I’m Never Going to like Mona Haydar’s “Rapping” Videos and You Can’t Make Me

I thought we were done with these. I didn’t say anything last time but apparently, this is a thing now. Let me start off by saying I don’t know Mona Haydar. I’m not talking about her character or who she is; but I am talking about her videos. I will never like the videos of her rapping. Neither her current video “Dog” or her previous video “Hijabi (Wrap my hijab)”. When the first video appeared on my timeline; I knew from the jump that I wasn’t going to watch it. As a Black and Latina Muslim Woman I had been dealing with way too much at the time. Every time I turned on the television there was another person, who could be my own flesh and blood, laying dead in the streets. Couple that with issues I was having within the Muslim community, with race and racism, I was not in a place to receive this video.
Somehow one of my colleagues got me to watch the video. And as I suspected, I was immediately over it. As a child of hip hop, the rapping was sub-par. Not everyone is a Biggie or  Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez. But for this video to go as viral as it had, I was expecting bars. Sadly, it was bar deficient. Then the topic of the video was something I was over. As a Muslim woman who wears hijab, I am personally tired of being reduced to my hijab. People’s obsession over hijab is frustrating at best and damaging at worst. Both within the Muslim community and without. We, as Muslim women, are so much more complex than hijab. I get it. Hijab is super popular in the media; both right and left. In addition, we who wear hijab need comfort and support. Especially in a Trump era America. With so many hate crimes particularly aimed towards visible Muslim women. They are looking for an anthem; something that affirms them. However, there are a Black Muslim women who have been on the scene rapping, for and about Muslim Women. Where is the viral love for Miss Undastood, Poetic Pilgrimage, or Alia Sharrief? Women who can actually rap? Why aren’t they on NPR, or having their videos go viral up and down my timeline?

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As if I couldn’t find more fault, the only people dancing in that first video are two Black women. I’ve had some people make the argument to me that those two women are dancers, known as Al-taw’am and that’s what they do. But if you zoom out ,what do you see? You have two Black women dancing in the background with a fair skinned Arab woman in the fore ground, doing something which is a historical Black art form. We’ve seen this before; Iggy Azelia, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift. All have used Black bodies or elements of Blackness to bring “authenticity” to their videos.

Now months later she has another video. And I still can’t do it. This time there are no Black women pop locking and dancing behind her; but it’s still a no for me. Is what she “rapping” about important?  It sure is. Her video “Dogs” is about trash men. Too many women I know have encountered men who want to shame them one minute but then are in their DM’s with unsolicited dick pictures. Do I think Mona needed to do another rap video? No. Not until the community allows the same grace and space for Black women to do the same, I don’t. Until the community stops pushing to the foreground women fair skinned Arab women like her or Linda Sarsour, who are praised for their ability to be “down”, but silence Black women like myself and others.  Not until we recognize that she is being given way more space and recognition than any other Black woman doing the same. Until our community can look itself in the mirror and make space for us Black Women, I can’t be on board. I can’t apologize for that.  In the words of  Uncle Snoop, “ It’s not fun if the homies can’t have none”.

22 Comments

  1. Yes, sis! I’m so glad you published this piece. As a non-Muslim black woman, there is a lot here that I’m unaware of but the underlying issue of praising fair skinned, non-black women for the standing on the foundation laid by black women is one I know a lot about. Keep up the great writing and letting your voice be heard.

  2. Do you think maybe it’s more that Mona Haydar’s songs are actually really timely PSA:s? They’re simple & straightforward & explicit in their message, and so they’re appealing to a lot of people who are not necessarily into hiphop, but just really needed those messages. For me, it was enough to read a few of the many thousand comments from triggered men to feel like ok, I don’t care about quality here, it’s 100% about the message and that’s ok sometimes.

    That said, thanks for pointing me to Miss Undastood, Poetic Pilgrimage & Alia Sharrief. Best case scenario Mona Haydar can help people discover real female Muslim emcees.

  3. I hear what you’re saying and agree that there’s a problem within the community praising the lighter skinned over darker…. I don’t however understand your mentioning of Linda Sarsour. Her spotlight has little to do with her being “down” and has everything to do with her dedicating her life to civil rights for the Muslim community, Arab community and larger minority community. It’s incredibly unfair and shortsighted to think that her having earned the platform she has, has anything to do with her skin color as opposed to her daily work for the last 16+ years.

  4. As salaam sis…
    I agree… but um, the last line? Yikes!!! Lol not the same context sis…lol

  5. Thank you for penning this. I agree with everything you said. Frankly, I did not even give the first (or the second) video a chance because from the preview images I saw a fair-skinned Muslim woman surrounding herself by Black and Brown Muslim women, but she was the star, and I knew it was a “rap” song so the combination put me off completely. I am ashamed to say that I had not even heard of the sisters you mention in your piece, because, like you said, they do not go viral, and that’s a damn shame. It is nice that she gave space for Black women to be visible in her work, but that’s not enough. And the fact that the quality of the rapping is not that great is frustrating even more.
    Further, Mona has met with and been interviewed by Mayim Bialik, a staunch zionist. Bialik has publicly (and financially) supported the Israeli military when it was engaging in murderous campaigns agains Palestinians in Gaza. So if Mona’s appropriation of Black culture and banking on it wasn’t enough, she has also normalized with a woman who is racist towards Syrian Mona’s neighbors. What more can be said?
    In Love and Solidarity Always,

  6. When I read the headline, I got excited for two seconds and almost believed that this blogpost would be about how muslim women don’t need haram and unislamic means to combat issues in society and/or feel empowered, and that videos like mona hayder’s are counterproductive to our goals

    Instead, I got a post complaining about how its unfair that black muslim woman can’t get as famous as light skinned arabs for doing the same thing.

