On Our Minds
Islam, Hip Hop, Free Speech and Extremism
The shocking attacks in Paris earlier this month renewed a range of cultural debates about free speech and racial tolerance in France and the rest of the world. It also marked another round of questions about the relationship between hip-hop music and violence.
According to Hisham Aidi—an expert on globalization and social movements—there are currently two central debates around French-Muslim hip hop. The first is whether or not Cherif Kouachi—one of the Charlie Hebdo attackers and an aspiring rapper—was radicalized through hip hop. The second, more complex question is how speech is policed in contemporary France. Many French hip hop artists have openly denounced the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, even though they have been critical of the paper in the past. These artists see the paper as promoting hate speech and hiding behind free speech, while the French government has taken Muslim rappers to court for inciting the public and criticizing the police.