Christian Brazilian, and adapts to life in an extended family setting in the old city of Fez. Filmed in Rio de Janeiro and Fez, the telenovela offers a profusion of Orientalist imagery -- from veiled belly dancers swaying seductively behind ornate latticework to dazzling shots of Marrakesh and Fez spliced with footage of scantily clad women on Rio's beaches -- and of course, incessant supplications of "Ay, por favor, Allah!" from Jade's neighbors in the medina.The Moroccan ambassador to Brazil, in a letter to a Sao Paolo newspaper, criticized the series for its egregious "cultural errors," "gross falsification" and "mediocre images" promoting stereotypes of Muslim women as submissive and men as polygamists leading lives of "luxury and indolence."

Despite the kitsch, El Clon has triggered what Latin Trade called "Mideast fever" across Latin America. Belly dancing and "Middle Eastern-style jewelry" became "the rage in Rio and Sao Paolo," Brazilians began throwing "A Thousand and One Nights" parties, "Talk to a Sheikh" chat rooms cropped up online and two new agencies opened up to offer package tours to North Africa.(In his letter, the Moroccan ambassador acknowledged that Brazilian tourism to Morocco had increased by 300 percent thanks to El Clon.) A journalist visiting Quito, Ecuador, found viewers of the series "wide-eyed and drop-jawed for all things Arab." [16] Even in the US, where El Clon's broadcast was almost blocked due to alleged potential controversy, it has exerted cultural influence upon the Latino community and others. In New York, observers note the El Clon-triggered fashion for Arab jewelry and hip scarves, the overflowing belly dancing classes and a recently opened beauty parlor called El Clon in Queens. [17]

Through the Latino back channel, the impact of Shakira in bringing Arab culture to the MTV audience has also been considerable. The Lebanese-Colombian singer was bombarded with questions by the media about her views "as an Arab" on the September 11 attacks, and advised to drop the belly dancing and the Arabic riffs from her music because it could hurt her album sales, but she refused. "I would have to rip out my heart or my insides in order to be able to please them," said the songstress, and expressed horror at hate crimes against "everything that's Arab, or seems Arab." [18] During the run-up to the Iraq war, Shakira's performances took on an explicitly political tone, with her dancers wearing masks of Tony Blair, George W. Bush and Fidel Castro. Backdrop screens flashed images of Bush and Saddam Hussein as two puppets playing a sinister game of chess, with the Grim Reaper as the puppeteer. She also undertook a highly publicized tour of the Middle East (though her concerts in Casablanca, Tunis and Beirut were postponed), during which she visited her father's ancestral village in the Bekaa Valley. Viewers across the region were delighted when Shakira appeared on Egyptian television singing the tunes of Fairuz. In Europe, the US, South America and even the Middle East, the belly-dancing star has fostered a reported mania for hip scarves with coins and tassels. In a random check of Cairo nightclubs, Egyptian government officials confiscated 26 Shakira outfits, "weighing no more than 150 grams [5 ounces]," and deemed "scandalous," [19] but local filmmakers are currently negotiating with government officials over rights to a film project called Shakira fi al-Munira, about a young Egyptian girl infatuated with the Colombian chanteuse.

While the craze for Arab culture has occurred in the wake of September 11 and the ensuing war on terrorism, it is not necessarily political. Commenting on the popularity of shawarma and hookahs in Quito, one journalist observes that "the new fascination with Arabia comes at a time when there are new reasons for anti-American sentiment" -- the recent policy of currency dollarization -- but adds reassuringly that, "El Clon's following surely won't produce a new sect of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in Latin America." [20] It is also not clear that conversion to Islam necessarily constitutes political or cultural resistance. Referring to the vogue for Islam and Arabic among Spanish youth, one Catalan journalist wryly observes: "It will take more than teenagers converting to an Islam lite to stop [Spanish Prime Minister José Maria] Aznar's Christian nationalism and Castilian imperialism. We need a civil dialogue about our relations with the Orient." [21] Belly dancing and learning elementary Arabic may not be acts of resistance, but such activities create important, albeit imaginary cultural linkages which can be activated for political purposes. As Miles Copeland, head of the Mondo Melodia label, who will release a film on the American belly dancing craze in January 2004, told PR Newswire: "Belly dancing is about art, not politics -- but in experiencing the art, you also experience the culture, and that becomes political in and of itself." Interest in Arab culture and conversions are bringing Islam into the imagination of Western youth, feeding powerful movements and cultures of protest.

