Interview with Sean Muttaqi of Vegan Reich by Uprising Records
1. What made you convert to religion (i.e., Islam) since the hardcore scene has always had sort of an atheist stance and the philosophy of religion always seems to be fascist or homophobic?
First of all, not to get overly analytical, but nonetheless I would have to on one level dispute the terminology of "conversion" or "converting to" a religion, for though I understand your question, I feel the word conversion doesn't accurately convey to most, how I see Islam and my connection to it. I mean, certainly, on the outward level, there is the matter of how I came into the din, or faith of Islam, in terms of it's external form. And certainly I will get to this. But ultimately, I have to say that I truly believe that every living creature is born Muslim. Not "born Muslim" in the sense of being born adhering to a particular religious form (i.e. "Islam" with a capital "I") but rather born as a "Muslim" and one who is instinctually practicing "Islam" (or the act of submission and true peace, which are the root meanings of that word, and the state of being one has as a child, before ego and false identity of self take us away from our true purpose - which is living in harmony and communion with the Divine Will). For I don't believe in the Christian concept of being born into Sin. To me, we are perfect at our conception and at our birth. At that movement we are untainted with pride, vanity, and illusion. We are truly a part of the whole of creation, which is an emanation from that which we call Allah. Therefore, I feel my spiritual side has always been a part of my being, and has always been responsible for my striving towards righteousness (now, and before I even knew what the word "Islam" meant). So on that level, Islam has always been with me. In terms of the outward form, the faith that we refer to as "Islam" (which is the practice of the teachings passed on by the Prophet Muhammad (sal), that he presented us so that we may better know our true Self and thus know our interconnection with the Divine)? That came about as the end result of a long journey seeking Truth and Gnosis in the various expressions of the Divine - starting out in political movements, winding it's way through social and ethical philosophies, and finally making it's way through the various world faiths, ultimately arriving at Islam (which was an interesting twist, as it was the religion of my ancestors, and yet I came to it without that incentive being removed by many
2. Why Islam as a religion for you to put your faith in, why not other religions like Christianity, Hinduism and other kinds of religions that exist today?
I was always turned off by the sectarian nature of what most people call "religion." Though I always appreciated the actual words of ALL the world Prophets, Saints, and Sages, I felt that their teachings became distorted once codified into a "religion". I mean, every one of these great people brought forth a message that God is one, that humanity is one - that there should be no separation, no nationalism, no sexism, no racism etc. They always said "Serve God alone" they never said "follow me, worship me." Yet in all the external religions, as time passed, and true teachings were lost, this message got twisted into nationalist faiths. Ideas of the 'chosen people', or the 'chosen race' came to prevail. And men who never claimed glory for themselves became elevated to the status of a God themselves, with mankind worshiping Men and Idols, instead of the true Source of all life. This is not to say that there are not members of each world religion that are true followers of God. For certainly, God is immanent everywhere, and His presence can be found in every world religion (and in the hearts of every person who has faith). But having a choice, and being presented with the option, I felt a valid and true understanding of all the world religions, had to include the acceptance of the most recent Prophet on the stage of human history (and the only religious book that was written at the time and not hundred of years after the Prophets death). For to deny that, is just turning a blind eye to Truth.
And of all the world religions, Islam is unique in that it accepts all those paths that came before, and views them as part of Islam. For really, Islam does not see itself as a "religion". Rather, it is the natural "way", inherent within man. Our True nature. Therefore, all "religions" that have come, were expressions of the One Divine Will, manifesting through 124,000 Prophets in human history. Every messenger brought the same message - that of "Islam". Perhaps the outward form varied, due to time and place variations. But essentially, every message has been that of "Tawhid", or "divine Unity". Islam includes Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and accepts their Prophets as being Prophets of Islam. So that is why I came into the din or faith of Islam. To me it seemed to have the most inclusive attitude and complete understanding of spirituality that I had found in many years of searching. And on the outward level, I think it is one of the only traditions that really is inclusive of all racial backgrounds, and absolutely revolutionary in it's demand for social justice.
3. Do you think that the hardcore scene is in any way affiliated to religion? And how does the whole Straight Edge philosophy fit in?
