An Interview with Deeyah

In Per Contra, an interview with the musician/songwriter Deeyah.


[PC] You’ve stated that some people have called you a Hindu. In your opinion, why is it important for these critics to label you as other than your ethnic and religious identity?

It is a simple tactic of distraction. They think by using a smokescreen of deception they don’t have to deal the real issues at hand. I think it’s much easier to attempt insult or launch accusations rather than addressing what I’m saying. It’s a difficult thing for anyone to examine themselves and admit to the negative aspects of their own community. However, for people to pretend like nothing is going on and attempting to discredit anyone that speaks about any of the problems within our community is, in my opinion, only highlighting the fact that they are actually a part of the problem. My birth name is Deepika which is considered a traditional Hindu name. I was given this name as a sign of respect and gratitude to an elder Indian Hindu woman who nursed and took care of my Muslim mother while she was pregnant with me. To suggest that one has to have an Arabic or Persian name in order to qualify as a Muslim is quite ridiculous and ignorant. My mother, father and their ancestors are all Sunni Muslims. It is much easier to dismiss me and what I am saying by stripping me of my heritage in the hopes that either people will not pay any attention to what I’m saying or that I will get scared or disheartened by the treatment of these critics to where I will hopefully shut up. It’s all an attempt to silence and intimidate anyone that says anything they’re not supposed to say…

[PC] Why is it important to you to make it plain to the world that you are speaking as a Muslim woman?

Because it has become so important to some Muslim leaders and extremists to discredit me as a Muslim, I have had to justify my existence as a “Muslim artist”. I have now inadvertently become a sort of spokeswoman for a younger generation western-born Muslim women. I never really set out to do this. My heritage is something I’ve always been proud of but never forced onto people. Despite this I have never really been allowed to just be an artist and to get on with just music. My background has always become an issue (and a negative one at that) within the community.