  7. This article is catty and jealous. Mona owes you and the rap industry nothing. She is allowed to express her activism any way her art takes her. I don’t like rap, but would rather listen to her than anyone else based on her track record in the Muslim community alone. Stop the hate and jealousy. All the power to you, Mona.

    1. Yasminareality actually I didn’t find the piece jealous or catty. Did you read it? Why don’t you address the specific points instead of the name-calling to detract from them? And can you explain Mona haydar’s track record in the Muslim community? I’m not aware of anything except for her offering of free donuts or whatever it was to non muslims.

  8. First of all, it is obvious that Mona isn’t going to get 100% favoritism. However, nor is this article. So everyone is entitled to state their opinions and no one should disrespect anyone who does so. Furthermore, on a personal note, when I saw the video I truly didn’t care for it. No I’m not jealous, relax! I just felt it isn’t Islamic. Doesn’t represent what Islam is about. It isn’t helping me for one. Listening to it didn’t increase my knowledge. I kinda just felt confused as to why and if this was becoming the norm. Is my daughter gonna want to rap one day. And rapping isn’t the problem but it is the music industry that is. Yeah, she may start off not dancing now but maybe in another 5 yrs or so who knows. I kinda feel like it is shaddy and it is like she is walking on eggshells. Just doesn’t feel right. This is coming from an American born and raised Arab Muslim brown skinned woman! Don’t know how the hell that matters but I guess that’s what we’re doing now…peace.

    1. Honestly, I never thought I was going to see this comment 🙂 I kept scrolling and scrolling wondering if anyone was actually going to mention that it was really weird and not at all Islamic, wondering if really I was the only person who’d heard about the video and thought-huh? What does this do for anyone or anything?

  9. Salaams! I like Mona too – no shade. Everyone has their path and I don’t think we should get caught up in the “there can only be one” mentality. Many femcees can rep us and all have different flavors. Mona had good PR or a good team behind her and she went viral. That can be paid for or happen organically. Look at how many artists get on commercial radio via payola … I have known and been a fan of Missundastood ever since I first saw her perform. She is outspoken and I think she gets blacklisted WHILE popular male Muslim MCs – who could be way more controversial on and off stage – get a pass. What does hijabi battle MC Missundastood have to do: Move away from the Muslim audience and go for the mainstream or the top of the underground to get that support? Can a top (and righteous) male MC take her under his wing and put her on? WE could all help our favorite Muslim femcees succeed – but people can’t even be bothered to hit like or share. I share whatever and whoever has talent – and Missundastood does. If anything is holding her back it’s Muslims getting caught up in what a Muslima should do or not do – she has the skills, the fire and the swagger! Put her on. Share a video. Suggest her to a promoter or event organizer. THIS is how you help an artist. I am glad I don’t depend on the Muslim community for support or no one would be at my DJ battles or the park jams I organize with Fabel. I work within the culture of true Hip Hop.
    Sincerely,
    Christie Z – Muslima, Organizer the biggest DJ battles in the nation: DMC USA and co-founder of Tools of War grassroots Hip Hop with Jorge Fabel Pabon – we throw weekly park jams in the Bronx and Harlem – June – September featuring legendary Hip Hop DJs.

  10. “Not until the community stops pushing to the foreground fair skinned Arab women like her or Linda Sarsour,” Do these two belong in the same sentence or even the same article? Your saltiness has clearly caused you to lose your mind. You went from “serious bars” to “fair-skinned Arabs” and I was with you on appropriation UNTIL you said Linda Sarsour. Now, you must point us to your activism work and Linda is well-known and well-respected for her activism with almost every community. So much so that she has received death threats and is under constant attacks from the alt-right racist fascists and here you are joining them against our sister.

    1. First off, I’m never salty so lets be clear. Ans second ive spoken to Linda, and even she has said she has privilege due to her skin tone ans race in the Muslim community. Ive never said her activism wasnt to be commended so to compare me tp the alt right? Miss me with that. Colorism is real in our communities and we have to face that as well. So…until then…you be well sir…

  11. As a black Muslim woman of Afro-Caribbean descent who grew up on 90s hiphop and R&B, I fully agree with you, sister Mona Haydar can’t rap. Even her rapping in Arabic isn’t good. However, too bad that yoyu quoted Snoop Dogg though. He’s a known sexist and perpetuator of misogyny and rape cultulture. But apart from that, I LOVE your article. Can I post it on my blog? (As a guest post, with your name & authorship explicitly stated)

  12. Salaam,

    I agree that dark skinned people are under-represented especially in the Muslim community and many places where “light” skin is seen as “prettier”. All skin colours are beautiful. From dark to light.
    It’s also not Mona Hayder’s fault that she’s light skinned. I didn’t even know who she was and watched her video “dogs” today and I definitely like the message. I don’t see that many women (let alone men) talking about the hypocrisy and nastiness of many Muslim men.
    As Muslims we should support one another, especially us women, whether we’re black, brown, white and anything in between, headscarf or no headscarf.

    Of course that doesn’t mean you can’t express your opinion about just unfairness. Because it’s true. There is a racism problem in the Muslim community.
    I think I will check out the other women you mentioned in your article.

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