INTERVIEW WITH NAJ.ONE
INTERVIEW WITH NAJ.ONE
Destroy Babylon is the latest record that has just been released by the artist formerly known as Foek. Foek has recently changed his artist's name to Naj.one after his Islamic name Harun Najwan al-Askari.
Brother Naj.one's music can be best described as hip-hop that has got a sharp political-spiritual edge combined with a militant undertone, but without losing touch with reality. The lyrics cover various subjects ranging from more personal issues such as the struggle he fought with drug addiction, the battle he is still fighting with HIV to the necessity for global revolution and social change.
When I listened to Destroy Babylon for the first time I already had high expectations about this inspiring brother's album. But to be honest; I was not prepared to be blown away like this. Destroy Babylon is not some feeble attempt of a disillusioned white kid aiming at becoming the next Eminem. This is REAL hip-hop and Naj.one is good at what he does, combining his funny and kick-ass rhymes with groovy beats that force you to wake up to the reality that is going outside of your living room. Check out his new website www.najone.com for more information & buy this album. I can guarantee you that you will not be disappointed...
1. As salaam alaykum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh, brother Haroon. Please introduce yourself and give us a little insight about your person and your daily life.
-Wa laikum asalam, I am Haroon Najwan Askari a.k.a. Najone. I am a Shia Muslim from the United Snakes of Amerikkka. I am married with a child on the way. My daily life consists of work, salat (1), meditation, kung-fu and weight training. My goal in life is to destroy Babylon, worship Allah, be a good father, eat fruit and walk the planet.
2.What made you become a Muslim, and how did your friends and family react to this?
- I have been noticing that the world is coming to an end for a long time. I have been looking for an answer why the world is so messed up. It seems like no matter what you do the world gets worse and I wanted a logical explanation for this. It one day dawned on me that men have the technology to make the world sustainable and stop messing it up, so it had to be an outside influence. I realized that revelations were coming true and that the devil was winning. The disease of the world was a spiritual one. We seem to be the only biological creature on this planet capable of messing it up, every decision we make affects everything around us. I would not accept that I was the cancer of this planet. I started going back to church looking for answers but I could not believe that Isa al-Masih (Jesus) (as) was god. I also had a hard time with Christians telling me that it is o.k. to abuse animals because they were put here for us by god. So I stopped going to church and I said a prayer to Allah asking for a straight path. One day I was at a tattoo shop talking to a friend and he turned me on to this web site www.Taliyah.org. It is an Islamic based web site. I started reading the vanguard and I was amazed. Everything I believed about white privilege, racism, animal abuse, environmental problems was on there. I started talking on the forums with one of the moderators asking questions. At first some of it was hard to swallow and I still have a hard time with some aspects of Islam, but it seemed to be the movement I was waiting for my whole life, it is almost like I was born to be part of the Taliyah al-Mahdi. So I soon took shahada (2) and started my path of perfection lessons. My family is fine with it; I don't know how my father feels because we don't talk. Most my friends are cool with it, but a lot of people don't like the fact I am Muslim.
3. How do you understand "Islam" and how can it be seen through the eyes of revolutionary, political and activist minded people?
- That is a hard question, I understand Islam as the foundation of all spiritual beliefs. I was a Christian, a Taoist, a Buddhist and into all kinds of spiritual paths before Islam. Islam seems to be the end of the road for my spiritual search and the beginning of the path for my spiritual perfection. Islam is a revolutionary religion for those who are truly ready to destroy the Babylon of the world and the Babylon of the mind. Politically minded people seem to overthrow governments and create new oppressive governments. We have seen this repeated through out history. I believe Islam to be a government created through divine guidance. True Islam will never be oppressive, so most of these Muslim countries will have to be overthrown as well. I was basically an anarchist before I came into Islam. I realized that human beings doing whatever they want and living like animals is what created the situation the world is in today. People want to overthrow governments but want to keep the privilege that the oppressive government provides for them. A lot of activists also want to live unhealthy lifestyles which cause disruption in the community such as drinking and promiscuous sex. Until people destroy the Babylon of the mind they will never destroy the Babylon oppressing the masses.
4. What changed in your life since you are Muslim?
-Everything changes when we start to battle the Babylon of the mind. My whole perspective of god mostly. In the west people look at god as a white guy in the sky throwing lightning bolts. I do not look at god that way, I see god everywhere I look. We are all pieces of Allah and eventually will learn how to love like god loves us. That will be the result of revolution. My goal in revolution will be peace and love, I know it sounds like some hippy crap but that is what the love of Islam has done to me. Our goal should be to put down our guns, I know that we are far away from that day but that is my true goal. The war must only be fought after the ego is destroyed and we learn how to love. Islam has taught me to be guided by the truth and not anger.
