Mona Haydar is launching her music career in a big way.
On Monday, Haydar, a Syrian-American poet and artist, debuted “Hijabi,” her first rap music video ― which she filmed when she was eight months pregnant. The video’s style is reminiscent of Beyoncé’s visual album “Lemonade,” and Muslim women in particular may find it just as empowering.
Consider its opening lyrics:
What that hair look like? Bet that hair look nice. Don’t that make you sweat? Don’t that feel too tight?
Yo, what your hair look like? Bet your hair look nice. How long your hair is?
You need to get your life.
Haydar’s song isn’t just an anthem for Muslim women. It’s an ode to diversity and a clapback to the haters who reject it.
“Given our current administration’s insistence on demonizing and maligning the bodies of women and Muslims, among others, I wanted to get this song out as soon as possible,” Haydar, who now lives in New York, told The Huffington Post. “I hoped that a pregnant woman who is obviously Muslim [and] creating art and speaking truth would inspire people and offer some levity, joy and hope.”
After “Hijabi” debuted Monday, many people became instant fans.
For Haydar, hip-hop and Islam are intertwined.
She grew up in Flint, Michigan, listening to the likes of Mos Def, A Tribe Called Quest and Rakim ― hip-hop artists and groups with members who, as she pointed out, have identified as Muslim. (Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest practices Islam and often discusses his faith during interviews.)
“The immigrant Muslim community owes so much to the black community, which has been here, practicing Islam, since the time when Africans were kidnapped and enslaved here in America,” Haydar told HuffPost.
“You cannot separate Islam from blackness or blackness from hip-hop or hip-hop from Islam,” she added.
Haydar is grateful for black American Islam and its contributions to hip-hop. “What a blessing it is to me that I can even be a small part of a great legacy in creating culture,” she said.
Last year, Haydar and her husband, who is a white American Muslim, made headlines when they hosted public “Ask A Muslim” booths, compete with free doughnuts, in response to Islamophobia after terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.
Her latest song is a similar attempt to bring about a positive discussion of diversity and acceptance.
“I want to be able to inspire young girls and let them know that they can look and dress any way they want to and still be relevant and current,” she told HuffPost.
Not everyone, however, has welcomed her efforts.
Haydar says that more conservative Muslims have reached out to her and dismissed her music as “haram,” or forbidden. Those people, she says, believe that women shouldn’t sing or perform. However, that’s not what Haydar believes.
Some people on Twitter have even called her music cringe-worthy, while others have accused her of cultural appropriation.
Haydar maintains that hip-hop has always been a part of her life.
“The cultural language I was brought up in, and my first real love, was hip-hop,” she told HuffPost. “I didn’t choose to fuse hip-hop with my faith. It is simply how my heart is expressing itself.”
As for the Muslims who believe her music is forbidden by their faith, Haydar believes they will eventually come around ― and she sends them her love.
“I’ve studied [Islam]. I’m not a kid rushing into my art. I’m a grown woman who believes that art can change the world,” she said. “I’m not worried about the haters.”
“They’ll get on board eventually and I will welcome them with all my love when they do,” she added. “In the meantime, I still love them dearly.”