March 26th, 2011
07:00 AM ET
How Islam shaped one rap artist
Editor’s Note: CNN’s Soledad O’Brien chronicles the dramatic fight over the construction of a mosque in the heart of the Bible belt. “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door” airing at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. E.T. April 2 on CNN.
By Sarah Hoye, CNN
Philadelphia (CNN) — It’s noon on a Friday, and the parking lot at Al-Aqsa Islamic Society in North Philadelphia is quickly filling up.
One of Philadelphia's best-known rap artists, Freeway, jumps out of a black sport utility vehicle and dashes through the pouring rain to the prayer hall inside.
Islam has been a part of his life since he was a teenager. Yet it wasn’t until adulthood that his faith changed who he was an artist.
“My faith means everything to me; it’s the thing that keeps me going every day,” the father of two said. “It’s my core, it’s my soul.”
When he was 14, Freeway - aka Leslie Pridgen - took Shahada, the Muslim confession to faith.
Since then, he's had to balance his Muslim faith and his credibility as a hip-hop artist.
Freeway jump-started his career a decade ago at Roc-A-Fella Records under the tutelage of hip-hop mogul Jay-Z. Today, the independent artist has collaborated with the likes of Mariah Carey, producer extraordinaire Jake One and Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon.
When Freeway first hit the music scene, his pithy lyrics were laced with rhymes about hustling drugs and other aspects of ghetto life. But his approach to music has changed as he evolved as an emcee and matured as a man.
“The fans can get more out of my music now because I have more of a message,” he said. “I’m more conscious about what I say now because in Islam we believe that you’re going to be held accountable for everything that comes out your mouth.”
Misogyny and the perils of street life have been a part of hip-hop since its inception, and Freeway is no stranger to the urban grind.
He lost a cousin and close friend to gun violence and had his own run-ins with the law, having served jail time for drug possession.
The life experiences the self-described “reality-rapper” so adamantly declares over heavy beats are what have shaped Freeway into the man, the father, the artist and the Muslim he is today, he said.
“I’m definitely not in the same situation I was in when I first started, when I was still in the streets running around doing a bunch of crazy stuff,” he said. “Every day is a temptation, every day is work.”
He's not the only rapper balancing a devotion to Islam and trying to maintain a hard edge on his music, said Amir Abbassy, Freeway’s manager.
“Lupe Fiasco, Q-Tip, Mos Def - they’re all openly Muslim,” he said. “In the music culture, anybody who has a little bit of fame fits that rock 'n' roll persona.”
Freeway was speaking at a Philadelphia school’s bullying workshop on the same day the controversial congressional hearings on the radicalization of Muslim Americans led by U.S. Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, were taking place in Washington.
Freeway said he felt the hearings unfairly targeted Muslims.
“It’s foolishness, it’s nonsense,” he said of the recent hearings conducted by the New York Republican. “You can’t judge a whole group of people for a few people making mistakes.”
Freeway got up that day at dawn for his first prayer of the day. In total, he will take time to pray five times throughout the day, a practice called salat, performed daily by many of the estimated 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide.
Why Muslims pray five times a day
When Freeway is done rapping, his faith will be there, his manager said.
“His faith - that is his life,” Abbassy said. “ He doesn’t wake up with a microphone in his hand. He wakes up and prays."
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
I am starting to feel a little concerned as well that CNN is highlighting Islamic stories on such a frequent basis...These stories do not even have news worthy merit, they are just puff pieces for the sake of talking about rare cases of Americans converted to Islam. I do not have to "tolerate" or be "sensitive" to anything or anyone if it is against my beliefs., and Islam is never going to be the dominant religeon in the US. Fox may be tilted right, but CNN is taken a hard left it seems and is pushing me away
Because they want you to see the true Islam (you brain washed idiot RACISTS)...
Doesn't the Qaran clearly instruct its followers to "kill the infidels,' ie, non-believers, ie, Christians and Jews? And isn;t that exactly what they've been doing ?
Doesn't Al-Qaida and Talibans killing innocent Muslims only (not peoples from other faiths). You are an ignorant idiot, with same old black propaganda against Islam. You are nothing but and idiot RACIST.
