Raza Islámica: Prisons, Hip Hop & Converting Converts

By SpearIt
Berkeley La Raza Law Journal,
Vol. 22, No. 1, 2012
February 11, 2013

The interface of prisons, hip hop music, and Islam is a complicated subject. At close examination, however, patterns begin to emerge. Among the most prevalent is how scores of African-Americans, as well as increasing numbers of Latinos, arrive at mainstream Islam.

The journey is a familiar script: it begins with a marginal, often racialist understanding of “Islam” that transforms into a universal, colorblind conception, as exemplified in the lives of many high-profile Muslims, perhaps most symbolically, Malcolm X.

This colorblind vision of the world is where the Raza Islamica is born, a world where Islam is the key ingredient of identity-nothing matters more than the shared belief in Allah and his prophet Muhammad-not even the color of one’s skin.

This Article theorizes this “double conversion,” whereby converts abandon the marginal for the mainstream, but they never abandon Islam. The criminal justice system is a major player in this process, a unique space that plays home to tens of thousands of conversions a year.

In turn, Islam has impacted the criminal justice system by helping to lower recidivism rates and drug and alcohol addiction, ultimately resulting in a system of rehabilitation that may be more successful than officially sanctioned prison programs.


© Berkeley La Raza Law Journal.
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