Posted by: Andrew | April 21, 2014

Happy Muslims and Happy Clappy Christians

In the last week a video has been posted on youtube called Happy British Muslims and features a number of Muslims in the UK dancing and miming along to the Pharrell song ‘Happy’. I have to confess that when I watched it it made me smile, a number of folk I know feature in the video and it certainly left me (a Christian) feeling happy. Judging by the overall comments on social media and youtube it made an awful lot of Muslims also feel happy. There was a feeling that it challenged stereotypes and presented British Muslims in a new and positive light. However, inevitably, the video also brought questions, challenges, criticism and even hostility. Some Muslims called it haram (forbidden) due to the use of music and / or dancing (there was even an edited version – not done by the original producers- which claimed to be a halal (allowed) version by removing all the women from the video), others were concerned that this was not the best way to show that Muslims were happy arguing that going to prayers at a mosque or reading the Qur’an would be preferable. For others they felt it trivialised the difficulties that many Muslims in the UK were facing and many Muslims due to poverty, prejudice or other issues were not feeling happy.

So, if this is a video about Muslims and is causing a debate within Islam why have I called this post Happy Muslims and Happy Clappy Christians? Because the debate that this has sparked feels very familiar to those of us old enough to remember debates about Christian worship music in the 70’s and 80’s? Hard as it might seem to believe now but there were seriously angry debates and discussions about what Christian worship could / should be like. This included questions like ‘Can you use guitars or drums in church?’ Are chorus’s really Christian music? or even should Christians listen to pop music. These can seem ridiculous now but they were very live issues back then. Of course back then we didn’t have the internet (or home computers!) so the debates were less public but were no less passionate for that. In both the Christian debates then and the Muslim debates now one of the questions raised is that’s a slippery slope embrace this bit of ‘secular’ culture now and who knows where this will end up. I’m sure there are some who think because we let guitars in then that’s why the church is in the state it’s in. That would be ridiculous the use of cultural influences drawn from outside a narrow Christian historical culture have enhanced worship and enabled many to be drawn closer into the faith.

One Muslim commentator who liked the  ‘Happy British Muslims’ video said the important thing was to keep asking whether this was right and that seems to me the sensible response for any community. Look outward, see the positive elsewhere, embrace new ideas but keep asking whether they are good influences and  positive changes. But overall whatever we decide let’s Be Happy.

 

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