My brother in Islam?
"You wrote a long article on Jackson but no mention of his being our brother in Islam.Are you denying it?Are you not wanting to understand Islam when people are coming to it?What use analyzing when he is gone to Allah." The tone of the note was deadpan.
Today, a friend sent me a message asking if he would be buried. When I chided him in response, he retorted, "Aap kafir?" (Are you an infidel?)
I'd say my friend was merely curious and it was banter. But, what about that note? Why is his conversion of any consequence in death? If he did convert due to his convictions, then his belief was valid when he was alive. Allah would have mattered to him if he felt the need when he was here. There is absolutely no reason for people to make claims on him only because he chose a certain faith. Let us not forget that in some societies where this faith is followed as a political credo music, even if it is played in devout ecstacy, is considered blasphemous. These double standards do not do much for religion or for music.
The other query not posed to me but insinuated about the media is that everyone was jumping in to have their say. Are we mere voyeurs? I have blamed the media often and some of the stuff being churned out is silly, like Indian newspapers discussing about the political ramifications of his Mumbai concert in 1996. Or putting up tasteless old jokes. However, there have been some interesting opinions and as I was telling someone for me understanding pop culture is about exploring social mores.
I got another interesting letter where the person contradicted me saying that women did swoon over him. My response is that unlike Elvis, the Beatles, Sinatra in his prime or even Mick Jagger, Jackson outside the stage arena did not have that effect. And it was a good thing, as good as his rejection of American pie-ism.
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My mother introduced me to Michael Jackson. One day when I returned home late, I could hear sounds from the telly. It wasn’t sounds I was accustomed to. Sounds of a weepy woman in a soap, sounds of some wonderful old Hindi movie song, sounds of the phone ringing, sounds of waiting…my mother was waiting. I rang the doorbell and walked into the room. The TV was on and a man was singing even as he moved.
I knew it was Michael Jackson, but I did not know my mother would be watching him, listening to him. English was not the primary language of communication at home. Our music was Indian semi classical, old Hindi film songs, some folk, some Sufi.
Yet, Ammi often switched on MTV. When I asked her why, she said it was a relief from all the same news, news about deaths, about destruction or telly serials where everyone was either dying or living deaths. She enjoyed what this guy did. So I grabbed my dinner plate and started watching him. Transfixed.
I did not know his religion but I could see he worshipped music.