This beautiful song inspired by the traditional Muslim greeting is by new member Daria.
Assalam Aleykum/Peace Be Upon You
The idea for the song “Assalam Aleykum” began in 2006 when I was invited to perform at a language and peace camp in an Arabic village in the Middle East. My 11 year old daughter came along and we spent 3 weeks living, learning and sharing with some truly beautiful families, most of whom were practicing Muslims. And as we went through our daily activities, I loved to hear Muslims greet each other with the traditional phrase: Assalam Aleykum (also written as As-salamu alaykum or As salaamu aleykum) and the response: Wa-Alaikum-as-Salaam, meaning “And Upon You, Peace.” It seemed like a truly meaningful greeting and a powerful statement.
However, during our time there, several of the women shared ugly comments that had been made toward them, simply because they were wearing traditional Muslim garb. They included phrases like: “Do you have an automatic rifle under that burqa?” “You – you give birth and raise terrorists!”. And about a year later; while participating in Islam Awareness Week at Maryland State University, many of the young students shared similar experiences with me. Despite their good works at the college and in the community in general, they had heard a wide variety of hate-speech and one gentle young girl was even spit upon and cursed at when walking from her car to the grocery store.
Although I am not a Muslim, it is clear to me that all world religions are precious to those who practice them and deserve dignity and respect. As the MLK quote goes, we can encourage children to not judge based on appearances such as skin color or traditional clothing but to look deeper into “the content of (other people’s) character.” So that is why I made sure the young woman in the video for “Assalam Aleykum” was dressed in a lovely colors and a beautiful hijab head scarf. I wanted people to see the beauty and kindness I had experienced while among Muslim people.
I truly hope the song can be used to start discussions about Islam, Muslim people, world religions, kindness, tolerance as well as peace, and peace-making in our communities and our world. Although it’s just a tiny song, songs can be seeds and these seeds can grow into bountiful harvest of new attitudes of tolerance and understanding of others who practice different faiths, such as Islam. And don’t we all want dignity, respect and peace?
Assalam Aleykum – May Peace Be Upon Us All!