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Arablish, the New Muslim Cool

Written By: aaminahm on April 29, 2009 5 Comments

On Sunday Jen, a fellow CAL student, and I went to the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) at the Sundance (formerly the Kabuki) to view New Muslim Cool. This film is a documentary about Islam, Muslim youth, identity, and Hip Hop culture. I found out about the screening because it was on my friend’s Facebook page.

Yahsmin, www.yahsmin.com, is a Muslim American journalist. A lot of her work centers around Muslim identity and culture in the US. I read an article she wrote on the “M Team” a Puerto Rican Muslim Hip Hop group formed by two brothers from the East Coast. Watching the film, one can’t help but become attached to Hamza (this film follows him over four years). His personality is magnetic and he comes across as genuine and sincere.

I respected, among other things, the fact that he was trilingual. He spoke English to many of the individuals he came into contact with including at home with his wife and children. He spoke Spanish to his extended family. He spoke Arabic at the Masjid (mosque) when it was time for prayer. At one point in the film he jokes about speaking Ebonics, Spanish, and Arabic. He joked in English and called his meal Boriqua halal, or Puerto Rican food that is blessed and allowable. I say in addition to speaking Spanglish, he spoke Arablish.

What I hadn’t noticed until that viewing was the amount of Arablish that American Muslims like Hamza and I speak. I didn’t notice until Jen, a native New Yorker, kept turning to me and asking “What are they saaayin?” every time Arabic would be mixed into an English conversation.

I have been practicing Islam since 1997 and along the way have picked up lot of Arabic terms which have become a part of my everyday vocabulary. Like Hamza when I speak at home for the most part it is in English. However we greet each other in Arabic, pray in Arabic, and eat food that is halal.

I thought about the name of the film New Muslim Cool.  The implication is that for youth, Muslim, is now a cool thing to be. If the diversity of the crowd at the viewing is any indication, whether or not young Muslims are cool, they are certainly intriguing.  When I accepted Islam as a twenty-something cool definitely didn’t cross my mind. However overtime cool has become a part of how I see Arablish.

When my eight year old daughter told me that her second language is Arabic I thought, now that is really cool. When my cousin calls me and says “As Salaamu Alaykum… (giggles) how did I do?” I say “You did, cool!” When my friend, Usree, gave me my Arablish nickname “Aaminah bind” I laughed and  thought, “yeah, this is cool.”

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5 Responses to “Arablish, the New Muslim Cool”

  1. Youki on: 29 April 2009 at 5:27 pm

    sounds like an intriguing documentary! What’s going on with the title? The title itself seems cool, how “New Muslim Cool” inverts the traditional English adjective-noun structure (like “Cool New Muslim”). Is it drawing on Arabic grammatical structure? Arabic discourse/genre? Or something else completely?

  2. aaminahm on: 29 April 2009 at 5:56 pm

    That’s a good question Youki! I am not sure. You did pick up on something that I find unique about Arabic grammar (and I am by no means an expert). What I do know is that there is a difference in how adjectives and nouns are structured. Also there is a new framing in Muslim Hip Hop discourse. So, the title could be for either reason. I plan to investigate that. I plan on attending the final showing on May 6. I’ll ask the director.

  3. Usree Bhattacharya on: 29 April 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Aaminah Bind is the new Muslim cool. 😛

    Love you!

  4. aaminahm on: 29 April 2009 at 10:16 pm

    You are the new Bangali cool Cookie!
    Love you too. I’ll miss you this Summer.

  5. Usree Bhattacharya on: 29 April 2009 at 10:27 pm

    My dear Umm, I’ll miss you this summer too! I hope to get to hug you before I leave!
    ps. I laugh hardest when I’m in a bind. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

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