Does this jerk think he is fooling the public about Islam? Or, does he even know anything about the doctrines of Islam? Does he think that Islam consists only of praying five times a day? Islam includes Shariah law which is based on the Koran and the sayings of Muhammad. Every religious Moslem is supposed to follow Shariah law because they consider it to be Allah's sacred law. Here is a sampling of the doctrines of Islam which motivate the hearts and minds of all religious Moslems:
FROM THE KORAN:
–“ the (only) religion (acceptable) before God is Islam." (3:19)
- " If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him." (3: 85)
- “You are the noblest community ever raised up for mankind.” (3:110)
- The unbelievers among the people of the book and the pagans shall burn forever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures. (98.6).
- Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve. (8.55)
–The unbelievers are your inveterate enemy. (4:101)
- Mohammed is God's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another. (48:29).
- It is unlawful for a believer to kill another believer, accidents excepted. (4:92)
- Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends. (5:51)
- Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God's religion shall reign supreme. (8:40)
- Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God's religion reigns supreme. (2:193)
- The true believers fight for the cause of God, but the infidels fight for the devil. (4:76)
- We will put terror into the hearts of the unbelievers. (3:151)
- I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers. (8:12)
FROM THE SAYINGS OF MUHAMMAD:
- Muhammad said to the Jews: "If you embrace Islam, you will be safe. You should know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle, and I want to expel you from this land. “
- Allah's Apostle said, "You (i.e. Muslims) will fight with the Jews till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying, 'O 'Abdullah (i.e. slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.' "
- Mohammed said, "I have been ordered to fight with the people till they say, "None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and whoever says, " None has the right to be worshipped but Allah , his life and property will be saved by me." (otherwise it will not).
- Mohammed said, "Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him."
- Mohammed said, " No Muslim should be killed for killing a Kafir" (infidel).
- Muhammad said: "Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war, …"
In addition, the most popular manual of Islamic sacred law, approved by the highest Islamic religious authorities of Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, says: "Jihad means to make war on non-Muslims." What could be clearer than that?
What an idiot and wrong definition of Jihad you've portrayed here ... SHAME ON YOU.
First I want to just say you are 100% uninformed about Islam and it looks like you've just been brainwashed by neo-con anti-Islam rhetoric. I doubt you've done ANY research at all about the religion or its teachings to formulate your own opinions. Stop spreading these lies. It's poisonous.
In the Qu'ran, Christians and Jews are mentioned several times, called "The People of The Book." They are not demonized, they are not called enemies, and there are no passages commanding Muslims to kill either. Many of the most important figures in Chistianity and Judaism are held to the same high regard in Islam... Jesus is even recognized as a prophet of God (it doesn't get any higher than that, besides of course, God.) Mary, Moses, Abraham, and others are all very important to practicing Muslims. Islam was founded on a "back to the basics" idea where the most important thing at the end of day would be God and your relationship with God (Allah.)
Over many, many centuries, like all religions, there have been disagreements, perversions, misinterpretations, and violence related to Islam. Do not make the mistake of discrediting or bashing the religion itself but those individuals who falsely represent it. Wisen up. Read a book. Understand your source's motivations and biases before regurgitating it back out.
so abdulameer, are you suggesting that Stalin, Hitler and Mao were Muslims?
It is very sad that for the last two days CNN used headline to promote Islam and encourageed Americans to convert their believes. This country was built on Christian value that made Americans giving and forgiving.
Why it's sad you ignorant idiot racist ... why you don't say nothing when they publish the stories about Jewish or Hindu faiths, but your A$$ starts burning when they publish stories about the faith of 16 billion peoples???
16 billion people? what planet are you living on?
sorry I mean to say 1.6 (or 1.66) billion...
I understand that CNN has been getting more and more liberal, and I have no problem with that. It's a free country and I just make allowance for that when reading the articles.
But I am going to switch to another news site after 20 years because this headline story... front-page headline day after day... doesn't have a thing to do with news. Even if the story were news-worthy, the contents of the articles are entirely lacking in objectivity. News is worthless if it has no connection to objective reality.
If I wanted to be indoctrinated into any particular religion, I wouldn't go to cnn.com for that.