5. How do you apply Islam in your daily life?
- Make salat (1), I read the Quran often. I also started telling people about Islam doing da`wa (3). I do not have a lot of the habits I used to have because of Islam and I treat women with a lot more respect. I study Islam daily and I am soon going to start learning Arabic.
6.Why did you specifically choose this spiritual path? Why not become Christian, Buddhist or a follower of Judaism, for example?
- I have tried all those other religions and philosophies accept Judaism. I know now that there is only one religion for me and that is the Islam. There is no religion but submission to Allah (swt) and that is what Muslim means, one who submits to Allah. There is no Islam for me but the Taliyah al-Mahdi.
7. Which revolutionary groups have inspired you the most in word and action? And are there any groups you are active in yourself?
- Move! Long live John Africa, they are the first group to say revolution starts from doing the right thing. They are also one of the first groups to recognize the exploitation of animals and the planet. I am also very inspired by Malcolm X. Che Guevara is tight because he really believed in what he was fighting for and tried to unite Africa and South America. Yo, there are so many people and groups. I am a member of the Taliyah al-Mahdi, and I am not very active. I am just a wannabe new jack; I do not consider myself very revolutionary.
8.What suggestions would you like to make to fellow revolutionaries, or people that are interested in spirituality and becoming active in revolutionary movements?
- Like I said, I do not consider myself revolutionary, I will say that revolution starts with yourself; you must fight the inner jihad before you fight the outer jihad. I am still learning and training and if I did do something I would not talk about it. If you do direct action keep your mouth shut!
9. You are active in an Islamic group called Taliyah Al-Mahdi. Could you tell our readers what Taliyah exactly is!
- Taliyah is an Islamic organization that is training for the rise of the Mahdi (4) (as). We encourage veganism, anti-racism and we are against Arab / Persian cultural imperialism that people mistake for Islam. We respect the oneness of all life and do our best to fight against oppression in all forms. There is way too much to explain if you would like to know more please contact www.Taliyah.org
10. How do you see the Wahabi /Salafi-cult (5) which gave Islam a bad name worldwide?
- The only problem I have with Wahhabis is how they treat women and that they kill Shias. Other than that I really don't have any problems with them. I also respect the fact that they are against taqleed (13) they are also against the use of logic in Islam. There also seems to be a racism problem with a lot of these types of Muslims but that is also a problem amongst Shias as well. I do not want to speak bad about other Muslims and I also have limited knowledge of Wahhabis. I don't know if I would call them a cult because plenty of people call Taliyah occult/a cult???? and I don't like that very much. Remember the words of the prophet Jesus (pbuh) "before you remove the speck from your brother's eye, make sure to remove the mountain from your own eye". I feel I have a lot of inner jihad to fight and house cleaning to do before I go around saying things about other Muslims, but I don't believe in Salafi fiqh(6) in general and currently practice Shia (7) Islam.
11. Do you face more repression from the state since they know that you are Muslim and /or active in Taliyah? Have you seen Muslims in the U$A treaded like second class citizens since 9/11?
-Yes and no, I don't expect anything but to be killed or locked up by this shaytanic (8) system. I did however bring the suppression of this system upon myself unlike rappers like Dead Prez, Paris or Immortal Technique who were born into suppression because of there race. I do however feel that it is too late to turn back and try and conform into this shaytanic white system we call Amerikkka. For me to say that I am oppressed is another story, I could never say that I am oppressed. My people oppress the rest of the world and it was my own choice to start speaking out against this shaytanic system. Muslims are constantly discriminated against in some parts of the country, but I am still a white Amerikkkan and appear that way to most of these brainwashed zombies. I have never been discriminated from work because of religion or race. The only discrimination I face is because of my felonies when it comes to work. I do have tattoos all over my body and that separates me from a lot of people especially Muslims. Sometimes I feel Muslims are the most discriminatory, racist people I have ever seen but there are a lot of straight up Islamic freedom fighters. As far as any discrimination I get I brought it upon myself and I also consider it an honour to be outcast from this white privileged shaytanic system, and I hope to die outcast. To sum it all up I am a certified race traitor.
12. I heard you are vegan, drug free, and that you follow the Hardline. What place does this have in your life, and how do you relate this to Islam?
-They are all part of submission to Allah, as far as I know Hardline is the Taliyah I could be wrong, but our mission is to fight oppression. We do not pick are battles they were picked for us. So drug free and veganism are all part of submission to Allah. I do not think there is such thing as halaal (lawful in accordance to Allah) anymore.
