One of the Christmas gifts I was given was a book about Prince, who I’ve been a fan of since hearing Kiss. The book is a great read if you are a fan, though the level of obsession author Matt Thorne displays feels both laudable and slightly worryingly creepy in equal measure.
Reading the book I found myself learning new stuff, recognising things I’d forgotten, but also furiously agreeing and disagreeing with Thorne’s (blatantly biased and fanboy – but that’s OK ‘cos who else would have written that book other than a fan?) analysis on different elements.
And that got me to thinking. If it’s possible to hold such wildly different and yet similar opinions about Prince, the same must be true of most subjects, especially religion. Which got me to thinking how right now, being a Prince fan is not a dissimilar experience from being a Muslim. Honest. Here’s why:
- It’s not fashionable to be a Prince fan right now. Tell somebody you were just listening to Prince and they’ll scrunch their face up like they just sucked on a lemon, as if to say “Really? You still listen to Prince?” You get the same type of reaction when you tell people you are Muslim, the scrunching of the face, “Really, you are still a Muslim?”
- Everybody has an opinion about Prince. Even if all they’ve heard is Purple Rain, Sexy MF, and Kiss. People seem to have a strong opinion either way on Prince’s music, without the context of the huge body of work – often contradictory – he has produced. Likewise with Islam. People fixate on certain things, lets say, 9/11, mosque minarets and burkas, with little context of the huge body of – often contradictory – ‘Islamic jurisprudence’ and the examples of non-terrorist blouse-and-skirt wearing Muslims living just down the street.
- Prince can be misinterpreted. The common mythology around Prince is that he’s a sex obsessed mysoginist, but when you actually listen to his lyrics, (Sexy MF, Kiss, If I Was You’re Girlfriend, When Doves Cry) he’s revealed as a man who fears rejection, who wants his female companions to be his equal, and who is very spiritual in his outlook. Similarly, people can misinterpret Islam, hearing snippets of it here and there – not just from known critics with their own agenda, but also from Muslims who have in their turn made their own interpretations that perhaps don’t accord with how your average Muslim on the street would see it.
So there you have it. Being a fan of Prince presents much the same problems as being a Muslim. I guess it’s a personal artistic or theological issue as to how much you care about those problems, to take note of the apprehension of others, and to allow it to inform your opinion.
In the end I suppose we all have to reach our understanding and judgements on based upon our own (artistic and theological) perspectives. But next time you see hook-wielding self-proclaimed hard-line Muslim theologians on TV bent upon applying their own particular version of Sharia ‘law’, just think of Prince andremember that there is another side to the debate.