The Honesty Policy, “Happy” and Our Culture of Opinions

You had to expect it, especially with the social-media driven, lightening-speed landscape in which we live today.

Yesterday, The Honesty Policy, a blog out of the United Kingdom that is “a group of young and curious Muslims saying what you’re thinking. Honestly. Those thoughts, moments and reflections you’ve always had, but just never could quite express them …” released a video weeks in the making: a group of British Muslims lip synching and dancing to Pharrell’s breakaway hit, “Happy.”


Because, according to the blog:

“We Brits have a bad rep for being a bit stiff, but this video proves otherwise. We are HAPPY. We are eclectic. We are cosmopolitan. Diverse. Creative. Fun. Outgoing. And everything you can think of.

This video is to show the world despite the negative press, stereotypes and discrimination we are burdened with, we should respond with smiles and joy. Not anger.”

Check it out for yourself: It made me smile:

You knew that with the release of a Muslim-driven music video, there was going to be criticisms. Anyone remember a little controversy back in December over the Mipsterz video, “Somewhere in America?” Hijabis acting cool and mispter-ish? Getting slammed for their fashionable modest garb and whatnot?

And although one couldn’t really pick apart the song choice here, (The song’s titled “Happy,” folks. It has lines like “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.”), the singer has been associated with hypersexual songs in the past. As one of our Patheos writers pointed out on Facebook:

“As Muslims, we have to go beyond the headlines, and see the truth behind the happy happy videos. This singer, Pharrell Williams, ALSO contributed lyrics to the Robin Thicke song “Blurred Lines”. This is the same hypersexual, misogynistic song to which Miley Cyrus “danced” (read: simulated sex) at a televised music awards show. The official video contains naked women being objectified and paraded in the most shameful manner. By singing for the song, Pharrell is guilty of contributing to abuse of women and girls.

That does not make me “Happy”.

I wish no ill for Pharrell. I saw his interview with Oprah and I think he certainly has a good heart somewhere in there. But a good heart is not enough. Actions speak louder than words. If you are singing part of a song that humiliates women, you are approving of that humiliation, and no amount of happy-go-lucky songs can make up for that.”

Within hours of the video’s release, as clicks ratcheted up on YouTube, more criticisms came pouring in. Whether or not music is permissible in Islam has always been a hot debate, with many scholars standing on the side of haram.

Shaykh Abu Easa Niamatullah in the UK, who faced his own huge firestorm on International Women’s Day last month when he made offensive jokes towards women, had this to say:

“The image which came to mind after a few moments was of slave masters watching their slave girls/boys amuse, dance and entertain them as they twirl their moustaches happily. Yes this is a metaphor and our brothers and sisters are not slave girls, but what is worse is when a Muslim makes that conscious decision that what they have from their Deen and their values just isn’t “good enough” and thus “let’s use the medium of popular culture instead regardless of whether it fits an Islamic ethos or not”. This is of course the real slavery. The slavery of the mind. The music etc wasn’t so depressing for me; it was watching a people fall even more into subservience.

– Any women who claim that females dancing is not provocative or sexual, is either naïve or just plain miskeen. And any man whom claims the same, is, well, lying. Ladies, you could dance like Peter Crouch and men would find that sexual! Men don’t think like you. You lift an elbow out and just wiggle your head forget about anything else and you just provocation-ed off the provocation-meter. You want to do that, keep it for your fella’s eyes only please.

– It’s amazing just how strong that feeling of inferiority amongst liberal and secular Muslims is. That is definitely the major concern here, not the music or dancing. Folks used to call it an inferiority complex. That’s outdated now. We need to call it an “inferiority crisis”.

– We’ve basically lost all meaning for what the word hijab means. I can’t even be bothered to explain this issue again, the fact that hijab is a state, not just a piece of cloth on the head. Anyway, whatever. This isn’t about the women anyway, this is about the mindset of *all* who support such things.

– I love seeing happy people. I loved their smiles in this video. I just wish I could see them so happy without the music and dancing. Surely we can do that? Although in fairness, perhaps some folks can’t? Genuine question. …

– To those who are disappointed with all this, don’t even try for a second to criticise music and dancing. Once you’ve gone down that route, it’s more than just a poisoned chalice. It’s professional suicide. Everyone is so happy inside, and suddenly you’re telling them they shouldn’t be? You will NEVER win this argument, and frankly it’s no biggie anyway. Emotional ignorance of the rules of Allah is the most difficult to discuss, so don’t waste your time on it.

– For those who say that scholars say music etc is good and allowed: firstly forget all the so called scholars and Shaykhs and Imams in the West who are not much more than transmitters of fatwas and opinions. No disrespect to us all but let us all recognise our reality. If we were to see the actual real scholarly voices that permit the use of music, and you would be able to count them on one hand frankly and that doesn’t diminish our respect for them by the way, then I say this: from this group would be Shaykh Abdullah Judai’ and Sh Yusuf al-Qardhawi. I would love to see their reaction to seeing what happens in this video and then ask them, “Shaykh, we make stuff like this because we follow your fatwa that music is allowed.” I think you’d better prepare to get slapped lol. …
– Whatever is sinful or potentially sinful or at least doubtful, should be kept to yourself. Sing with your hairdryer in the mirror. Dance your socks off in the privacy of your bedroom. Chill at home as undressed as you want. Allah is covering you right at that moment.

But once you bring it out like this, go public, and be happy about it, then Allah has uncovered you. And thus you have lost protection. And once you lose HIS protection, then, well, Allahul-Musta‘an.”

And still later in the day, the Shaam Post put up a piece that said Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, who was in the video, was distancing himself from it, stating that “it appears improper for Muslims to  ‘jump around in that way, whether or not they are on camera.’” Then I woke up this morning to read that that article, was indeed a sham, and Shaykh Murad had no problem with the video:

“I’m delighted to see the outcome of the Happy British Muslims video, which has unlocked a remarkable tide of goodwill around the world, and significantly tilted the image of Muslims among many sceptics. Islamophobes must be grinding their teeth to see Muslims of different races and age-groups united by happiness. No-one will produce a Sharia argument against jumping for joy!”

The whole thing makes my head spin with the quickness in which people jump into the fray, state their opinions and counter-opinions and spin the axis of opinion. You’d think I’d be used to it, given the line of work that I’m in, but it still surprises me.

I’m not here to say the video was haram or halal, fun or something to condemn. UnIslamic because of the music and dance or Islamic in its focus on joy and happiness. (I’ve never been one to have strong opinions on matters of religion – my struggle has always been to keep up with my practices of faith and place my trust in Allah’s plan for our family.) It just makes me realize that I have a looooooong road ahead of me in the raising of my children, in helping them navigate all this and in helping them love their deen and their community as they figure out what is worth questioning and what is better off letting go.

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