Well, If one defines "religion" as "anything done or followed with reverence or devotion" (as it is described in Webster's English dictionary) then certainly hardcore, and straight edge both can be seen as being a religion to some as it is. As to if there's a connection then between this "religion" or "path" of "straight edge" and "hardcore" and that of the "REVEALED RELIGIONS", I would say this:
Many of the people that are involved in Hardcore, Punk, Straight Edge, etc. are very often striving for knowledge. They are people who have broken away from the confines of the status quo, of what society wants them to be and have decided upon their own path. In this manner, I think that such individuals have a lot in common with those who broke away from the status quo of their societies and followed the path of the Prophets, and Saints of their times. Unfortunately, in modern times, "Religion" has become so corrupted by evil dishonest people speaking in the name of God, that many really good people who seek to separate themselves from the corrupt ways of their society, also close themselves off to a spiritual life, as they see it as tied up with the outward forms of corrupted religion. So a sad situation has arisen. Those who at one time would have been voicing their protest in a manner that included not only political and social knowledge, but also spiritual enlightenment, are now being shaped by their society into individuals who are denied knowledge of their true selves, and thus in their rejection of all that is bad, also throw out much of what is good.
Such is the case with many in the Hardcore, Punk and Straight Edge scenes. There is of course a common bond between the positive side of these movements and the inherent truth present in all Religions and Faiths. But the question is, who will see it?
4. What are your views as a Muslim that Muslims cannot live a Vegan diet because of the whole animal sacrificial thing. And how well do you think our Islamic community could accept veganism as a daily diet.
A Muslim can absolutely be Vegan, and, at least in the west, many are. Certainly throughout history, there have been Muslim saints that were vegetarian etc (like Rabia). And even this century, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, one of the most renowned Sufi saints in the world, and considered by many to be the renewer of the Islamic Faith, and spiritual pole of the age, was vegetarian.
Meat eating and sacrifice are not pillars of Islam. Nor are they obligatory. Again, if one looks at it contextually, it is easily determinable that it is not inherently part of the faith itself.
Every Surah of the Qur'an came to Muhammad (sal) in response to certain events that were taking place of a period of many years. In the case of halal dietary laws, before their implement, many people were slaughtering countless animals, in very inhumane ways - wasting much of the food, and treating animals abhorrently. Living in a desert environment, vegetarianism wasn't a possibility and thus not a practical answer to this situation and problem. So what Muhammad (sal) said, and what the Qur'an say's, is that one must treat animals fairly, and if one must kill to survive, they must do it in the most humane manner possible (and also, since only Allah can create life, the animals life must be taken in the name of Allah, as only Allah has the right to end such a life). Never is indiscriminant murder encouraged or even condoned. Far from that, what was encouraged was that less killing be done - and that when it must be (for survival) that one must share the meat with the poorer members of society, and to be less gluttonous in one's eating habits, so that less life must be taken.
Now, in regards to the issue of animal "sacrifice", again, one has to understand it in the context that the role animals played in Arabian society at that place and time (as well as other societies with similar climates and culture), in that Man is commanded to give thanks to Allah and praise Allah for the sustenance he has given them and that they should sacrifice something of value to them to demonstrate their appreciation for what they have been given (which in their case were the very animals from which their survival was based).
The rites of sacrifice are specific to that which Allah has given to Man for his sustenance (and by this, I do not mean "given" in the sense that it was "meant" for us to eat, but rather, in terms that a non-Muslim may understand, is "given" forth by the earth, and the natural world, as one of the many things in existence, and therefore a possible source of our sustenance). However, the assumption that such sustenance is always meant to be of the four legged variety is incorrect. Much evidence suggests that early man was primarily vegetarian (as Genesis states "I have given you every herb bearing seed for food", and in fact, according to the Bible, it was only after The Flood that mankind was permitted to eat flesh - presumably for survival reasons, as their normal food would have been scarce). And from time and place and from culture to culture, what is present for survival varies. Native American people's in Alaska and Northern Canada had just fish, seals and whales etc. Certain Island people's only had fish. Other tribal people's remained vegetarian, eating primarily fruit and nuts.
