Film Review: Hamza Perez is the “New Muslim Cool”

Posted by Liali Albana

July 16, 2009

Spiritual re-invention through conversion to Islam is the true essence of the Muslim religion. The very first Muslims, including the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), all declared shahada and converted to Islam. The hero of the celebrated new film New Muslim Cool, Hamza (Jason) Perez is no different. At the young age of 21, when most people are trying to find a purpose in life, Hamza realized his own struggle against himself and gave up a life of drug dealing and hustling to embrace Islam.

What makes Hamza so memorable is his ability to come across as completely relatable, a rarity in media depictions of Muslims. Just as comfortable in his Kufi and Jalabiya as in his oversized T-shirt and sideways cap, Hamza, a Puerto Rican, American Muslim rapper, relates himself to many different types of people through his music.

In the film, Hamza dedicates his personal struggle for self-improvement for the sake of Allah and declared jihad on his old ways. Jihad, he explains, is just a struggle and does not include any kind of violence. He considers himself a Mujahed, someone who is engaged in struggle, because he believes it to be his obligation to help other drug dealers through self-empowerment and education.

Not only a hip-hopper, Hamza is also a spiritual counselor that makes Dawa for Islam. However, his main goal is to promote unity of humanity and human brotherhood. Bad habits such as drugs, anger, greed, jealousy, among many others cause people to become enemies. By studying and teaching the life of the Prophet, he believes we can all have more mercy towards one another and become better people. Though hip-hop is not the conventional way of Dawa, it seems to be the best way for him to reach his message to the people he is trying to help.

Critically lauded and widely covered in the media, New Muslim Cool is just what its title suggests – Islam is in, and in a good way this time. The film has aired on PBS and can also be viewed online at



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