Asmaa Elamrousy is a devout Muslim and hijabi, covering herself from head to toe and hiding her hair under a headscarf tightly wrapped around her head. But there’s more to her than meets the eye. She’s also a rapper, who pounds her fist into the air demanding equality and international justice.
“You shouldn’t be scared or have fear of judgment,” said Asmaa Elamrousy who tested her hustle and flow for an audience the first time at the annual Arab-Americans Got Talent competition. “You should say what’s on your mind.”
Asmaa’ is 20 years-old, born in Egypt and raised in Staten Island, New York where her interest in rap music stemmed from sibling rivalry of exchanging insults back and forth with her older brother Ahmed that escalated into rap battles. Ahmed then introduced Asmaa to her current idols Lupe Fiasco and Tupac Shakur, rappers whom she could identify with as Muslims who don’t, as she puts it, just “rap about sex, money, drugs.”
“I’m not doing anything wrong, anything haram (forbidden),” explained Asmaa as she doesn’t perform in bars and clubs that serve alcohol or objectify herself sexually, but she knows that some Muslims might still see what she is doing as wrong. “Hijabis are supposed to be quiet, they’re not supposed to go out there and sing or rap, as there is a debate over the traditional saying “sawt al maraa awra (a woman’s voice is exposing).”
But Asmaa received a lot of community support at Brooklyn’s second Arab Americans Got Talent competition, especially from last year’s winner Omnia Hegazy, a singer/songwriter who says she faces such responses addressing critical issues from Arab communities publically, such as child marriage and women’s rights. “They say well Arab Americans are discriminated against and you should be helping us look good, so let’s deal with it within our own community,” said Omnia who makes it a point to expose these issues and bring awareness to them. “But I think what makes us not look so great, is the fact that we ignore them.” She hopes that more Arab-Americans, like Asmaa, will follow in her footsteps as a professional artist given that Arab-Americans are one of the least represented groups in the American music industry.
Despite her take no prisoners attitude, Asmaa is currently battling with the idea of whether rap and music will stay a hobby or become a profession for her as she doesn’t want to disappoint her parents. “They’re supportive in a way,” said Asmaa who wants to make sure they approve of her choices but at the same time show that hijabis can rap just as good as the men, if not better. “Anything a man can do, a woman can do it better.. I really believe that.” Asmaa hopes to prove her claim one day by forming an all hijabi rap group.