Muslim conservatives and Islamophobes have finally found something they can agree on: They’re both pissed about Mona Haydar’s new rap video.
The video for the song titled “Dog” targets Muslim men who act piously by day, but behave like animals towards women once they get behind their computer screens at night. The video seems to be getting torn apart by everyone on YouTube, only for different reasons.
Haydar says she’s not afraid to stir the pot, but says she hopes the controversy will lead to a constructive conversation and a greater awareness about “the enormous crisis that is global violence against women.”
She says she’s “sad” many critics can’t get over their own hang-ups and see the bigger message in the video, but says she’s not entirely surprised by the reaction because many people are “just operating in the way we are socialized and engineered to.”
Still Haydar is heartened by the positive feedback she’s gotten from women who tell her the video has helped them cope with their own personal pain.
“The end goal for me is always greater love, greater tenderness, greater kindness, and I know that the song is doing the work it needs to based on the massive waves of response from women who’ve experienced the horrors of violence in their own lives,” Haydar told me. “[They are] women who say that the song has been healing for them, women who have called the song a remedy to what hurts inside them, women who have said that they are typically so triggered because of the pain they carry, but that this song was a soothing balm to them.”
Haydar, a 28-year-old Muslim Arab American woman who lives in Massachusetts, first captured the national spotlight in 2016 when she and her husband set up “Ask a Muslim” stands on the streets of Cambridge and offered free donuts and coffee to strangers who stopped to ask questions about Islam.
A year later, Haydar dropped her first rap video, “Hijabi.” She told Fusion last April that the Hijabi video explores what it means to be a Muslim woman who chooses to cover up, and challenging preconceived notions about women in hijab.
Her first video was the subject of mild controversy, but nothing like the uproar caused by her second video.
“Dog,” featuring Jackie Cruz from OITNB, exposes what it’s like for some Muslim women to face this type of sexual harassment from men in their own communities.
Deviant but hiding it
You can’t sell enlightenment
Laugh at your entitlement.”
The comments section below the video was set on fire almost immediately after it was published on YouTube. Some conservative Muslims criticized her for rapping and wearing the hijab, while Islamophobes bashed the video because they were pissed a Muslim woman in a hijab was trending on YouTube.
Haydar’s video mixes English lyrics with Arabic. In one part she yells out “Sawtil mar’a thawra,” which translates to “A woman’s voice is revolutionary.”
Some haters, of course, were sent into histrionics when they heard a language they didn’t understand.
Conservative Muslim men also took issue with a Muslim hijabi woman singing.
Offline, some Muslim Americans offered a more thoughtful commentary on the importance of Haydar’s “Dog.”
Houda Boucekkine, a Muslim Arab American woman who is a fan of Haydar and her art, says it’s important to support Haydar’s art, but notes that black Muslim rappers were the first to blaze a trail and have faced an even more aggressive pushback for doing so.
“Black Muslim women are definitely not applauded to the same extent as white Muslim women,” Boucekkine said. “So what Mona is doing shouldn’t be heralded as revolutionary; others have already done it and they deserve the recognition. Those other women who have been participating in such efforts in the music world should be applauded to equal degree.”
Haydar says it’s important for all women to raise their voices.
“As women, we are not simply pawns in the game,” she said. “We will share our stories so that our sisters and daughters will know beyond any doubt that their salvation, their truth, their stories are their own.”
Men might not always like her videos, but that’s too bad.
“The male response is disappointing,” Haydar says, “but the sad truth is that I didn’t expect anything but that from the patriarchy.”