Haram, Music for the Forbidden

Nadar Habibi frontman of Haram

Punk has been a platform for protest for decades, and with the current political climate punk is experiencing a new renaissance. Haram is one of those bands that is leading the new wave of tolerant punk.

With their debut full-length album بس ربحت, خسرت, “When You Have Won, You Have Lost,” Haram takes on what it means to be a refugee in the United States.

Nadar Habibi, Frontman of Haram
Nadar Habibi frontman of Haram

Nadar Habibi is the frontman for Haram and through his lyrics documents the discrimination he has faced as an Arab-American.

Habibi’s parents fled the Lebanese Civil War and he was born in New York. After 9/11, Habibi experienced a heightened sense of discrimination.

“I remember I was the first one pulled out of class and the principal was there,” Nader recounts. “I sat down and the D.A.R.E. officer comes up to me. ‘Where is your dad? Where is your mom right now? What do they do? Have they been abroad lately?'”

This discrimination did not end when Habibi was young. When Haram was touring, the Joint Terrorism Task Force interviewed Habibi because of the band’s imagery.

‘Where is your dad? Where is your mom right now? What do they do? Have they been abroad lately?’

بس ربحت, خسرت _When You Have Won, You Have Lost

“The fact that this happened the day . . . we were leaving for a tour, seemed to me to mean that they were conscious of what was happening with us at that moment and chose that time to intervene,” said Haram drummer James Stuart. “Just the fact that it was in Arabic was enough to arouse their suspicion that Nader was doing something wrong, which he’s not. They didn’t even bother to translate the music to know that it was anti-extremist and secular and all this stuff. They just showed up at his house instead.”

بس ربحت, خسرت, “When You Have Won, You Have Lost” is a scathing reflection of Habibi’s struggles with his identity and the prejudice around him.

Blending influences

Sam Lefebvre, a writer for the music blog Pitchfork, wrote about how Haram blends influences to give off a terrifying vibe.

Habibi “makes the process sound like flensing flesh from one’s own bone,” Lefebvre said, “then grafting it elsewhere on the body — visceral transformation via self-discovery.”

Just the fact that it was in Arabic was enough to arouse their suspicion that Nader was doing something wrong, which he’s not. 

Haram brings a unique perspective when it comes to being an Arab-American. Their music is a criticism of the society we live in, while empowering their varied identities.

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  1. Wow. I always felt that music was a perfect way to get a message across. When I look at this article and this band, I can feel the desperation to express oneself. The discrimination that many cross culture children face can leave lifetime trauma, but it is amazing that Habibi has been able to transform it into something beyond himself.

  2. As someone who loves punk music, this is super interesting! I have never seen or heard of an Arabic punk band before, but punk is such a perfect style and sentiment for expressing experiences of systemic discrimination. Haram is creating some wonderful, informative artwork to help people express and relate to the multicultural experience.

  3. This was a super interesting read. I love how Haram uses punk as a vessel to call out unfair treatment and discrimination. Especially since his music has a terrifying sound, but is talking about ideas and concepts that are unique to his life experience. His message is very inspiring and makes me wonder how I can create or add to this world in a similar way.

  4. I have never heard of Arabic punk music before but now I want to look it up! Haram is bringing a voice to a genre that fewer people are aware of, and to do this he is creating art which always brings joy to the world and spreads multiculturalism.

  5. This article is fantastic. Through your writing and the story of Haram, we are able to see a side to the punk scene that is not often recognized. Anti-establishment sentimentality is a universal concept in punk, whether you’re taking on politics, economics, ideologies, or in the case of Haram, discrimination and the intolerance. This is the story of so many refugees and refugee families, so seeing bands like Haram fight back makes me ecstatic; a prominent artistic and cultural shift away from the principles of suspicion and hatred is completely necessary in an often intolerant modern society.

  6. This article is very interesting and really provides a perspective on not only the state of punk music, but the issues of discrimination faced among many brought to life through the use of music. Punk rock has always been known as a genre that allowed artist to go outside boundaries and really express how they feel as a person. However, the genre has seem to have died off until now. An Arab-American artist who has his own story to tell about discrimination and the acceptance of his culture is a truly amazing thing to experience. A way to speak about a culture to help spread awareness among multiculturalism could be very key in shifting the narrative on stereotypes among the Arab community.

  7. Punk music embodies freedom of expression and individuality, and it’s a style that perfectly compliments the message Haram is going for. Growing up, two of my close friends were immigrants from Leban and Mexico, and the struggles Habini talks about going through are very similar to the stories I heard of what my friends went through. Unfortunately, many of these issues are still well alive today, but bands like Haram give a voice to the people and help spread awareness about what they and others have to face on a day-to-day basis. This is a well-written article and does a good job of narrating the story of Harab.

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