Ask Kareem Salama, billed as the first Muslim country-western singer, what makes his music “country,” and he grins for about half a beat before answering, “Probably my accent.”
It is a full-bore Southern drawl, rooted in his rural Oklahoma childhood, and startling to those who don’t expect an Arabic name to come intertwined with such a distinct down-home voice. But the question hanging over Mr. Salama’s nascent career is whether he can find acceptance for both parts of his identity.
After all, country is generally not known for the diversity of its stars, or its aficionados. Country has a flag-waving contingent, which torched Dixie Chicks albums after the singer Natalie Maines criticized President Bush; the singer Toby Keith’s star rose after he released a post-9/11 song about kicking someone in the rear end because “it’s the American way.” Will they be able to get beyond Mr. Salama’s name to his songs? (MORE)