Wyclef Jean’s contribution to the Egyptian revolution

Is the Haitian rapper the real reason behind Mubarak’s exit?

The Egyptian people triumphed today – but not without a little help from the former Fugees rapper and erstwhile Haitian presidential candidate, Wyclef Jean.

The rapper uploaded his song " 'Freedom' (Song for Egypt)" on to YouTube this morning. This afternoon, Hosni Mubarak stepped down. Coincidence?

After being barred from running for president of Haiti in 2010 because he was not a resident there, perhaps Jean will consider running to become president of his Egyptian "sisters and brothers".

From "La Marseillaise" to Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind", songs have the power to inspire protesters. Let's wait and see if the latest offering from Jean, a self-styled Bob Marley for the YouTube generation, will become the soundtrack to this revolution.

In the song, he sings of "the scars of courage" on the faces of his "sisters and brothers", and draws on Egypt's history:

If the pyramids could talk they probably would say we want freedom,
Cairo wants freedom, the youth want their freedom, they want a peaceful solution.
I see the camels in the desert,
But they don't have no riders . . .

He assures the Egyptian people:

Allah has not forgotten you, he is grateful.

Jean is no stranger to mixing politics and music. He has likened himself to the Haitian revolutionary Touissant l'Ouverture, saying, "Revolution is in my bloodline." When protest broke out in Egypt he changed his picture on Twitter to an Egyptian flag. Clearly, Mubarak was able to withstand the protests of thousands of his fellow Egyptians – but Wyclef's video proved too much . . .

Over in Tunisia, the rapper Hamada Ben-Amor released a song protesting at the rule of the then president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. The video became a YouTube sensation as protests continued in the country. The 22-year-old was subsequently arrested, and the authorities refuse to comment on the situation.

 
If this has whetted your appetite for music that champions a cause, check out the New Statesman's top 20 political songs. For a slightly more serious analysis of Mubarak's exit, go here.

Felipe Araujo
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Manchester's Muslim community under siege: "We are part of the fabric of this nation"

As the investigation into last week's bombing continues, familiar media narratives about Islam conflict with the city's support for its Muslim population.

“You guys only come when something like this happens,” said one of the worshippers at Manchester's Victoria Park Mosque, visibly annoyed at the unusual commotion. Four days after the attack that killed 22 people, this congregation, along with many others around the city, is under a microscope.

During Friday prayers, some of the world’s media came looking for answers. On the eve of Ramadan, the dark shadow of terrorism looms large over most mosques in Manchester and beyond.

“People who do this kind of thing are no Muslims,” one man tells me.

It’s a routine that has become all too familiar to mosque goers in the immediate aftermath of a major terror attack. In spite of reassurances from authorities and the government, Muslims in this city of 600,000 feel under siege. 

“The media likes to portray us as an add-on, an addition to society,” Imam Irfan Christi tells me. “I would like to remind people that in World War I and World War II Muslims fought for this nation. We are part of the fabric of this great nation that we are.”

On Wednesday, soon after it was revealed the perpetrator of last Monday’s attack, Salman Ramadan Abedi, worshipped at the Manchester Islamic Centre in the affluent area of Didsbury, the centre was under police guard, with very few people allowed in. Outside, with the media was impatiently waiting, a young man was giving interviews to whoever was interested.

“Tell me, what is the difference between a British plane dropping bombs on a school in Syria and a young man going into a concert and blowing himself up,” he asked rhetorically. “Do you support terrorists, then?” one female reporter retorted. 

When mosque officials finally came out, they read from a written statement. No questions were allowed. 

“Some media reports have reported that the bomber worked at the Manchester Islamic Centre. This is not true,” said the director of the centre’s trustees, Mohammad el-Khayat. “We express concern that a very small section of the media are manufacturing stories.”

Annoyed by the lack of information and under pressure from pushy editors, eager for a sexy headline, the desperation on the reporters’ faces was visible. They wanted something, from anyone, who had  even if a flimsy connection to the local Muslim community or the mosque. 

Two of them turned to me. With curly hair and black skin, in their heads I was the perfect fit for what a Muslim was supposed to look like.

"Excuse me, mate, are you from the mosque, can I ask you a couple of questions,” they asked. “What about?,” I said. "Well, you are a Muslim, right?" I laughed. The reporter walked away.

At the Victoria Park Mosque on Friday, Imam Christi dedicated a large portion of his sermon condemning last Monday’s tragedy. But he was also forced to once again defend his religion and its followers, saying Islam is about peace and that nowhere in the Koran it says Muslims should pursue jihad.

“The Koran has come to cure people. It has come to guide people. It has come to give harmony in society,” he said. “And yet that same Koran is being described as blood thirsty? Yet that same Koran is being abused to justify terror and violence. Who de we take our Islam from?”

In spite of opening its doors to the world’s media, mosques in Britain’s major cities know they can do very little to change a narrative they believe discriminates against Muslims. They seem to feel that the very presence of reporters in these places every time a terror attack happens reveals an agenda.

Despite this, on the streets of Manchester it has proved difficult to find anyone who had a bad thing to say about Islam and the city’s Muslim community. Messages of unity were visible all over town. One taxi driver, a white working-class British man, warned me to not believe anything I read in the media.

“Half of my friends are British Muslims,” he said even before asked. “ These people that say Islam is about terrorism have no idea what they are talking about.”

Felipe Araujo is a freelance journalist based in London. He writes about race, culture and sports. He covered the Rio Olympics and Paralympics on the ground for the New Statesman. He tweets @felipethejourno.

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