13. Do you believe in the concept of a vegan revolution, or do you see this as a flawed cause?
- Yes and no, veganism is a big part of revolution. If vegan people do not go vegan we will not have any drinking water or rainforest left in twenty years. I fully support ALF and ELF actions. I however do not think that people are good people just because they are vegan, or that veganism is going to stop oppression as a whole. Veganism is not going to make reparations for slavery, or stop systematic racism. Veganism will not stop people from watching pornography and exploiting women. Veganism will not stop drug abuse, and corrupt governments. Unless you are doing direct action veganism is a diet. I respect people more when they eat meat sometimes and burn down mink farms than kids who think they are saving the world by eating tofu. I support veganism and I will promote it 'til I die or sell-out, hopefully I will die first! However people that have other things to worry about other then veganism because they are fighting wars or they are just broke, I ain't mad at ya...
14. Which writers and artists influenced you as an individual?
- Damn were do I begin Eldridge Cleaver, Huey P. Newton, Howard Zinn, Zach De La Rocha, Nas, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Noam Chomski, Immortal Technique, Earth Crisis, Isa Adam Naziri, Vegan Jihad, Saul Williams, Chuck D, Tu-Pac, Dead Prez, Killa Priest, Marcus Garvey, John Africa, Franz Fanon, Che Guevara, Russel Simmons, Eminem, Jay-Z, Common Sense, Mujahideen Team, Shahid Mustafa, Amir Sulaiman, Emcee Search, KRS1, Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Jesus Christ (as), Confucius, Erica Badu, Askari X, Imam Jamil Amil, Bawa Muhayideen, Russel Means, Rob Coronado, Mustafa Talib, Talib Kwelli, Mos Def, Ramona Africa, Rass Kass, Sabac Red, Ill Bill, Mumia Abu-Jamal. Yo, I could go on for days.
15. What is the biggest problem humanity is facing right now according to you?
- The disease is a spiritual one, and single issue causes are not the answer. The disease is spiritual and submission to Allah is the only cure.
16. What is your main intention as a rapper and artist?
- I want to raise awareness, I used to be a homeless junkie on the street and now I am a Muslim. Al-Hamdulillah, I want the world to know. I want white Amerikka to hear what we are doing to the world from one of there own people, I want reparations for slavery to be paid, I am sick of reflecting uncle Sam's racism and I want him to know it. Reparations are going to have to be taken. I can not fight for or know the struggle of black America but want to support their battles. I want people to look at what we are doing to the world, I want chaos, I want to destroy Babylon!
17. Was it easy for you to get roots into the hip-hop scene?
- Yes, because hip-hop is my background. I got into hardcore through hip-hop. I was always going to house parties and open mics and talking about vegetarianism and staying sober. Not to many kids were into it, so I met some straight edge vegan kids and we started to exchange ideas. I soon got into veganism through the hardcore scene. I liked the hardcore kids because they were actually politically aware of things, but my heart has always been into hip-hop. I grew up on N.W.A , Tu-Pac and all kinds of other west coast rap. I listened to hip hop for most of my life except for a few years I was heavy into drugs. Those years I was more into hippie music but I always came back around to hip-hop. I used to break dance in school and experimented in graffiti. I was always lousy at graffiti. When I first got back into hip-hop I was really wanting to get tables and be a deejay. I could never afford tables so I started freestyling over beats just to participate. Soon I would go to battles and then next thing you know being an emcee is all I cared about. So no it was not hard.
18. You have hardcore and hip-hop backgrounds. Which subculture do you feel more familiar with and why?
- Hip-hop is my background; I feel more comfortable with hip-hop. People in hardcore are cool and I love how underground hardcore is, except all this sucky fashion music. Hip-hop is just more universal and a lot of hardcore kids have racism problems. I do however feel that if Earth Crisis was a hip-hop group that the message would have been carried further, that is kind of my goal to be like the Earth Crisis of hip-hop. The thing is, none of the ideas in hardcore are new. Veganism and remaining drug-free existed in the seventies. The first people to protest against zoos and really speak out against animal exploitation was MOVE, but they were all killed and imprisoned for their beliefs. Black people have been getting killed for the same thing Earth Crisis was saying for twenty years before the vegan straight edge movement blew up in 1996. I feel that hardcore kids need to recognize were these ideas came from. Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were some of the first to speak out against some of these issues, but a lot of hardcore kids seem to be really close minded to reggae music. Hip-hop however is becoming ridiculous, I am really happy that after 400 years Africans are starting to really make something of themselves and stand on their feet thought this music, but some of these new songs are ridiculous. The industry is playing black Amerikkka right now, and I really get sad when I hear some of these meaningless hip-hop songs that exploit women. I used to do it so I am not judging and I love to bump some Jay-Z and I look up to his intelligence. I just wish there were more people speaking out against the issues that matter. However, I am a guest in this culture and my opinion is of no relevance, we don't need any more white boys trying to tell Africans what they should be speaking about, but I know what I like. Even thought they are hard for me to listen to because of there anger towards me, I love to hear Dead Prez because they are the realest hip-hop group out. My job as a white kid in hip-hop and hardcore is to educate my people, I just moved to Salt Lake City from West Philadelphia and the education needs to be raised here in white Amerikkka the most. I have a couple hardcore kids who are trying to arrange for a Malcolm X festival on May, 20th. I am also trying to raise money for the Uhuru movement with some shows I am planning in the future and I am doing this with hip-hop and hardcore. So both scenes are good, it is not the music people listen to, it is what people are willing to do to change the world around them.