So the sacrifice we make, is never intended to be a specific item (be it an animal or something else). Rather, it is intended to be one of the heart. For those who eat meat (as did the Arabs of Muhammad's (sal) time) they must give their thanks to Allah for the Life they are taking in order to survive. For the vegetarian, it can be giving thanks for the food they are eating. For everything comes from Allah. Furthermore, whether meat or vegetables, the main lesson and further act of sacrifice, is the sacrifice of a possession - sharing that which we have with our poorer brothers and sisters in the community.
In the end, Islam just takes the middle ground. It is the primordial faith and spirituality of mankind, so it's regulations are loose enough that people of every climate, no matter what they must eat to survive, can do so in a way that is harmonious with their environment, and conscientious of the Life around them.
So one can be vegetarian. Or if need be, they can eat meat, as certainly, that is the reality of life on earth. However, in the modernized world, with all the possibilities to be vegetarian, I find it increasingly hard for people to argue their "right" to eat meat when it is no longer a "need". Those who utilize religion as a justification for material cravings, and the inevitable cruelty and loss of life that ensues, are only lying to themselves and damaging their souls in the process. Certainly Allah is most forgiving, and compassionate, and in this, will accept the offerings of any person who is sincere in their faith, and strives to be as just and equitable as possible in the situation which they exist (taking into account their surroundings, and struggle for survival etc), but that is far from a reason or an excuse for one to take an innocent life without the pressing need for survival.
As to whether or not the Muslim world will ever accept this understanding, let alone veganism? As is the case already, certainly groups within this spiritual tradition will continue to practice vegetarianism (as groups in the historically Christian west do the same). However, humanity as a whole, regardless of their outward religion, still has a long way to go before accepting even the equality of humans (even when their religion tells them humanity is one), so I'm sure it will take some time before animals are treated in a fair and humane manner across the earth (realizing the unity of all existence). That said however, we cannot let that deter us from our spiritual quest, nor make us reject Truth where we find it so clearly present. If we are looking at the pure faith of Islam, the question is not what the majority will do. For the majority does not shape what is at the heart of the Faith. Islam is the primordial spirituality of mankind. It includes and appreciation for and a continuation of, every spiritual tradition that passed before (including currents of thought that support vegetarianism). Therefore, we have to see it in that light, stand firm on the side of Truth, and practice our faith in context with our current setting and an understanding that we must go within the outward form (that is influenced by the socio-political, cultural and historical setting in which it arose) in order to find the inward truth and esoteric reality of any religion.
5. Did you receive criticism on your involvement with religion and in what ways does religion help you in your life?
One experiences prejudices everyday in America due to religion, class, race etc. Such is the reality. But faith certainly makes one strong and gives one the strength to persevere. I cannot imagine life without spirituality. It is part of who we are.
6. What about those days where you were actively involved in the Hardline movement, do you still consider yourself an activist and what are your present views on the ALF, ADL and other animal rights organizations that often turn to violence to jumpstart a revolution?
I am in complete support of all animal liberation activity, whether violent or not. This is not to say that I believe in indiscriminate acts of violence, aimed at the common person on the street. No one is arguing for that. But against the institutions built on exploitation and the individual merchants of death, most certainly my views have NOT changed on how they should be dealt with.
Hardline, was, and is, one of many 'Tariqah' or paths one could take in order to work for change, and for revolution. It no longer is the parameter from which I work, but nonetheless, I recognize it as a key factor in my life, and in my personal development of discipline and character, so I will always have respect for it, and for those who work within it's structure.