From Harlem to the Casbah

In No Name in the Street, James Baldwin reflects on the "uneasy" reaction he would get when, while in France in 1948, he would "claim kinship" with the Algerians living there. "The fact that I had never seen the Algerian casbah was of no more relevance...than the fact that the Algerians had never seen Harlem. The Algerian and I were both, alike, victims of this history [of Europe in Africa], and I was still a part of Africa, even though I had been carried out of it nearly 400 years before." [22] Most French-born Arabs have never been to Harlem but "claim kinship" with African-Americans as they draw inspiration from the black freedom struggle. Numerous French-Arab (Beur) intellectuals and activists have noted their indebtedness to African-American liberation thought, [23] and the secular pro-integration Beur movement of the early 1980s organized campaigns and marches modeled on the US civil rights struggle. But in the early 1990s, as the impoverished, ethnically segregated banlieues mushroomed around French cities, the discourse of intégration began to give way to talk of self-imposed exclusion and warnings that the children of immigrants "had gone in a separate direction." The region of Lyons, where 100,000 gathered for the famous march for intégration in 1983, is today cited by commentators as evidence of the failure of assimilation. Lyons, by one account, has become a "ghetto of Arabs," and fallen to Islamist influence, boasting six neighborhood boys in the US military detention center at Guantanamo Bay. [24]

The generation of black and Arab Muslim youth that came of age in crime-ridden banlieues that periodically explode into car-burning riots, and are monitored by a heavy-handed police force, is in no mood for integration. By some estimates, 50 to 60 percent of the French prison population is Muslim. [25] French commentators are increasingly wondering if they have developed a "race problem" like that of the US, with the attendant pathologies of ethnic ghettoes, family breakdown, drugs, violence and, of particular concern these days, Islamism. As in the American ghetto, disintegrating family units have been replaced by new organizations -- gangs, posses and religious associations, particularly Islamic groups, [26] which provide services and patrol the cités, the housing projects where most immigrants live.

The confluence of Islam and urban marginality in France was displayed in a consummately post-colonial moment on October 6, 2001, when France and Algeria met in their first soccer match since the Algerian war of independence. The match was stopped prematurely when thousands of French-born Arab youth, seeing Algeria losing, raided the field chanting "Bin Laden! Bin Laden!" and hurled bottles at two female French ministers. [27] The ill-fated match, coming on the heels of September 11, led to hysterical warnings of an intifada simmering in the heart of France, an Islamic fifth column, the "unassimilability" of certain immigrants and, again, an American-style "race problem." Like American pundits, the French are concerned about whether Islamic and Muslim organizations which have emerged in the banlieues will keep youths out of trouble or radicalize them.An American writing for the Weekly Standard notes, "It's the Farrakhan problem. Mosques do rescue youths from delinquency, idleness and all sorts of other ills. But in so doing, they become power brokers in areas where almost all disputes are resolved by violence and the most tribal kind of woospeh [respect, in a French accent, supposedly]. And it is that mastery of a violent environment -- not the social service record -- that these groups call on when they make demands on the larger society." [28]

The French media has shown a keen interest in the rising conversion to Islam in the US and Europe -- and particularly in the overlap of Islam and race, or more specifically, ethnic awareness, mobilization and self-segregation. An exposé in an April 2003 edition of the magazine L'Express opened with the following statement: "Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians...every year, 50,000 to 80,000 [Americans] convert to Islam. Internal enemies, members of the 'axis of evil'?" The French government's attempts to control Islamic mobilization in the banlieues through elections for a national Islamic council (aimed, in the words of the interior minister, at taking Islam out of "cellars and garages") backfired when the conservative Union of Islamic Organizations, inspired by Egypt's banned Muslim Brotherhood, won 14 out of 41 seats.

Zacarias Moussaoui, the "twentieth hijacker" awaiting trial in the US, in many ways embodies the story of Islam and racial exclusion in France. Although he did not grow up impoverished in the cités, by all accounts, the French-Moroccan harbored a deep racial rage. In his youth, Moussaoui was often ridiculed because of his dark skin and frizzy hair, and repeatedly called négre (nigger), but it was after the 1991 Gulf war that he became politicized. He began to consider himself "black," joining the "Kid Brothers" -- a university group modeled after the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood -- and came back from a stint in London deeply hostile toward whites. "He became a racist, a black racist, and he would use the pejorative African word toubab to describe white people," said his brother. [29] Moussaoui raged against Western permissiveness and imperialism in Algeria, Palestine and Chechnya. [30]

Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber," who became radicalized in the same Brixton mosque as Moussaoui, embodies the similarly distressing urban and racial situation in Britain. West Indian and South Asian youth live in benighted "mill and mosque" towns, devastated by capital flight in the late 1980s and 1990s, where the anti-immigrant British National Party is making inroads and race riots erupt frequently. Many of these youth have drifted towards radical Islamist groups. By all accounts, the petty thief and graffiti artist known as ENROL embraced Islam while in Feltham young offenders' institution, to seek solace from racism. His father Robin tried to explain Reid's odyssey to Islam as a result of the difficulty of being of mixed race. "Islam accepts you for who you are," the father told CNN talk show host Larry King. "Even I was a Muslim for a little bit ...because I was fed up with racial discrimination." In an interview with the Guardian, Robin continued: "About ten years ago, I met up with Richard after not seeing him for a few years. He was a little bit downhearted. I suggested to him, 'Why don't you become a Muslim? They treated me all right.'"

The mixing of Islam and racial awareness in Europe is also leading to political mobilization. The Arab European League (AEL), headed by the fiery Lebanese-born Dyab Abou Jahjah, is explicitly modeled on the American civil rights movement, borrowing slogans ("By Any Means Necessary!") and protest techniques from the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam, and aiming to mobilize Arab and Muslim youth across Europe to lobby European governments to make Arabic one of the official languages of the European Union and to gain state funding for Islamic schools. Based in Brussels, but with chapters opening in France and Holland, the AEL has launched a cross-border Arab pride movement, and organized marches against the US war in Iraq and in solidarity with the Palestinian intifada. Known as the "Arab Malcolm X," Abou Jahjah, who says he finds the ideas of integration "degrading," admits being inspired by the slain African-American civil rights leader, who "was also against assimilation...fought for civil rights and was also inspired by Islam." [31] "We're a civil rights movement, not a club of fundamentalist fanatics who want to blow things up," he told the New York Times on March 1, 2003. "In Europe, the immigrant organizations are Uncle Toms. We want to polarize people, to sharpen the discussion, to unmask the myth that the system is democratic for us." The AEL has also organized Black Panther-style "Arab patrols" to "police the police." Groups of unarmed Arab youths dressed in black follow the police around, carrying video cameras and flyers which read, "Bad cops: the AEL is watching you." Fusing African-American, Islamic and Arab elements in its style and rhetoric, the AEL has become a political force to be reckoned with, even prompting the Belgian government to attempting to ban its patrols on the basis of a 1930s law that proscribes private militias.

"Le Respect" and "Les Pitbulls"

Seul le beat aujourd-hui nous lie et nous unit.

(Today only the beat links and unites us.)

-- Saliha, "Danse le Beat"

Hip-hop has emerged as the idiom for the urban activism of minority youth in Europe. For Muslim youth experiencing the crackdown on immigrants, as well as state withdrawal and welfare cuts, hip-hop offers a chance to express critiques, vent rage, declare solidarity with other marginalized youth (particularly African-Americans) and display cultural pride -- to show, as New York rapper DMX says, "who we be." [32]

If American rap has been criticized for its materialism, nihilism and political nonchalance, French hip-hop offers trenchant critiques of racism, globalization and imperialism. Numerous groups such as Yazid and La Fonky Family deal explicitly with the challenges of being Arab and Muslim in the West, and relations between Islam and the West. In their hit single, "Je Suis Si Triste" ("I'm So Sad"), the Marseilles-based rap crew 3eme Oeil (Third Eye), made up of the Comorian-born Boss One (Mohammed), Jo Popo (Mohammed) and Saïd, offer biting social commentary over an infectious, looping bass line. Decrying hate crimes against veiled Muslim women in France, condemning police brutality and mass incarceration (with a special shout out to Mumia Abu Jamal), the rappers focus their lyrical fire on the West's "stranglehold" (la main-mise) on the East.