And you've been getting more and more RACIST.
This will be my second attempt at posting a comment on another CNN article written by Soledad O'Brien, who apparently has a soft spot in her heart for Islam. My first posting on another of her articles "CNN Poll: Most Americans OK with a Mosque in their Community", unfortunately, was never approved for posting. There was no vulgarity or anything offensive in my comments. There were only factual statements about the Muslim faith. I thought that good journalism meant speaking from both points of view and not being narrow-minded, one-sided, bigoted, intolerant, or prejudiced. I would strongly suggest that CNN and Soledad O'Brien prove to America that they have an open-mind and can put less focus on the so-called "positive" side of Islam (a religion that hates America and desires to see its destruction) and start reporting on the positive side of other faiths (Christians, Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, etc.). CNN, do all of us a favor and start producing fair and honest journalism
You should have been getting your news from several different sources this whole time. All news sites have agendas and biases. You're a fool for thinking CNN didn't always have a bias.
Plus... this is part of the Faith section for this website, which if you can read doesn't say ONLY CHRISTIAN RELATED STORIES ALL THE TIME. You have no problem with CNN becoming more progressive? Funny, it looked like just another close minded bigoted post to me. If an article about a rapper's faith upsets you, you need to seriously reevaluate yourself.
this is exactly what the govt wants. you people need to fight about who is and who isn't the better of the religions... while the whole time, our dollar is about to take a fall like no other. wake up people, the new world order is our enemy. Infowars.com naturalnews.com
I can't believe anyone of Christian faith can say anything, when your religion promotes slavery and has been the produced some of the most henious crimes known to man! Every religion had an agenda, CONTROL OF MAN! Without religion humans would go wild! I don't feel anyone needs religion if you are disciplined, but all religion is in this world are laws to control you! No one has been to Heaven or Hell and if you believe in folk tales then pray on! Christians, Muslims or any religious buff knows at the end of the day, treat people with Respct and follow rules that are set on Earth! After you die this ignorance means nothing!! Religions creates brainwashing!!
All of u ignorant folks out there that are saying bad things about Islam and how violent of a religion it is, dont know the first thing about Islam or what it teaches. As a Muslim, I am taught that five times a day, i shd stop what i am doing and remember my creator and ask hin for forgiveness in my prayers. I am taught that i should respect my parents & take care of them in their old age. I am taught that i shd fast during the month of Ramadan so that i may understand what hunger feels like and what those who cannot afford food go fhrough. I am taught to give charity to the poor, visit the sick and help my neighbors in need. I think some of u should open your hearts & minds & learn about Islam before you say anything.
they know all that,but they do not care,christians are bred to hate and are rotten by nature.christians teach their kids that they are better than others by birth,like hitlerjugend was taught in nazi germany.nazis were christians,too,by the way.but they do not like anyone analizing them,nor telling them the truth.that is why they have all this goebelsian propaganda and bark at cnn as soon as there is something that falls out of their kkk agenda.
@Crescentgirl - Well, no.
Sure, you can dismiss those who disagree with you as ignorant....Does that also apply to appostates? Former Muslims who have a good understanding of Islam, but have rejected it?
People reject Islam out of knowledge of what Islam is, and the evil it causes in the world.
@bethe123, no one is more evil than peoples hate mongers like you.
@Raja - Well, if that is the best argument you have, I am a hate monger - then every time I disagree with somebody, I can just label them a hate monger and be done with it....
It is almost Apil 15...So how about this: me to IRS: "IRS, you are a hate monger, I don't want to pay taxes."
Kind of silly...Labels do not speak to the issues that are being discussed. They are an advertisement that you don't have intelligent things to add to the discussion.
As an atheist, I am deeply skeptical of Islam. It embodies everything I despise about religion and, in a number of cases, takes it to a more severe level that Christianity.
This includes (i) a strict requirement that one adhere to certain supernatural beliefs, developed in the 7th Century, with no evidence to support them; (ii) a rejection of science and knowledge, to the extent it conflicts with the aforementioned beliefs; (iii) an engrained prejudice against, and poor treatment of women, gays, those of other faiths and others deemed "immoral" or "unworthy; (iv) a strict social code against questioning any of the foregoing, up to and including violence and, in extreme cases, death; (v) a political and economic elite that use the faith to retain the social structure that keeps them in power; and (vi) worst of all, a general, collective "dumbing down" of the populace by a collective insecurity that snuffs out and stultifies intellectual, scientific and artistic innovation and advancement..