7. So, do you agree that force is not going to make any change and is not part of a tool for a revolution?
I believe that it is the duty of the spiritually attuned person to serve Allah first, and that such service requires that justice is fought for, and equality of all life strived for. The Qur'an teaches us not to fear adversity in the battle, nor weigh the moral imperative against the odds of losing. If something is wrong we must fight against it. I am not talking about forcing people into belief. For certainly there is to be no compulsion in faith. But we cannot sit by and let injustice prevail. So on that level, not only do I think can force be effective, I believe it is absolutely necessary in certain situations. For instance, it is the force of law that keeps certain crimes against women and children from happening. And again, when those crimes are committed, it is that same 'force' of law that in best case scenarios, punishes people for those crimes. Likewise, in the areas of social justice, and revolution etc. it is the very threat of force by the populous that very often ensures the government does not over step its bounds - fearing reprisal for wielding to heavy a hand. And again, in the cases where the state acts out of hand, revolution is always a looming possibility.
8. Being a Muslim, do you think it necessary to claim to be straightedge, since religion already prohibits drinking and having promiscuous sex, do you see anything wrong with a Muslim claiming to be straightedge?
One can be a Muslim and still be a part of various tariqas or "paths" as long as they don't conflict with the basic understanding that Allah is One. I mean, even though the message of Islam is universalism, if one is living in an occupied country, it would be in line with Islam's principles of Justice to be a part of a "nationalist" movement to throw the oppressors out. Likewise, one could be a part of a martial arts society, and similarly, "Straight Edge" is a path that one can be a part of while being a Muslim. Obviously there are a lot of similarities, and I can see the natural affiliation and desire for Muslim kids to be a part of it (especially in the West, where they are lacking Islamic movements to be a part of). However, I think it must be seen for what it is, and equally for what it isn't. Certainly, "Straight Edge" did not bring to this earth, the message of drug free living, and sexual morality. It is the message that every Prophet has brought, and it exists in the true form of every world religion. So people should not confuse the level of importance of "Straight Edge" in and of itself. Also, one should not elevate western notions of morality above their religious background. By this, I mean, the notion of abstinence and purity runs through every culture and religion. However, within many of these same spiritual paths, are also certain beliefs that may on the external level seem to conflict with the western notion of purity or morality. For instance, many Native American Indians, who are absolutely against drug use, do use peyote in their spiritual ceremonies. Some Muslim holy men smoke a pipe. What one shouldn't do, is make the mistake of thinking that the "Straight Edge" perception of reality and of right and wrong, is automatically superior to the ancient spiritual traditions perception of such things. This is not to say that everything which is "tradition" is automatically superior. But it is saying to beware replacing one's own vast cultural and spiritual understanding of things, with a more simplistic western notion, which is based upon the song of one man who didn't even hold true to his own words.
9. Do you want to spread Islam in our so called scene just like what Ray Cappo did with Krishna Consciousness and they did to Christianity?
I don't want to force anything down anyone's throat. In fact, I think in general Islam is like that. Really a calm, peaceful middle path. You rarely will see Islamic "missionaries" in the same way that you will see Christian ones.
Since I believe in the Unity of God, and I accept that the world religions all come from God in their essence, I don't feel that those who aren't Muslim are somehow doomed. In fact, I don't even feel that about people who aren't 'religious' in any way. We all come from Allah whether we know it or not, and ultimately to Allah, we all must return. So I am not on a Crusade. That said, I do believe in doing 'Dawa' , and that is spreading the message of Islam to those who are interested in hearing it. But again, I'm not pushing it down people's throats.
When I'm playing with Pressure (which is a new band I'm in) I don't really talk about it. It's not the place. People know what my individual beliefs are, but the band is not Muslim, and the fan base isn't. I apply my personal convictions to the tone of the lyrics, singing about social justice, and revolution etc., but that is about it. If someone wants to talk to me after the show, then great.
Captive Nation Rising is a different story though. That has always been my own project, and a vehicle for my spiritual expression. So the new CNR record that's coming out is very Islamic oriented.
10. How do view the "selling" of Christianity in the hardcore scene with the presence of Christian zines, labels, bands that are always preaching?