In addition to verbal release, hip-hop is also used to combat racism and to promote black-white-Arab relations, as in the Urban Peace Festivals and spoken-word poetry events (les slameurs) organized by SOS Racisme. Hip-hop, interestingly, is also being used to counter Islamist influence in the banlieues. The Beurette leader Fadela Amara, who organized the march "Ni putes ni soumises" ("Neither whores nor submissive") -- a march that has now developed into a women's rights organization affiliated with SOS Racisme -- often invites Muslim female rappers to spread a feminist message. "Ni putes, ni soumises" aims to mobilize youth against ghettoes and for equality, but also to counter the Islamist organizations such as the powerful Union of Islamic Organizations, which delivers services in the cités in exchange for veiling. Amara says discrimination and unemployment make many young men feel "excluded from the French project." These youths, she says, often return to Islamic traditions, opposing gender mixing and women's education, and sometimes assaulting women who do not dress according to their idea of modesty. [33] French Muslim rappers and R&B singers publicly and collectively condemned the September 11 attacks, saying the terrorists were, in the words of Ideal J, a Franco-Haitian convert to Islam, "dishonoring the faith." Al Malik of the New African Poets, a Congolose convert to Islam, noted the importance of rap and Islam to young ghetto dwellers: "Rap has opened a world to us, empowering us young men, and Islam has allowed us to flourish by teaching us respect for 'the other.' [But] the Taliban are instrumentalizing the religion." [34]

Attempts by some French Islamists to boycott American products -- and market products like Mecca Cola -- are failing since banlieusards remain loyal to American streetwear labels like Fubu and Phat Farm, often claiming that such clothing is an anti-American, but pro-black statement. More recently, local banlieue streetwear clothing lines have appeared with names like Bullrot (a combination of pitbull and rottweiler) and Adedi (an acronym for Association de differences), the latter founded by a Moroccan, a Gabonese and a Senegalese to combat racism, extremism and to celebrate difference. [35]

8/19/03 French commentators associate hip-hop with Islam, claiming that rap, like Islam, often brings rage, pathology and dysfunction. The anti-immigrant National Front of Jean Le Pen and its splinter, the National Republican Movement, have historically denounced hip-hop. In March 2001, both far-right parties opposed the use of public funds to finance the first Hip-Hop Dance World Cup in Villepinte stating that "hip-hop is a movement belonging to immigrants of African origin installed in France and which constitutes a call to sedition against our institutions." [36] More recently, however, the National Front has begun to use hip-hop as a way to spread its political message, "win back" French youth and counter Arab and American influence in French culture. The white supremacist rap crew Basic Celto, affiliated with the National Republican Movement, has as its objective to break "immigrants' monopoly" over hip-hop "which diffuses the immigrants' complaints." Basic Celto aims to promote a "national revolutionary" rap with a "Christian identity," and to draw "français d'origine" away from immigrant influence. [37]

But the allure of Islam, and Islam-inflected cultures like hip-hop and rai, to French youth continues to grow, prompting much editorial pondering. Le Monde ran a story on how Ramadan is increasingly observed in French schools, even by non-Muslims, and there have also been accounts of many non-Muslim girls wearing headscarves in solidarity with Muslim schoolgirls sent home for wearing le foulard.Commenting on Le Pen's remark that hip-hop is a dangerous musical genre which originated in the casbahs of Algeria, rapper Boss One (Mohammed) of 3eme Oeil, said: "For Le Pen, everything bad -- rap, crime, AIDS -- comes from Algeria or Islam.... The more Bush and Chirac attack Islam and say it's bad, the more young people will think it's good, and the more the oppressed will go to Islam and radical preachers. Especially here in America. Because life is hard in France, but we have a social safety net." [38]

Commentators have also blamed hip-hop for bringing social ills associated with the American ghetto to France. "[French-Arab youth] intentionally imitate belligerent Afro-American lifestyles, down to 'in-your-face' lyrics for booming rap music," moaned one observer. [39] Some have pointed to the "African-Americanization" of the speech patterns of French youth, noting that their verbal jousting is similar to that of "American rappers from black ghettoes." [40] Indeed, the culture of France's suburban ghettoes is heavily influenced by the trends of the American inner city -- the urban argot, street codes of conduct and "honor system" are strikingly similar. [41] In January 2000, a law was passed creating a police unit to monitor the behavior of pitbulls and rottweilers in housing projects where, as in the US, such dogs had become very popular during the 1990s among urban youth. [42] The slurs used against blacks (négres) and Arabs (in France, bougnoles, in Spain, Moros [43] and in Belgium, makukas, which means white ape) have become commonly used terms of endearment among Muslim youth, as with the term nigger in the US. But clearly, Muslim European youth have not learned misogyny and rage from hip-hop or from African-Americans. The fact that hip-hop is being used by secular urban movements to counter Islamism and racism is an illustration of the growing racial consciousness of Muslim youth in Europe, the deep resonance of the African-American experience and how imagination can help construct a cultural world to resist state oppression and religious fanaticism.
posted by R J Noriega
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