Muslims in Love: Watch this parody of “Crazy in Love”

Mozzified Team Members Brett Murphy and Fan Fei interviewed Nesima Aberra regarding her parody of Beyonce’s “Crazy in love.” 

Listen to Nesima’s parody here:

BM: Firstly, for those who don’t know, who are you? It looks like you’re a budding writer with a few different interests, social justice being a priority. Fair? Or is there more to it—to you?  

NA: My background is in journalism and global studies. I like to think of myself as a storyteller for social good, which basically means I love all things creative and wants to make the world a better place. I work in the nonprofit, social impact world right now, and the social justice issues I’m most concerned with are gender equality, refugee resettlement, economic empowerment, and educational equity.

But ultimately I love writing, and I want to empower people with the ability to tell their own stories and increase representation in the arts and media, because that’s where our culture is shaped and how ideas are spread.

Muslim Writers Collective

Nesima speaks to a crowd at the Bay Area Muslim Writers Collective.

BM: Let’s talk B. How come you chose Beyonce to parody for this? There are a lot of songs out there that come closer to some of the things you touch on. 

NA: So I wrote this parody for the love-themed open mic event in February for the Bay Area Muslim Writers Collective. I expected everyone to write confessionals or beautiful tributes to love, so I wanted to go in a different direction! My experience with writing parodies in the past has been picking catchy songs that have the perfect hook and an easy-to-work-with structure that lends itself to my re-imagining. Crazy in Love is one of those intense, powerful songs that bordered on ridiculous to me (Beyonce’s extreme attraction to this dude.) Then I heard the new version for the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack and the beginning of my chorus—about how crazy Muslim love is—started to write itself. The Jay-Z rap part almost didn’t make it in, because I’m a horrible rapper. Then I realized it could add more emphasis to the story and ended up a fun challenge. I wasn’t looking for a song that already said what I wanted, because there’s nothing out there like that!

BM: Like you’ve said in your blog, you tackle issues like patriarchy, sexism, racism, materialism and—my favorite—guys being straight up ridiculous. Why was this song a good platform for this sort of conversation?

NA: Songs are a great way to tell stories and get people’s attention in a way that is often more effective than a blog, poem or speech. There was a lot more I wanted to say but I realized the limitations of the structure and wanted to still keep it light. I thought either, “This song will go over people’s heads and they’ll be in denial or they’ll really appreciate its honesty and it’ll spark conversation.” Plus it’s just fun and relatable, so I hoped people would be more likely to share and listen to it.

BM: Beyonce is a sex symbol for many. Do you think that’s in congress with a Muslim spin on her song, concepts of modesty, etc.? Or does the dichotomy work for what you were trying to do?

NA: I didn’t think about it in that way when I came up with the idea but I think the dichotomy does work. Beyonce is seen as this authority in global pop culture on what the modern empowered women should want, how they behave, and what they believe. She’s actually extremely contradictory for all sorts of reasons. Crazy in Love makes her sound so desperate and unable to control herself, so in my parody, I wanted to show someone who was more discerning and realistic about finding love and the feelings you actually get in the whole process. Bey and I see “crazy” differently.

BM: This line in the bridge caught my eye: Brothas ain’t got game and that is clear to see. Still get what they want, thanks to patriarchy. Big statement with a lot of truth behind it. How did it fit in with the theme of your song and why did it bear repeating?

NA: That’s one of my favorite lines. It actually went through so, so many edits because I wanted to sum up very simply why Muslim women are frustrated. Guys can get away with making mistakes, having deficiencies in their character, not being charismatic or attractive, while women have an incredibly stacked list of requirements to meet and hoops to jump through in order to prove they are worth considering. The standard of what’s worthy, good and valuable in a man or woman is determined by patriarchy, so you find all these amazing people who are being overlooked because of the norms they live by. If a guy has a decent job and education, that’s all he needs. A woman with a great job and education and drive to do something in the world? Means nothing. And, in the end, they are forced to settle because it’s just too much to handle and they’d rather not be alone. I find that problematic and depressing.

Nesima 1

Nesima performs Muslims in Love.

BM: I think parodies work at digging into harder subjects because they’re, by nature, funny and disarming. What’s you’re experience with humor as a springboard for serious dialogue? And do you have some favorite authors, songwriters, or otherwise famous funny folk who have inspired you?

NA: By nature, I’m a non-confrontational person, so writing a parody, cracking a joke or creating a funny sketch is my way of approaching hard subjects! Humor just releases tension for me and it’s always been my source of comfort since I was a kid. My family and friends know me as the one who comes up with impressions of people and makes weird videos. I did theatre, improve, and speech and debate growing up so I was lucky to find spaces to nurture that side of me.

I’m inspired by so many people who can do great physical comedy, solid impressions, be vulnerable and also address real-world issues. Some of my inspirations are Weird Al, Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Mindy Kaling, Ellen DeGeneres, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, The Lonely Island, Louis CK, Aziz Ansari, Aamer Rahman, Andy Borowitz…the list goes on.

BM: You said that you took this on to call attention to the fact that it’s so hard for Muslims to find love. Why is that? How does their struggle go further than just that of the angsty young and restless?

NA: That’ s the question everyone wants to answer! In my opinion, it’s a combination of evolving cultural and religious perspectives, gender segregation, the disintegration of community, changing understanding of the purpose and need for marriage, unrealistic parental expectations, and lack of self-awareness. It’s harder in general for anyone to find love these days, but we have a much smaller pool to work with, more requirements, and less experience in how to appropriately and effectively meet someone we’d vibe with. That’s the reason some Muslims are now opting-out of the traditional way of finding a spouse, avoiding marriage all together, or marrying out of the religion.

I’m the Communications Chair for the Eritrean Muslims Council, and for their annual convention a few years ago, I made a parody infomercial for a matrimonial mixer to promote the event. Events like that are so weird and scary for immigrant communities, so I had to do something light-hearted to get their attention and pique their interest especially the younger crowd. Otherwise they’d be too shy or just dismiss the whole thing. Everyone loved it but the community is still slow to change. So I think the issue goes beyond being angsty, young and restless. Angsty young and restless people just need to chill.