Once Interrogated By FBI, Punk Band Haram Rocks On
BY: David DeMaria/Contributing Writer
Not long after Nader Habibi and his band Haram were investigated by the FBI, an explosion from a pressure cooker bomb in the Chelsea district of Manhattan injured 31 people. The attack, which was also linked to a pipe bomb explosion along the route of Marine Corps charity run in New Jersey earlier in the day, was alleged to have been carried out by an Afghan-American fried chicken joint owner accused of Islamic extremism.
These types of events tied to extremism have caused some Arab and Muslim Americans to face unwarranted scrutiny and profiling.
In August of last year, Habibi was questioned by authorities who suspected that he may have ties to Islamic State, based on the band’s name and raging musical style. Though the case was dropped, Habibi admits that the investigation made him feel vulnerable and disturbed, citing that the New York Police Department even sent a plant to one of his shows to surveil him further.
Habibi has used this incident of being stereotyped as inspiration for making grittier, more passionate music, and incorporates his feelings into his lyrics, which are sung in Arabic. The band has received an overwhelmingly positive reaction for their Arabic lyrics. Habibi told James Khubiar of CLRVYNT, “Arabic, sonically, as a language, is harsh and intimidating, and I intend to express it as beautiful as it is to me. I wanted to bend the language to will and work it back into my identity.”
According to Habibi, who is American of Lebanese descent, Haram, which translates to “Forbidden” in Arabic, is an allusion to the struggle of growing up in a Shia Muslim household in Yonkers, NY, while attending a Catholic high school. Growing up, the singer’s father would lecture him about the ills of Catholicism, while his peers would bully him for being a Muslim at a predominantly Catholic school.
Released on Toxic State Records, the band’s most recent album entitled “What Do You See?” is a four-track sequel to their 2015 Demo. According to Tim Scott of Noisy, the album features “agitated and dystopian punk influenced by Japanese hardcore.”
In the same interview with Khubiar, Habibi claims that Haram indicates “an unceasing fight against racial abuse and humiliation, the unimaginable massacres of our world, past and present. For the disadvantaged, the people of color, the transgendered, the homosexual, the abandoned, the orphaned, the impoverished, the wrongfully executed. The victims of war, the bullet-ridden, the barrel-bombed and chemically gassed. Those in mourning, those in despair.”
If theres one universal benefit of listening to music, it is that it can help unite those dealing with oppression and marginalization. Habibi has fortunately found a way of coping through the success of his up-and-coming bannd.
Habibi concludes by telling Khubiar that “everything about Haram is haram. This is my fight and I am a proud Harami- stop me if you can.”