Remona Aly
Friday 18 April 2014 The Guardian

Happy British Muslims: the video that made me dance for joy

From Jerusalem to Jamaica, feelgood video homages to Happy by Pharrell Williams have spread like a fit of giggles on social media – and now British Muslims have their own version.

The Happy British Muslims video was put together by a group of young British Muslims called the Honesty Policy, with a very simple aim: to spread positivity and a bit of empowerment along the way.

Who exactly are the Honesty Policy? Well, we don’t really know. They have chosen to remain anonymous. “Anonymity is a symbol of integrity, and integrity doesn’t need a face,” they state on their website. “We want to empower the previously disempowered individual. To give him/her the platform to feel as though he/she can positively plug into their community.”

And what a plug it’s been. Two days after the video was posted it has gained more than 570,000 views on YouTube, and counting. The responses have been overwhelmingly positive, with thousands of messages of support, though soured on occasion by the “Haram Squad” (Muslim killjoys who are quick to label everything as “haram” if they don’t agree with it). The Honesty Policy crew say they are delighted with the outcome. “If this video has done anything, it is to galvanise a tremendous, unified and coherent community voice in its defence. Cross-cultural, inter-organisational, multi-ethnic; we have all become one. And what has been the unifying force? Happiness.”

The video’s participants include politicians, journalists (including this one), students, families and – dare I say it – community leaders. Even one of the most respected Muslim scholars in the UK, Timothy Winter of Cambridge University, also known as Abdul Hakim Murad, makes an appearance. Renowned among Muslim academics for his stoic nature, Winter doesn’t dance, but poses with a sign reading “I’m happy!”, adding to the comedy value for those who know him.

Earlier in the week, an article circulated online claiming Winter was trying to distance himself from the video, but he has since released a statement of support: “I’m delighted to see the outcome of the Happy British Muslims video, which has unlocked a remarkable tide of goodwill around the world, and significantly tilted the image of Muslims among many sceptics. Islamophobes must be grinding their teeth to see Muslims of different races and age-groups united by happiness. No one will produce a Sharia argument against jumping for joy!”

It’s certainly a challenge to watch the video without breaking into a grin. I know my own attempt at the robot has afforded my friends some laughs (it made the edit, unfortunately). Soon after its release, one less cheerful critic asked: “What have they got to be happy about?” If the positive, joyful reactions to the video are anything to go by, it seems the answer is quite a lot.

This article originally appeared in the Guardian on 18 April 2014. To view it click here.