September 9, 2010. It’s the 29th day of Ramadan. The sky turns a rustic orange as the sun sets over the horizon in Chicago, Illinois making way for the new moon that will indicate the ending of the Islamic holy month.
This night, Wasalu Jaco, better known as the Grammy-Award winning rapper Lupe Fiasco, is in high spirits as he finalizes plans to celebrate Eid Ul-Fitr – the three-day holiday celebrating the conclusion of the thirty days of dawn-to-sunset fasting – along with millions of Muslims all over the world.
The hip-hop sensation, who rose to fame in 2006 following his successful debut album, Lupe Fiasco’s Food and Liquor, is now one of the most influential entertainers of Islamic faith.
When he first stepped on the music scene, the Atlantic Records recording artist tried not to associate his personal beliefs with his rap moniker, telling the media that he didn’t want to be marked as the “poster boy” for Islam. But when one of the biggest break-out artists of the year recites verses from the Holy Quran in his album intro and puts out songs with direct references to Islam like “Muhammad Walks” and “Dedicated,” it becomes difficult to keep the two worlds from colliding.
“The inspiration and motivation of me being a Muslim and why I do what I do is innate in all my music,” Fiasco said. “Sometimes it comes out very literal and sometimes it comes out figuratively.”
The Chi-town emcee admits that controversies surrounding Muslims in the media has made him reconsider his former position on using his popularity to increase Islamic awareness around the globe.
“Being in a position I’m in I have the ability to speak and give dawah (preachings of Islam) not only to non-Muslims but to Muslims as well. It maybe that I can offer a perspective of the world or give someone a clearer understanding on how to practice Islam.”
In this week’s edition of “Just Do You,” the superstar entertainer gives his take on hot button issues surrounding Muslims in the media.
Interviewer is Fort Valley State University’s public relations specialist, TauheedahShukriyyah Asad.
Asad: There’s been a huge debate in the media surrounding the construction of an Islamic Center two blocks from the World Trade Center site. What is your take on the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy?
Lupe Fiasco: “‘Allah knows best.’ That was my initial response. Secondly, I took President (Barack) Obama’s stance. You have the right to do whatever you want, but you have to question the wisdom behind your motives and why you do things. Then take into account the other side of the argument which is the sacredness of this particular area of New York City. Part of the Islamic way is to take into account the feelings of others. At the same time you have to show vehemently and clearly why you’re doing what you do so there’s not a schism that generates.”
“America is not necessarily a Muslim country and the view of Islam is distorted through popular culture and the media. That really affects people. But it started the conversation about Islamophobia in America and that’s the lesson I’m taking from it. I think it raised the level of dialogue which is important.”
Asad: Last week, Pastor Terry Jones made national headlines when he threatened to burn the Quran on the anniversary of Sept. 11. Eventually the event was cancelled, but the idea of burning the Holy book had a lot of Muslims up in arms. What was your position on this?
Lupe Fiasco: “Well, you can’t really burn the Quran. True destruction of the Quran cannot be done with fire. It is destroyed when we fail to remember and practice its lessons in our daily lives. So I didn’t really flinch about him saying he was going to burn this and burn that.”
“A lot of this stuff that’s going on is a great opportunity for us to better the world. (Muslims) should take it as a challenge and not (as) a punch in the face. There’s no need to go off and do something ignorant that will verify what people were saying about us in the first place.”
Asad: I understand you’re involved with relief efforts for the flood victims in Pakistan. Tell me about the Pakistan Now initiative and your role with this project.
Lupe Fiasco: “Really I just wanted to do something for Pakistan. Al-humdulilah (praise be to God), I have a circle of powerful people who are very connected and respected in the humanitarian community. I reached out to them and said ‘I want to do something for Pakistan and these are the tools and resources that I have.’ Pakistan Now is really a melting pot of ideas and people I know as far as musicians, thinkers and hard-core humanitarians. These were some of the people I could tap to re-tweet something for me, post something on their Facebook page or even go (to) the extent of doing a song.Pakistan Now raises awareness, but we have fundraising piece to it through the United Nations.”
“The main concern was that the situation wasn’t getting the awareness that it needed in the media. I kept thinking ‘Why isn’t anyone talking about this?’ Then I said, ‘Well hey, I’m a professional talker,’ so I just started talking about it.”