Mona Haydar

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Mona with her professor James Hal Cone at Union Theological Seminary where she received her masters. In her arms is her son Rumi, with whom she was famously pregnant in her video for "Hijabi(Wrap My Hijab)," May 9, 2017

Mona Haydar (born 18 May 1988) is an American rapper, poet, activist,[1] and chaplain.[2] Her EP is Barbarican (2018), and she is best known for her viral song "Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab)," a protest song.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Haydar was raised, along with her seven siblings, in Flint, Michigan.[4] Her parents immigrated to the United States from Damascus, Syria, in 1971.

At 14 years old, Haydar began performing spoken word poetry in Flint at open mics and poetry shows downtown. There she developed her unique voice and was taught to use poetry as a way to tell stories largely ignored by the mainstream media.[5] Haydar was brought in and mentored by black women who taught her to use her voice as a way to oppose white supremacy. One such mentor was Dr. Traci Currie, a professor at the University of Michigan - Flint, when Haydar attended. [6]

In 2011, after graduating from the University of Michigan - Flint, Haydar left the US and studied at Jami' Abu-Noor in Damascus, Syria. When the Syrian conflict erupted, Haydar's studies in Islamic spirituality were cut short and she moved back to Flint. [7]

Haydar has a master's degree in Christian Ethics from Union Theological Seminary.[8][9]

In 2012, Haydar lost a close friend to suicide and this caused her to question her own reasons for living and changed her life.[10] She uprooted from her life in Flint where she had been working as a substitute teacher and moved off grid to an inter-spiritual community and retreat center called the Lama Foundation. There she met her partner. They married and had their first child there.[11]

Early career[edit]

In 2015, Mona and her husband, Sebastian, set up a stand in Cambridge, Massachusetts, inviting people to “Talk to a Muslim,” offering them coffee, donuts, and flowers as a means to “replace trauma with love.”[12] Haydar gained an audience after her social media post about their project went viral, and it helped her reach an international audience.[13] Her music is a continuation of that work.


In 2016, at 6 months pregnant with her second child, Haydar was at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, taking a stand with the indigenous peoples of the U.S in opposition to the Key Stone Pipeline.[14] Her song "American", from her EP Barbarican, speaks to some of her experiences there.[15]

Haydar appeared in the 2016 Microsoft holiday campaign “#SpreadHarmony”,[16] shot by Jake Scott.[17]

Haydar's debut song, "Hjabi (Wrap My Hijab)", went viral.[18][19][20] Billboard named this 2017 single one of “The 20 Best Protest Songs of 2017”[21] as well as one of the “Top 25 Feminist Anthems."[22] The song builds bridges of hope and understanding while dispelling myths, correcting stereotypes, and educating the world about who she is and what she stands for.[23] The song launched her career as well as creating positive reception.[24]

NPR called her debut video for “Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab)" “reminiscent of Lemonade”, and that the visuals “channel Beyonce”.[25] The video was included by the De Young Museum in San Francisco in an exhibit on Muslim women's fashions in 2018.[26]

Haydar's second single "Dog" featured Jackie Cruz of Orange Is the New Black.[27][20] The video featured a public service announcement about violence against women, taking on the global problem of toxic patriarchy.[28] Her other song, "Suicide Doors", she wrote to deal with the suicide of one of her friends.[29] The culture of Flint, in which she grew up is the reason Haydar to become a lover, student and creator in hip hop culture. She cites the likes of Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco, Lauryn Hill and others as inspirations to her for representing themselves and their religion in music proudly and without compromise. [30]

In 2018, Haydar spoke alongside Katie Couric at the media festival SXSW.[31] She also appeared in Couric's National Geographic show America Inside Out.[32] On March 28, 2018, she was featured on the CBS Evening News for her "resistance music" and interviewed by a reporter and journalist.[33]

