Generating a hub of bubbling unhappiness upon its release, the Happy British Muslims video gained a staggering 1.5 million hits in just one week. The project is the latest in a memetic series of videos emerging globally showing people dancing to Pharrell Williams' hit song Happy.
The Happy British Muslims project delivers what it promises; a video featuring muslims across Britain dancing, bopping and smiling to the infectious tune. Created by an anonymous group called The Honesty Policy, the video was put together from a series of clips recorded independently of one another by various people across Britain.
It stands for assimilation, for unity and a convergence of two contrasting yet perfectly marriagable ideals.
The concept? To dispel the stereotypical view of Muslims as miserable. The result? a veritable cornucopia of laughter and general merriment. Capturing rare footage of British muslims abandoning their permament scowls and furrowed brows, the video shows that British muslims are - and this is the shocker - capable of being happy.But rather unsurprisingly (as is the case for many projects created with good intentions) the video received terrible blacklash from many groups. Upon release of the short film, Sheikhs, scholars and anti-islamists have held congresses, dug out dusty chalkboards and spent hours poring over complicated looking charts and graphs (which I can only imagine contain equations like: √Islam + people2 = happiness? misery) debating whether happiness is indeed an attainable emotion for the average British muslim. There have been several lengthy discussions, articles and hour-long response videos, debating the seemingly anti-islamist value of the harmless video. While others have offered the view that, Islam aside, it is actually divisive, purposefully separating Muslims from the rest of society.
History student and long time reader of Entouraaj Sophia tells us: 'As a British Muslim I just feel that the video is completely forced and it tries too hard. Why do Muslims have to segregate themselves instead of trying to blend in? The song itself is about being happy - which isn't an emotion unique to just Muslims. Why can't Muslims fall under the banner of 'happy people' rather than specifically muslims? It attracts unecessary attention.'
...it should be looked at as way for British muslims to display their willingness to be part of society.
The video is actually socially inclusive and serves to highlight how much muslims have adapted to Western society, argues Creative Director of Aywa, Waqaas Ahmed, who features in the film: 'The purpose of the video is to spread the message of diversity amongst the British Muslim population. It shows British Muslims living in a cosmopolitan society to be seen in a positive light. I chose to be in the video to show that Muslims are articulate. Coming from a fashion background, I wanted to educate people so they know that although we have our faith to adhere to, we also have the freedom to express our identity and individuality and that we are proud to be part of a multicultural nation.'
It is undeniable, however segregating it may seem, that the video was necessary. Judging by the response, something needed to be done to show that muslims are human after all, with a human span of emotion, which of course includes the ability to experience joy. It seems that there is pressure put on the average British muslim to show that they are proud of both their national identity and religious affiliations. In essence, an outlet was needed to show that British muslims are quite simply just that; British and muslim - nothing strange nor sinister, just normal.
Rather than viewing it as divisive, it should be looked at as way for British muslims to display their willingness to be part of society. A necessity for a group for whom, prior to the release of this video suggesting otherwise, had a perceived emotional range of 'misery' spanning all the way to 'anger' with no positivity in between.
...it illustrates that they are capable of being part of British society.
Happy British Muslims participant and founding member of the An-nisa Society Humera Khan tells us: 'What I liked when I saw the end product [of the video] was that it represented an element of British Muslims which people don't necessarily see. You either have two extremes - liberal and radical but there is an emerging muslim community who are much more balanced. My kids are part of a younger generation who have been brought up here and know how to negotiate their islamic values with the non-muslim mainstream culture we're surrounded by. Islamic history has been about going into terrains and assimilating without losing your values. We learn this from the story of the Prophet Muhammed leading his people to Medina - a new place for them. They had to assimilate, and so do we.'
Among the scenes featured in the short film are a diverse group of British Muslims; of all ethnic origins, hijab-clad and free hair, old and young, male and female. All different but with one common thread; they're happy. Each participant is a working example of a perfect syndication of two cultures. It stands for assimilation, for unity and a convergence of two contrasting yet perfectly marriagable ideals. Divisive only in its inclusion of specifically Muslims is a sacrifice it needs to make for the ultimate, most important goal - to show that British Muslims are bright, entertaining, humorous, lively, interesting - a thousand positive things before suppressed, miserable and angry. And of course, it illustrates that they are capable of being part of British society.
It is unfortunate that 'proof' of this needed to be created, but ultimately the Happy British Muslims video project is entirely positive, showing that muslims in Britain are as they title states; comfortable with who they are and most importantly, happy.