All of the above also apply to Christianity, but Islam takes them to a new and much more visible level. There is a reason that virtually every Islamic nation in the World ranks toward the bottom in terms of economic development, political freedom, and official corruption.
the conflict is not religous,though it might look sometimes that way,but political.muslims are trying to keep americans and "allies" from stealing natural wealth from muslim lands.
>> There is a reason that virtually every Islamic nation in the World ranks toward the bottom in terms of economic development, political freedom, and official corruption. <<
and also ranks at the bottom of the AIDS index and in manufacturing of weapons of mass destruction. These nations do rank at the very top in one thing though. Import of Weapons (and military aid) from non-Muslim nations!
Jackie: You must be an ignorant red neck. The Muslim civilization let the world for over a 1000 years..that's when your WT ancestry lived in the dark ages.. I am happy you are continuing the trend.
People like you are those who give this country a bad name.
And then squandered it. Writing was developed in Iraq, now about 40% of adults can't write. Algebra was invented in Arabia, now the Arab World lags badly in basic math. It lead in astronomy, but now creation science is taught regularlt in school. If I were muslim, I would not be proud of the lead we had 1000 years ago, I would want to know how we lost our way and how we can recover it.
"[N]o man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."
Land of the free? What a joke. All of the negative posters should be ashamed.
CNN has officially turned into the Muslim News Network. Seriously, how many top stories do you need to publish about people converting to Islam? It's almost a daily thing! I am so sick of reading about Muslims, Islam, and all the coverage you give to people who follow this religion. Do you guys not realize the vast majority of the oppression and violence of the world happens in places where Islam is the dominant or mostly dominant religion?
as a good christian,you think you are the only reader
Where were you when they were publishing anti-muslim and Islamic news ... Why you (racist) always want to hear bad news about muslims and Islam.
Luckily all those nations have natural resources like oil, gold, gas, etc. etc. And its the rich businessmen behind all this. RESEARCH it and you will find the truth.
All the daily stories?? This is the first one I've read about someone converting. Stop the inbred xenophobe routine and accept that America is becoming more "brown" so your racist comfort zone is about to be destroyed. I note the username uses "yobs" to make fun of how Mexicans might say "jobs". Take your burning cross, your sheet and go home. Better yet, hang yourself with it.
O'Brien should be a model. She looks fantastic but is entirely unqualified to be a reporter. A good reporter must understand the concept of "skepticism", and not accept as pure truth everything that somebody says just because you happen to favor their perspective. Did anybody see her fawning coverage of Jackson? The woman is such a mindless promoter that she gushed over him even as his words manifested his unremitting and unapologetic condescension towards her.
Monthly Jihad Report
February, 2011 Jihad Attacks: 134
Dead Bodies: 565
Critically Injured: 1058
Something is burning ... Check your A$$ please....
This raja guy is on the ball! Check out all his burns! He's debunking the myth that islam is crazier than giving special ed kids a flamethrower by saying people are racist over and over. That'll shut em up! Jesus h, go back to your own country and get blown up.
No one need to get blown up (and kill innocent muslims inside mosques), but all these positive things are good enough for racists like you to die by hatred. So I hope there'll be more positive news about Islam on CNN and other western media soon, and more disappointment for peoples like you who always seeking for negative news about Islam and Muslims.
Monthly Oil Report
February, 2011 Oil Tankers: 134
Religions: 1 (christianity – gluttonous sect)
Dead Bodies due to Ensuing Oil Wars: 5650
Critically Injured: 10580
Endless stories about their religious faith.
We're sick of our own, stop trying to convert the country lol
Also, that story about the "Hero" suicide bomber in Libya. What the hell is wrong with CNN??
Because CNN is not racist like you...
@Raja - How convenient it must be to label those who do not like Islam as racist.
Islam is not a race, it is a religion.