The Emmy-nominated series The Secret Life of Muslims by Josh Seftel featured her and Sebastian. Their episode remains the most viewed episode of the series. In July 2018, Haydar appeared on Marcus Samuelsson's PBS show No Passport Required,[34] where she showed him around the studio where she recorded her first two songs.[35] In November 2018, Haydar released her song "Lifted".[36] "Lifted" encourages community building and healing from imperial and colonial wounds through the strategies she learned from James Cone and others while getting her master's.[9]

Her debut 2018 EP Barbarican was met with positive reviews.[37][15][38]


  • Barbarican (2018)


  1. ^ "Student researchers examine history, context of Muslim dress code". Commonwealth Times. Commonwealth Times. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  2. ^ "5 religious leaders weigh in on Drake's version of God's plan".
  3. ^ "Hijabi rapper Mona Haydar: 'There's been a lot of backlash'". BBC. BBC. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  4. ^ "Muslim Rapper Mona Haydar Is Pushing for Representation with Her ..." Now This News. Now This News. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Mona Haydar Breaks The Mold For Muslim Rap: 'You Just Have To Do You'".
  9. ^ a b "Get "Lifted" With Mona Haydar's New Video". 18 October 2018.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Meet the Young Muslim Woman Fighting Against 'the Hijacking of My Religion' in the Aftermath of Terrorist Attacks".
  13. ^ "Faced With Fear, A Muslim Woman Makes A Stand — By Setting One Up".
  14. ^ "Muslimah at Standing Rock: An interview with Mona Haydar - altM". 5 December 2016.
  15. ^ a b "Syrian-American rapper Mona Haydar breaks down her new Barbarican EP Track By Track: Stream". 2 November 2018.
  16. ^ Maheshwari, Sapna (January 2017). "In Year of Anti-Muslim Vitriol, Brands Promote Inclusion". The New York Times.
  17. ^ "Microsoft TV Commercial, 'Celebrate the Spirit of the Season' Song by Macy Gray".
  18. ^ Radloff, Jessica. "The Brilliant Way One Muslim Woman Is Working to Bring About Change".
  19. ^ "What you don't know about America's Islamic heritage". USA Today. USA Today. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  20. ^ a b "Why the Muslim World Needs Mona Haydar". Albawaba. Albawaba. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  21. ^ "The 20 Best Protest Songs of 2017: Critics' Picks".
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Mona Haydar Speaks Your Language". Psychology Today.
  24. ^ Jones, Ja'han (23 August 2018). "Mona Haydar Is A Muslim, A Rapper And A Woman Who Doesn't Need Saving". Huffington Post – via Huff Post.
  25. ^ "Hijabi Artist Channels Beyoncé For Debut Of Her 'Resistance Music' And Video".
  26. ^ "Contemporary Muslim Fashion Exhibition Opens in San Francisco".
  27. ^ "WATCH: Hijabi-American rapper Mona Haydar's must-see music video".
  28. ^ "Mona Haydar's New Music Video "Dog" Tackles The Patriarchy Head-On".
  29. ^ "MONA HAYDAR SHARES "SUICIDE DOORS" VIDEO". Artist Direct. Artist Direct. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  30. ^
  31. ^ "Katie Couric podcast LIVE: The Muslim Next Door".
  32. ^ "Katie Couric Leads SXSW Discussion on What It 'Means to be a Muslim Today'". 2018-03-12.
  33. ^ "Watch CBS Evening News: Resistance music - Full show on CBS All Access". Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  34. ^ "Watch: Marcus Samuelsson Takes in the Bounty of Detroit's Middle Eastern Communities". 2018-07-11.
  35. ^ "Detroit | No Passport Required PBS Food". 2018-07-05.
  36. ^ "Syrian-American Rapper Mona Haydar's New Epic Song Is Out, Have ..." About Her. About Her. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  37. ^ "Mona Haydar Is a Force to Be Reckoned With". 13 August 2018.
  38. ^ Triche, Tyra Nicole. "Syrian-American Rapper Mona Haydar Wants You To Rewire Your Brain".