Adam Yauch was a Muslim hero
Yauch was about more than his “right to party” – he spoke out against Islamaphobia long before the term was widely used.
In 1998, the Beastie Boys walked up to the VMA mics in matching utilitarian grey outfits, Ad-Rock sneering at the cameras as if to imply it was about time. Behind him, Mike D and MCA (whose birth name was Adam Yauch) followed in single-file, not particularly cheery, stiff – as if walking to the gallows.
After a brief round of thank you’s from Mike D, Yauch approached the mic in front of the screaming crowd, and assumed a solemn tone. He began, “I think it was a real mistake that the US decided to fire missiles into the Middle East. I think it’s very important that the US look into non-violent means of resolving conflicts.” Applause from the crowd mixed with a few loud heckles. Yauch attempted to calm the crowd and explain what he had meant, knowing full well his message needed to be concise.
A month earlier he was booed at a show in the heartland of the United States for saying the same thing.
It was a sign of things to come. “Hold on, gimme one second here,” he continued. “Those bombings that took place in the Middle East were thought of as retaliation by the terrorists, and if we thought of what we did as retaliation, certainly we’re gonna find more retaliation from people in the Middle East. From terrorists specifically, I should say, because most Middle Eastern people are not terrorists.” The usual high-energy, party MC self-corrected his choice of words, careful to delineate “terrorists” from innocents. This is a mistake that American media made all the way up to and past 9/11. Fresh out of the compassion-crushing blow of his attempts to save Tibet, he recognised that something is happening to the United States’ heart. He added, “I think that another thing America needs to think about is our racism, racism that comes from the United States towards Muslim people and towards Arabic people. And that’s something that has to stop, and the United States has to start respecting people in the Middle East in order to find a solution to the problem that’s been building up over the years.”