I see this as a two sided coin, both positive and negative. With the large amounts of drug abuse amongst today's youth, and with the large amount of promiscuity and negative attitudes that are prevailing amongst many "straight edge" kids, I see it as a positive step by many kids to live a good clean life. That said, I do think that the type of Christianity that is being promoted is perhaps one of the least desirable forms (that exists within that religion) and very far removed from the mysticism that Jesus taught. A lot of the money that is backing this new "movement" up is coming from conservative American Christian elements, and in the lyrics of certain bands, I have seen an outright distain and hatred for other world religions (especially Islam). So I would have to say, that on the individual level, I support those kids who are trying to work within the context of their religious upbringing to create a positive atmosphere, but in general, I have a problem with the direction that much of it is going here in America. And in terms of any missionary activity it is doing in non-Christian countries - I am absolutely against it, and think it is nothing more than a continuation of white racial imperialism.
11. Hardcore seems to have "lost its edge" nowadays. It's becoming more and more watered down and do you think we even stand a little chance of ever hoping to change the world?
I don't think hardcore or any musical based "scene" has ever had the power in and of itself to change the world. However, being a youth based movement, and an expression of the wants an desires of certain elements within the younger generation, I think it has potential to play a part in creating change, when the tone of the movement is set by those interested in social activism (as was the case in the early days of hardcore and punk). Unfortunately, this is not the prevailing attitude within the scene these days, so I wouldn't hold out to much hope right now, for anything to be directly affected from the scene itself. All one can hope for, is that it remains an arena for expressing views and exposing people to ideas, and avenues of action that they wouldn't have normally come into contact with. From there, it is up to them to utilize that information and get active outside the self imposed isolation of "hardcore' - bringing their enthusiasm and efforts to the real world.
12. Nowadays, lots of bands tend to be obsessed with the imagery of the dark side, or Satan and the devil and also dumb labels like, "evilcore" or "devilcore" . Don't you think this is ironic since HC does not in any way have anything to do with Satanists or Anti-Christs? A few years back, Krishna Consciousness was pretty big in the HC scene, nowadays, it seems that atheism and this whole 666 straightedge thing is pretty hot in hardcore. Are these trends to you and what do you see the next "trend" being?
Unfortunately, it is the state of the world these days - the obsession with all that is "evil" and "perverse." Certainly one expects it somewhat from the mainstream (those who have never cared about anything positive or of value in their lives). However, it is disheartening to see the rise of such thought within segments of the underground who otherwise claim to be into social justice, and ethical issues.
The thing is, much of this arises in the west, because the youth are faced with such extreme contradictions in their society. You have those in power, those who are the exploiters, the wicked, the corrupt, claiming to be Christians, and demanding a fear of god (who they paint as a white man in the sky, a figure of authority, in support of their power structure and status quo). And they see the lies presented in that mythology. They see the oppressive acts committed in the name of that god, and they reject all of it. Unfortunately, they invariably take up one of two other western myths (in their rebellion against the former) - either that of nothingness (atheism) or the even more absurd, "Satanism" (with it's notion of a man below the earth plotting against some god up in the sky ).
Of course, most of those who are not full fledged into actual evil acts, will say that their Satanism is just a symbol of resistance, that they don't believe in the devil either. But the problem is, they don't recognize that even if there is no god "up in the sky" (which I don't think their is either), and even if Christianity is corrupted and hypocritical, that the actions, beliefs and intentions of Satanism are still negative, have an unhealthy affect upon the body, and stand for everything that is unjust and inequitable on earth. And those who think that they stand for righteousness whilst at the same time, claim to be satanic, are ultimately more hypocritical than those they claim to reject.
The thing is, those that claim to reject the untruths of the church, are still living the outcome of those lies, by embracing a myth that is 100 hundred percent the counterpart to that which they think they are rejecting. It's like many that justifiably hated capitalism, and in their efforts the fight against it, mistakenly took up it's counterpart - communism - thinking it was the only option of resistance. Look at how many third world people's ended up in misery, because of this mistake. They failed to see that communism was formulated on the same materialist misconceptions of existence that capitalism was. Based upon the same European ideal of civilization and "progress etc". Sure those two ideologies outwardly took different stances, but ultimately they were just different roads to the same (un)desired conclusion (of a materialistic state).
Likewise, with Satanism. Both modern Christianity and Satanism feed off each other. They both further the lie of mankind being born into sin, of evil having some power in and of itself. And that is just not the truth.
