Berlin Rapper Sahira

Hip-Hop with a Headscarf

Sahira is currently one of Berlin's most successful hip-hop artists. She raps about Islam, the Koran and life in Germany as a Muslim who wears a headscarf. Aygül Cizmecioglu reports

Rapper Sahira (photo: © www.imanimusic.de)
Berlin rapper Sahira rejects the notion that headscarves are a symbol of female oppression

​​"I just don't get why she likes that scarf in her hair," 27-year-old Sahira raps. The Berliner of Palestinian origin has big, doe eyes and is wearing trendy jeans, a shiny top and a hijab, a tight-fitting headscarf. She is one of Berlin's most successful hip-hop artists.

Until a few years ago, Sahira wore her hair uncovered. But Sept. 11 changed all that. She was shocked that Islam was portrayed as a religion of terror and that Muslims as a whole came under suspicion. She started reading the Koran so she could make her own opinion, and she liked what she read. She was attracted to the spirituality and peaceful philosophy of this world religion – aspects which were hardly ever mentioned in the media.

She started to pray five times a day, and, in November 2003 for the first time, she went out in public wearing a headscarf. It was her own decision, as she explains in her lyrics:

"For me it means freedom. It's my head, my hair, it's me. Only my man sees me exactly as I am, (…) coz that's what I want."

Different approaches

Sahira comes from a family of eight. Her parents placed great value on education, insisting that all the children learn perfect German. The family is a good example of different approaches to Islam and to practicing religion as a whole. Some of Sahira's sisters are more religious and wear headscarves, while her mother and other sisters do not. And the fact that Sahira is a single mother is not a cause for shame for the family, but rather a reason to support her.

The singer wishes there were as much tolerance within the whole headscarf debate. It annoys her that in Germany and other parts of western Europe the headscarf is often perceived as a symbol of the oppression of women.

She said it was wrong for people, whether religious or not, to use a political platform to call for all women to remove their headscarves, as German Green party politician Ekin Deligöz recently did.

"I wouldn't want women to be told they had to wear one either. In general, I don't like the idea of such a dictatorship," Sahira said.

Respect for wearing the headscarf

Sahira, who's been making music for a decade, hasn't encountered problems wearing her headscarf in the hip-hop scene. From the start of her career, she has felt that her male colleagues respected her for her music. She wore a headscarf when she recorded a song with successful – and controversial – rap artist Bushido, and it wasn't an issue. On the contrary, she felt that she was handled with respect for having worn it. In the meantime, she can't imagine going out with her hair uncovered.

In contrast to some of her male colleagues in the rap scene, glorification of violence and machismo are strictly taboo in her work. Her lyrics, she talks about what she sees happening around her – the lack of prospects among Germany's youth, conflict between old and young and, above all, the question of roots.

Feeling at home, but not entirely

Berlin is Sahira's home, she says in her songs, but she also sees the problems that immigrants and the children of immigrants – like her – experience.

"Home for me is somewhere where I don't cause offence and I can feel myself as a whole," she said. "I dream in German, I think in German, and among Arabs I also feel pretty German, but there is a difference. It's weird that you can't really settle here completely, that you never see someone like yourself in the media."

That's why Sahira tries to be a role model for young people, whether of immigrant origin or not, and to show that a practicing Muslim can be just as emancipated and self-assured as any other woman.

Aygül Cizmecioglu

© DW-World.de 2006

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