About a month ago, Mipsterz (that is, Muslim hipsters) released a video by one of their members entitled “Somewhere in America,” set to the tune of Jay Z’s song by the same name. The video features young Muslim American women “being themselves.” The video elicited a number of multifaceted reactions from within the Muslim American community, the majority of which were concerned with assimilation into American society. While some initial criticism spoke about the failure of these women to meet “proper Islamic” standards of modesty, and the representativeness of these women as “Muslims,” the discussion eventually took a more interesting and useful turn.
As it turned out, American Muslims cared much less about how to appropriate normative Islamic behavior as dictated by an “authentic” (read Middle Eastern) center. They were engaged in much larger social issues circulating within their own geography: capitalism, elitism, consumerism, sexism, racism, the objectification of women, identity, and the homogenization of culture. They used these issues to pivot towards a discussion of how Islamic principles can empower them to deal with such issues.
The debate that followed was their own. An American one. There was no mediator from “holy” Islamic lands who intervened to patronizingly explain how to “correctly” perform their Islam. In the world of Islam, the Mipsterz discussion was and continues to be a peripheral one.
In addition, the independent way in which this American Muslim periphery managed to conduct the debate without appealing to the traditional centers of Islamic knowledge tells us something about the relationship between the American Muslim community and the “Islamic center.” Certainly there is a geographic source from which they see their tradition emanating. But that center which often commands a monopoly over authentic religious knowledge by virtue of its holy geography does not speak for all.
The Mipsterz debate has shown us that for many American Muslims, individuals themselves can be a legitimate site of religious knowledge production - at least when it comes to Muslim women’s decisions about how to dress. It remains to be seen however whether this approach will be extended to community decisions (for example, how to design a mosque for an American congregation) or if American Muslim communities will continue to look East for guidance in these matters.
Below is a collection of a range of media engaging the Mipsterz “Somewhere in America” video:
Miptsterz Somewhere in America
- Somewhere in America, Muslim Women Are “Cool”
- Somewhere on the Internet, Muslim Women are being Shamed
- Interview with producer Abbas Rattani and critic Sana Saeed (at 27:30)
- Can An American Hijabi Also Be A Hipster?
Analysis and Summaries
- Muslim `Hipsters` Turn A Joke Into A Serious Conversation
- Somewhere in America, Muslim women are freaking out and fitting in…
- `Mipsterz` `Somewhere In America` Video Showcases Muslim Hipster Swag; Sparks A Passionate Discussion
- The Stream - Beyond the #Mipsterz debate
- Can A Veiled Muslim Woman Also Be An American Hipster?
- Can there be Hipster Muslims? Mipsterz “Somewhere in America” sparks controversy
- Mipsterz – what’s wrong with Muslims being hipsters?
- A hip-hop theme for hijab raises questions
- Why I Participated in the ‘Somewhere in America’ #Mipsterz Video
- Why Islam Needs More `Mipsterz`
- Member of the Poetic Vision Tour performs a critical rendition of Somewhere in America - Naim Owens
- Khanstitutional Laws comments on ‘somewhereinamerica’
- Somewhere in a America - Dr. Suad Abdul Khabeer
- Somewhere in America" And the Socio-Economic Divisions it Reinforces - Noor Hasan
- Some thoughts and reactions to the somewhat controversial video “Somewhereinamerica MIPSTERZ” - Marc Manley