As Christianity moved from it's origins (of Jewish mysticism) and entered the worldview of European paganism, much of it's symbolic and esoteric teachings were transformed into literal understanding's based upon old notions of Greek and roman gods at war with each other, of some divine drama that is at work, with two forces battling each other for the crown. And that is just not reality.
Evil has no power in and of itself. Rather, it is the outcome of an over attachment to certain forces that exist in the material world. Shaiytan or the devil may well be a historical or current figure, but that is irrelevant. One has to understand that in religious scripture, the devil is referred to as a symbol, a point of reference for understanding a certain principle. And that is that that the devil represents desires uncontrolled. That the devil is someone who refuses to submit themselves to their true self (which is an intrinsic part of the divine whole) and rather, veils themselves from that reality through over attachment to the illusion of their personal identity. Never is "evil" given a power in and of itself. That is ridiculous. Man makes the choice to live in balance with the forces that exist within, or to let one of them control him. I mean, let us take a look at a few examples. Certainly, we need desire. We need passion. We need sexual attraction. These things ensure the survival of the species. They ensure we strive for good living conditions etc. Yet, if we let these things run out of control, then this can lead to greed, violence, promiscuity etc. So it is nothing inherent in the forces that are "evil". Only the outcome of our giving our control to them.
So with Satanism, even though a lot of these kids think they stand for good, by being Vegan or straight etc. they still harm themselves with these satanic attitudes, and of course, they contradict what good they are into. For animal oppression, sexism, drug abuse and all forms of exploitation, are a result of these "satanic' tendencies (the end result of people acting upon impulse to satisfy, at any cost, the desires that have consumed them).
Again, I understand in the west why much of the youth have fallen for this trap. But it is sad to now see these kids (through their bands and zines) further influence those in parts of the world who were not even raised with these false notions built up in the Christian world (youth from Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and various other backgrounds etc).
This is the downside of modern youth culture and it's various trends that are rooted in a western understanding of reality. Though it takes a stand against certain negative aspects of it's parent culture, it invariably also helps to perpetuate other elements of it (that are equally destructive). Unfortunately, I think with the further descent into "modernism" that western society takes, and the fact that the west is now influencing the whole world with it's cultural imperialism, these negative trends will continue.
All one can hope for, is that pockets of resistance will form, and that in the west, people will search out a better understanding of reality (rejecting the illusion presented by their society) and those in the east will strive to maintain their cultural and spiritual heritage.
13. What are your views on the legalization of hemp, the substance being stated as a useful alternative to drugs to cure illnesses or at least to decrease deforestation?
I am in support of it's legalization. However, it must be said that very often it is in fact legal and many are just trying to use this issue as an area to push forward other agenda's concerning marijuana.
And as far as marijuana goes , it is so hard to say how the modern west should deal with it. Many third and second world countries have a very healthy relationship so to speak with marijuana, very often using it for food, medicine, (even to relax with) etc. But I don't know if people in the west can handle that, as they don't have the cultural background of using it outside the realm of "partying" etc. that seems to be the standard in the west.
It is rather strange to make a plant in and of itself illegal. I mean, there are so many plants that if used in the wrong way could harm you, even kill you. And yet they are legal, as perhaps they are useful in certain applications. Likewise, I think it should be the same with marijuana. But that's ultimately up to each society to decide.
14. Nike exploits its child workers in third world countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and others. What do you know of this and how do you find this?
I am appalled at the treatment of child workers, not only by Nike, but by the majority of Multinational companies, as well as the national companies within most third world nations. Children and women should be the worlds most protected treasures. They are the key to the future, and the key to the world's well being. How anyone can exploit those kids and then go home to their own children as if they have done nothing wrong is beyond me. And certainly, for any so called Muslim country to allow this behavior, is deplorable, when the Qur'an specifically outlines the rights of children.
It is areas such as this that definitely make me believe in the need for jihad.
15. What do you think of imprisonment? It is a sad thing that society has "chosen" imprisonment and capital punishment for people who make mistakes. Do you think it'll ever solve anything other than take away more lives?