19. The "Destroy Babylon" CD is finally released now. How were the first reactions to this masterpiece of Hip-Hop?
- Thank you for calling it a master piece. I feel I am far from that statement though; I have good reactions from a lot of people. Some people are not feeling the things I am talking about, but I do not care. The destroy Babylon record was not an attempt to become popular; it was a warning mostly to white Amerikkka. Destroy Babylon is how I feel and I stick to the words, I do wish that I had more slow and emotional beats to rock. It was paid for out of my peoples pockets and we did not have much money to work with. I just hope that people can feel the truth in my words and change the world around them when they hear this record.
20. Were there also some boycott actions against you because of your "militant" views? How do people act when you are speaking on stage about Islam and politics?
- No, some of the anarchist types do not like my religious aspects but still show respect. I do argue with a lot of people about white privilege and reparations. That has been an ongoing debate since I started rapping, most white kids do not agree with me and don't feel a lot of my lyrics but that is about it.
21. You made a song together with a vegan straight edge band called "Cherem". How did this happen?
- I used to go watch Cherem play a lot, one day I asked them to do one more song. They said they would if I played it with them. So I got up on stage and freestyled while they played, it was more of a joke. People seemed to dig it so I started showing up to there practice. I really wanted to do something different on this record so we wrote a song to close the record with. Cherem are good kids they don't really dig my religious views but they are a cool hardcore band, there need to be more hardcore bands like them.
22. Which issues will be dealt in your next records?
- Right now I am really debating whether or not I want to rap anymore or put out anymore records. I am really into the spoken word scene and I like doing poetry with no beats. If I do put out another record it will be dealing with less vegan issues and more issues about human exploitation. I would really like to do something for all the brothers in prison. My next record will just be what it is, but I don't know if I am going to keep on rapping because I can't afford to put out records by myself. If I can get help from a label then cool, so we will just have to see what happens.
23.What is your opinion on modern pop- as well as hip hop culture?
- A lot of it is silly, but I am a guest in there household. I am a white kid in a black culture so I want to show my respect. So I will keep my opinions to myself. Accept I am sick of all you white kids saying the n-word and wearing doorags, stop it you are making us all look like clowns!
24. Your opinion about the whole Palestine /Zionist thing?
- I am pro Palestine, however a lot of Arabs are treated better in Israel then they are in Muslim countries. I feel that Saudi Arabia being against Israel is hypocritical because when Israel makes money, United States makes money and when United States makes money, Saudi Arabia makes money. All these Muslim countries sold Palestine out and if the Arab world really did not want Zionists in Israel they could have had that war over 20 years ago. What Israel is doing to Palestinians in the West Bank sucks but what happens to Shia Muslims in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia sucks too. What happens to a lot of women in Pakistan sucks, and through out many Muslim countries. Muslims are ran by oppressive dictators and can't seem to come together like the state of Israel has, so we have a lot to learn from Israel. I am also sick of racism against our Hebrew cousins in Islam, not all Hebrews are Zionists and this Anti-Semitism in Islam needs to stop. I support Judaism but I do not support Israel, just like I support Islam but I do not support Saudi Arabia!
25. How do you see the war in Iraq?
- It sucks, and I pray it can be over soon. I wish that there was more resistance from the Shia community, and we were not depending upon elections to gain power. It sucks that a lot of Shias are depending upon Amerikkkans for liberation and not other Muslims but that goes back to Muslims not being able to function without oppressive dictators. My prayers go out to all the Muslims who have been killed. I don't understand how Sunni (9) fundamentalist could suicide bomb a Shia wedding on an Islamic holy day celebrating the closing of hajj(10). It is haraam (11) to fight during this month, so I feel some of these so called terrorist groups are funded by the CIA to create disturbance. It gives Amerikkka a reason to be there. I pray that these Hanbali (9) Sunni types can find love in there heart and Muslims can unite and stop killing each other. May Allah bless the ummah (12) with unity and peace, this Sunni Shia beef is what gets me heading more towards Sufism but in my heart I love the family of the prophet. Shia / Sunni fighting is ridiculous and I hope it stops. Muslims are supposed to be on the forefront of justice and not be killing each other.
26. Final words!
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