How about Jewish faith, if you don't like it, wouldn't you be called a anti-semantic, even jailed for 5 to 10 years in may European countries. It doesn't mean if you don't like it you should start opening your mouth against it and heart 16 billion peoples feeling.
@Raja...I am not Jewish. Still, my admittedly non-Jewish understanding is that Judaism is the religion, and and it is also a race.
That is why, in Nazi Germany, you could find yourself in a concentration camp if you were an atheist but had Jewish ancestry.
When I say Islam, I only mean the ideas of the religion. I could care less if they are green, purple, or brown, or white.
So, to call me racists for not liking Islam is not correct. Yes, there can be people like that, but it is not accurate to label everybody so.
Just go watch some of these videos and you will realize that islam is the religion of the devil. BTW, the devil LOSES in the end you know. Who cares what a 'rapper' thinks anyway? He doesn't even have a real job. Spotlight what PhDs and God-fearing family men think, not what a loser thinks. Stop posting 'articles' about people who are not functioning members of our great society and American communities. We don't care about losers. http://www.youtube.com/user/Revelation5v13#p/f/3/GvlFm4AwAqI
@ Sili – "I hope you realize Christians, Muslims and Jews all share the same God, and in Arabic God is translated into Allah. I'm an Arab Chrustuan and we use the term Allah in church. Si when you say F Allah, understand what that means and who your targeting."
You are completely wrong about the three religions sharing the same God. Christians believe in Jesus Christ as God...Muslims deny Jesus as God. They say he is a great prophet, but what great prophet or person claims to be God? Jesus claimed to be God. Jews deny Jesus as God too. Ask any Jew, " Do you believe Jesus to be the Messiah?" they will say no.
As an Arab Christian you need to know your doctrine better....and I do mean that with love.
probally the most smartest and realest thing someone has yet said on here.
Christians don't think Jesus is God, they believe Jesus is the son of God. Jews and Muslims dont believe that but they all believe in a single God , monothism is what its called.. In fact, all of the old testament stuff is believed by all 3 religions (Abraham, Moses, etc). You really don't know anything about the religions..
Trying to balance religion and hip-hop...because you've got to have an even balance of the most worthless things human culture has ever produced.
Hip hops worthless? well your an ignoramus. I agree that islam offers nothing beneficial to the world though.
your parents have produced the most worthless thing in the world
Anyone who states that Islam is worthless must apply it to ALL religions, even Christianity. As for hip hop, I guess it's not as cool as redneck, banjo-twanging country, or screaming at the top of your lungs metal, huh?? Coincidence that Islam and hip hop have origins in "brown" people (as does rock, btw)? Probably not.
Sure hip-hop is worthless??? that's why it's been around for 30 years and has hand profound influence on our society. Sure some of it is positive and some is negative. When a rapper talks about urban life and violence, hip-hop haters consider them worthless. When they talk about religion and positive growth, the same haters consider them worthless. Maybe these rappers are not worthless, maybe your just ignorant and closed0minded.
@Jackie Treehorn is correct – rap's worthless.
What happened to CNN are you trying to convert the US to Moslem's or what?? think US!!
Muslims are also a major part of our society ... so please shut-up ... WELL DONE CNN, KEEP IT UP.
when did CNN asked you to convert??? Is your faith so weak to be converted!!!
No they are making up for Obama and his war on the middle east
I am equally curious to the CNN agenda,
We cannot ignore the fact that Muslims are causing problems throughout the world and are having a negative impact upon the advanced democracies of west.
Yes you are right War on Iraq (on the name of WMD), killing of innocent Palestinians (and American usage of Veto for almost 30, never for anyone else but Israel). Massacre of Bosnian muslims, occupation of Palestine, Chechnya, Daghistan, Kashmir, muslim province in Philippine, China and so on ....
You Sucks .... racist fool.
Donot stereotype ISLAM with terrorism. The pastor who burned Quran is a christian, the number of ppl killed by so-called muslim terrorists is 1000 times less than the number of ppl killed by the anti-terrorist missions. They is trying to prove that more than 2 billion population of this world is terrorist. Come'on guys when would you understand that its not RELIGION or ISLAM, its the black gold behind all this. Research!!!!