My problem is not the concept of prison. For I think both prison and capital punishment are necessary realities in the world which we live. My problem is the use of these institutions and practices, to oppress minority groups or the populous in general, for holding certain beliefs, rather than for punishment of a crime. But as far as punishment goes, I do believe it is absolutely necessary for their to be consequences to negative actions in society.
15. What are the main differences of the Qur'an and the Bible according to you? What can we all learn from the Qur'an and what was it that made you open up to it?
The Bible was written much later than the time of Isa (Jesus), and thus has only remnants of his teachings, and therefore contains many inaccuracies. The Qur'an however was written down and consolidated shortly after it was revealed. Therefore, it is much more accurate a representation of prophetic teachings. That said, I think it is important for people to understand the nature of the Qur'an's revelation. And the key to this requires contextualization and applying tawil (or going inward to determine its meaning). Contextualizing it is important, because the Qur'an did not come as a blueprint from the sky for a perfect world with a list of instructions at how to get there. Rather, it came Surah (chapter) by Surah, over a period of years, in answer to and in relation to events that were unfolding at the time. Therefore, we must use analogy and comparison to current events and how it relates to things in these modern times, to understand how it applies today, and what the Prophet (sal) would have taught concerning the issues before us today.
It is the very living presence of Truth prevalent in the Qur'an, and the beauty contained therein, that first drew me to it and continues to inspire me. Even in English translation it's strength as a mystical document is clear, and once one reads it's words in Arabic, there is no denying it's Divine origin, or at least influence. The very fact that a whole Islamic culture of the arts, architecture, mathematics, and science, not to mention spirituality, developed from the application of it's principles certainly shows if nothing else, that it contains very deep levels of understanding. Therefore, I would suggest that every person read it, whether religious or not. At the very least, one will get a better understanding of history, politics and one of the most articulate calls for social justice ever made. And insha'Allah, one will also find it as a useful tool in helping them to decipher the Qur'an within, the book of Truth that is within the heart of Man. For only then, when we come to recognize the spiritual side of our being, do we fully develop to our true potential.
16. Frankly, what do you think of the whole Palestine / Israel war that's happening right now and do you think that the Intifada is justified?
I am absolutely 100 percent against the state of Israel and do not believe it should be in existence. This has nothing to do with Islam, or Judaism. For I support true Judaism, and I support equal rights for all people. But if one looks at the history of this issue, they will see that religion is getting used as a justification by the Israeli government to oppress and exploit the Palestinian people. It's so absurd. If one knows their history, they will see that the whole idea of an ethnic "chosen people" who can claim ownership of Jerusalem is a lie. Certainly Moses was a Hebrew, as were many of his followers. But when he led 'his people' out of Egypt into Palestine, he was not leading just one racial group out of slavery and into the 'promised land'. Rather, he was leading a whole multitude of races who had come to accept his teaching (and this group included black Africans, Arabs, Asians, Europeans that had resided as slaves in Egypt etc.). It is this group that came to be called the Jews. However, when Rome sacked Jerusalem, and the Jews were dispersed, this community went in many directions. Those who had been more of European descent migrated back towards Europe and intermarried, becoming intertwined with the local populations where they settled etc. Those who were primarily of Hebrew and Arab ethnicity (both a Semitic people), as well as the multitude who were a mix of all the people who had been in the first exodus out of Egypt, stayed in the region, and those who were primarily of African background went back into Egypt and Ethiopia etc (and to this day you have remnants of this Jewish community still intact in Ethiopia). The reason for this split, is that they were being persecuted by the Romans and had to go to where they could blend in and continue to practice their faith.
During the last 2,000 years, many of the descendants of this group who were physically related to the original "tribe of Israel" gradually became involved in both Christianity and then Islam. Others maintained their Judaism (although as with any religion, much of this became in name only, with the mystics - such as the Jewish practitioners of Qaballah - becoming fewer and far between). So you have a very complicated situation that developed in terms of understanding this whole issue.
