At the age of 23, British Muslim rapper Sam Khan was the CEO of his own company, a clothing range, website and a record label called Be Somebody. Three years on, he has launched The B Somebody Project to raise funds for orphans in Gaza. The project follows in the fundraising footsteps of previous music he has done for Pakistani flood victims. Green Left's Mat Ward spoke to him.
Tell us how The B Somebody Project came to fruition.
I've been making tracks for a few years and so I have an audience that I can reach out to. I've had a lot of spiritual growth in the past year which gave me the desire to use my music for something good. Helping orphans has always been a wish of mine, so I wanted to think of a way that my listeners - largely a young audience - could get involved in orphan sponsorships with me. Sponsoring an orphan through the Islamic Relief Orphan Sponsorship Program is £420 a year. My thought was, this is a large amount for someone to take on themselves, so if I created a group-sponsorship system where people could give as little as £5 [$7.50] to be part of the £420 target, this would encourage a lot more people to be involved, especially with the incentive that every contributor will receive a photo and progress updates of the orphan. This way, for a relatively small donation, you can be part of changing a child's life and you will see the result of your donation directly. The idea has been well received and we're on the fifth target of £420 already, which is great!
Have you visited Palestine and, if so, what were your impressions?
I haven't visited Palestine, I've just seen coverage on the news, in papers and YouTube videos, which make it very obvious that a largely defenceless group of people, of which many are children, are under oppression.
On your Facebook page you have linked to a quick video guide explaining the Middle East conflict. To what extent do you think ignorance and poor media coverage worsen the Palestinians' plight?
I see it as deceptive media coverage rather than poor media coverage. The vilifying of "Islam" in today’s media is de-sensitising people to the suffering of Muslims around the world, because now apparently Muslims are the "terrorists", whereas in truth, the real terrorists are in control of the information that goes out to the mass people. The poor Palestinian people are caught up in this conspiracy through no fault of their own.
Islamophobia is relentlessly whipped up by the Western media. What purpose does it serve, in your opinion?
The purpose this serves is for certain countries to be able to carry out atrocities for their own gain against Muslim countries without causing an outcry in the general public, because they would have convinced people that "Islam is evil". This is far from the truth. When someone studies Islam it is clear that it’s a religion of peace, and anyone who is not peaceful is not a true Muslim.
You were abused by your father as a child. In what ways, if any, did this influence your decision to help Palestinian children?
My upbringing did instill inside me a sense of helping the helpless.
Have you managed to forgive your father?
I absolutely have forgiven him, thanks to my spiritual growth in Islam, which teaches me that if God is all-forgiving, who are we as humans to think we are too big to forgive others? Nobody is perfect - some people make more mistakes than others, but in Islam the reward for forgiveness is great, and the reward for treating your parents well is even greater.
Political rap is not so common these days. Why do you think that is?
I think knowledge of politics is not common with the general public as a whole these days, and because rap/lyricism represents a portion of the general population, that's a natural result. The more general awareness there is, the more this truth will start to spill into the lyrics of rappers/songwriters.
What are your musical plans? Can we expect more socially conscious material?
My plan is for everything I do musically to raise awareness for the B Somebody Project until further notice, so yes, expect more conscious material!
Below, Sam Khan's fundraising song with on-screen lyrics, and the quick Middle East guide he promoted.