Judging An Emcee By Her Cover

This was written by Mandy van Deven and originally appeared at Bitch magazine.

Since her 2007 album Dans ma Bulle (Inside My Bubble) debuted at the top of the charts by selling 50K copies in its first week, Diam’s has become the hottest emcee in France. Not the hottest female emcee, but the hottest emcee in general. Diam’s is known as a feminist rebel who spits rhymes about war, racism, poverty, and injustice–something that has placed the rapper in the line of French media fire. Unable to handle the constant public scrutiny she faced as a controversial celebrity, Diam’s retreated from the limelight in 2008 to go on a personal introspective journey. That journey led her to Islam, a faith to which she has now converted, saying, “Modern medicine was not able to heal my soul, so I turned to religion.”

Diam's. Image via Bitch magazine.

Diam's. Image via Bitch magazine.

Given France’s current hostility to observant Muslims (particularly Muslim women), it probably should come as no surprise that French feminists have been quite vocally intolerant of Diam’s decision. Safia Labdi, president of Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores nor Submissives), told Le Parisien, “With this new image, Diam’s represents submission, tradition and isolation. She was lost, and found herself by wearing the veil. This is something that we unfortunately see with a lot of young girls.”

Aside from being ultra-patronizing (at 29-years-old Diam’s is hardly a “young girl”), Labdi’s comment makes the oft-heard yet erroneous assumption that veiled Muslim woman = submissive and traditional. The still-subversive lyrics on her newly released album, SOS, makes Ladbi’s description of Diam laughable, and the rapper is hardly being kept in isolation as she kicks off her four-month countrywide tour. In fact, Diam’s decision to wear the veil springs, in part, from her desire to confront prejudice, not unlike the kind Labdi espouses.

Diam’s is not betraying her political sensibilities by converting to Islam and wearing hijab, but French feminists in the vein of Ni Putes Ni Soumises (I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the bias against sex workers in the organization’s name) are certainly betraying Diam’s, and other Muslim women, by holding such Islamophobic views.

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  • Jasmine

    Good for her :D But as a Scottish girl, I can’t stand seeing European ‘rappers’ or ‘MC’s’ or whatever they’re called I just don’t think it suits us leave it to the americans!

  • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist

    French feminists are exactly why a lot of women of color are turned away by feminism.

    great job, France!!!

    just to clarify, Diam’s actually converted to Islam in 2000, but did not wear hijab until very recently.

  • Jaam

    wauw mashAllah good for her!

    I loved her because of her energy and to read that she converted to islam brings a big smile on my face.

    Masha Allah, may Allah swt guide her and all the muslims in the world!

  • http://www.eccentricyoruba.blogspot.com eccentricyoruba

    i remember reading about Diam and her decision to wear the hijab while i was in France last year. i’m glad MMW has posted an article on her! i admire Dima and her decision but i admit that reading coverage on Diam in French papers painted her as submissive. while i have listened to some of Diam’s music, i had no idea she is a feminist.

  • http://wingstodust.dreamwidth.org wingstodust

    … Diam’s as submissive and isolated? SERIOUSLY?

    Woah, I’d ask what the french feminists who made such comments were smoking, but I’m afraid to hear the answer. *shudders*

  • Krista

    Haha – normally I can’t stand any headlines that attempt some kind of play on words with the idea of veiling/covering, but I thought this one was clever! Nice work :)

  • Person

    Seriously? I am quite sure that comment by the French feminist is decidely un-feminist and patronizing. As far as rhetoric goes, the use of girl or “young” as descriptors for adult women reinforces the patronizing notion that women are not capable of making their own decisions. I guess when it comes to Islam the only “right” decision a woman can make and be considered intelliegent and in charge is to leave it and write a tell-all book.

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