And all of this immediately got more complicated with the evil atrocities committed by Hitler against anyone who was either a practicing Jew (even if European) or merely had "Jewish Blood" (being related in any way to the original tribe of Israel, no matter if Christian or not) - for after the holocaust, a situation arose where the survivor's were looking for a place to once again call their own, and area to establish a homeland. And this is where the results of one injustice start to compound and make way for a new tragedy. For then it had been 2,000 years since the Jews were dispersed by the Romans from Jerusalem. And by that time there was a whole population with at least a 2,000 year history of living in that area (that others wanted to make their new homeland). And in fact, many of the Palestinians who are the current residents are related to the original Jews (both Hebrews, Arabs, and Africans, who fled Jerusalem and stayed in surrounding areas, eventually returning - with their descendants gradually having converted first to Christianity and then to Islam). And counterposed to that, many of those who came in from Europe and took their land by force in order to establish the state of Israel, were more European then they were Middle Eastern - being less related to the original inhabitants of the area, then the Palestinians. So there's just no claim to ownership of the land through a physical heritage. Especially when there was a population living there who could make at least more substantial claims of having lived there for 2,000 years, and for being more clearly related to it's early inhabitants. And as far as the religious justification (the idea that Palestine is the promised land for the Children of Israel)? Well, once again, every scholar knows that the Children of Israel does not designate a race. It designates the followers of the precepts of a certain Faith. And the fact is, anyone who came and stole the land from the Palestinians, can not be said to be practicing that Faith (where Humanity is supposed to be One). Even official surveys done in the state of Israel, show that the majority of the populous is not religious. So I just do not see where the justification comes from for the stealing of this land. It is no different than the colonial terror, and genocide that the Europeans did to the native americans.
This is NOT saying that those of Hebrew descent, or those who practice the Jewish religion should not be allowed to live in Palestine. Certainly there have been long surviving communities of a Hebrew Jewish population living in Palestine, and the fact is, they have always been given a protected status under Islam which sees them as brothers, and a common "People of the Book." But when it comes to people of primarily European descent moving in mass to a Middle Eastern country, and kicking the local inhabitance out (whose families have owned the land for thousands of years). To me this is nothing more than colonialism and racism. Pure and simple. And prominent members of the international Jewish community have expressed the same opinion (in their rejection of the State of Israel). So let's make sure this does not get confused as being an anti Jewish issue. I have love for all people. My stance on this one for justice, and one against oppression. Nothing more.
17. If you had to choose, which side would you be on?
Again, let me reiterate. This is not an Arab versus Hebrew question. Nor is it a matter of Islam versus Judaism. It is a question of injustice versus justice. And I want to make that point clear, even to fellow Muslims. Certainly in anger, people have let the issues be clouded. But we must not forget that both the Arab and the Hebrew are Semitic peoples. That Abraham is an ancestor and a Prophet to us all. Furthermore, the Qur'an gives protected status to the Jewish community as a "People of the Book." So this can never be a struggle against the Jews. Rather, it is only a struggle against injustice. Those who oppress in the name of Judaism, but live not as Jews. The people of the world need to recognize this, and not criticize Judaism because of the injustice done by some in it's name. The same as they must not Judge Islam by those who act un-Islamically and bring terror to innocent people.
I wholeheartedly support resistance against the State of Israel by any means necessary (as a struggle against occupation and genocide), but I also pray for a day when Christian, Muslim and Jew alike, can live at peace in the sacred city of Jerusalem (and all of Palestine).
18. What are your current and future plans?
Currently, Uprising is expanding into new areas with some Hip Hop releases, as well as some upcoming reggae and dancehall.
Personally, my wife and I are awaiting the birth of our first child and we actually are planning on moving out of the U.S. soon. I will continue to run the record label from our new location, while maintaining an office and warehouse in the United States, and I will continue to tour with my bands in the U.S. and abroad, as well as teach martial arts at our new home base etc.. Also, I have started an Islamic oriented movement that is geared towards mysticism and progressive political/social action called the "Ahl-i Allah" (or "People of Allah"). Anyone who is interested in getting information on this group, joining our efforts etc. can email us at: AHL-i_ALLAH@hushmail.com www.peopleofallah.org
Those interested in the label or bands, should email: Uprising9@aol.com
19. Any last words?
As salaam alaikum