Event Review: From MTV to Mecca
What: From MTV to Mecca
Where: Shine Auditoroum, Shaw Towers.
Who: Kristiane Backer
When; 10 Jan 2014
By: Darul Arqam
An award-winning MTV Video Jockey. Rumors of dating world-renowned (and indubitably dashing) cricketer Imran Khan. A conversion to Islam that made waves throughout the the Pop and media industry. And now, a book, From Mtv To Mecca, detailing her movement from the glamorous star-studded high-life to one of contentment and peace anchored by Islam. Its with no surprise that Kristiane Backer’s talk drew a full-house to the Shine Auditorium, on a Friday evening nonetheless.
Becker took her rapt audience on a fascinating journey that weaved through her past as a VJ who rubbed shoulders with the Rolling Stones, hung-out with the likes of Liv Hurley and presented to crowds of up to 70,000 live and millions more on television to her life now, as a journalist and host based in the UK who has been the face of multiple Islamic awareness campaigns.
With her very own talk show on MTV Europe, Becker was at the pinnacle of her glitzy career but in the rush of hedonism and materialism, she soon found that she lived a world of polar extremes where she would return from the high of being surrounded by celebrities and their diamond crusted champagne glasses to an empty hotel room, lonely and internally disatisffied. This internal dissatisfaction that she described as a bottomless pit, could never be filled by alcohol and drugs, rather needed something far more potent, powerful, and real which turned out to be prayer and dhikr.
Over one fateful dinner, Becker had been introduced to handsome sportstar Imran Khan who was engrossed in a conversation about the movie Basic Instincts which at the time, was the epitome of the hyper-sexualisation that the media was beginning to embody (sadly fading terribly in comparison to the Miley Cyrus’s of our time).
Khan had commented, that in Muslim countries, the movie would be banned and that the Western world had “lost its sense of shame”. Having personally embodied the movement that ‘if you have it, flaunt it’, this conservativeness was fresh for Backer, and Imran’s views that were heavily infused by faith subsequently lead to multiple thought-provioking discussions setting the stage for a strong friendship between the two.
It was through these philosophical debates as opposed through the doling out of Fatwas or the haram-halal dichotomy, which had seduced Becker towards Islam.
She was initially taken in by Islam’s concept of shame justaposed with pop culture’s objectification of women, and the normalisation of the selling of bodies.
Other elements of the religion that wooed her included Sufistic music especially from Qawwali master, Nurat Fateh Ali Khan which she said touched her more deeply than any music on MTV.
Backer fell in love with the concept of God in Islam. God was no longer some lofty figure, judging from the heavens above. Rather, she loved that God in Islam was presented to believers within an intimate framework. And her allusion here to Surah-Qaf could not have been more apt, “And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein” (Al Quran 50:16).
The concept of self-responsibility too was another facet of Islam, which she was taken in by. Having been born a Christian, Backer could never understand fully the concept of original sin, nor the idea that someone else could possibly die for the sins of others. In a tongue-in-cheek comment, she also spoke of how shedding any inherited guilt was inherently important to her, as a German. In Islam, each believer is born pure and is responsible only and solely for oneself. It is Islams tradition of applogising, repenting and trying to better oneself constantly, which made complete sense to Backer.
Having spoken of how philosophical arguments had paved her way to conversion, it was also no surprise that Backer revealed she felt that Islam’s requirement for beleivers to reflect and to use their intellectual faculty in understanding before believing, had wooed her too.
Largely, it was the immense contentment that she found in the hearts of the poor whom she met during her travels through Pakistan with Imran Khan. She found generosity, gratitude and compassion that she had never experienced amoungst the wealthiest and most popular people of the modern world. And all those who found a stillness and serenity in them had one thing in common – Islam.
She finally found the key that freed her from the shackles of the showbiz world. Backer was no longer held down by hyper-sexuality or the obsession with youth. She now had her heart and mind set on bettering the state of her everlasting soul. Backer also prized how Eastern women dressed decently while being adorned with a beauty that was drawn from faith and family. It was the preponderance on the inner beauty as opposed to outer looks which drove Backer to want to be a better person.
Having sated her questions about Islam, in 1995 Backer finally wanted to taste the sweeetness of faith she had been reading about and witnessing, when she took her Shahadah.
This, however, was the beginning of the end of her career. At the zenith of her success, Backer became the butt of many jokes in showbiz, was denied her signed contract with MTV and was soon shunned by the many Islamaphobes in the industry.
As much as this period was trying and there was no circumventing the difficulties that she had to now face being a Muslim in the public eye, Backer reflects that there were multiple blessings in what seemed like struggles.
She saw Allah removing impurities from her life and this forced her to let go of ‘clutter’ – everything around her that was not necessarily helping, rather, impeding her journey as a Muslim.
All of Allah’s affairs are indeed good. There are no good nor bad years, but only patience and lessons. And once we have mustered patience and internalised lessons that we can realise, like Backer, that rough patches can be the greatest gifts of all. As the Japanese would term it, Kintsukuroi, a noun to explain the repairing of pottery with gold or silver – an understanding that the pieece is more beautiful for having been broken.
Bio of Speaker: Kristiane Backer is a TV presenter, journalist and voice over artist based in London with a pan-European career. In 2012 Kristiane published her best- selling memoir “From MTV to Mecca” in the UK with Arcadia and Awakening. Arabic, Indonesian and Malaysian editions are forth coming. The original book was published in 2009 in Germany and 2010 in the Netherlands. Kristiane is engaged in intercultural and interfaith dialogue and was nominated Global Ambassador for the Exploring Islam Foundation. In 2010 she was the face of the ‘Inspired by Muhammad’ media campaign. Prior to this, at the age of 24 Kristiane became one of the leading presenters on MTV Europe, where she interviewed most of the major artists and musicians of her time. She created her own youth show in Germany, ‘Bravo TV’ and presented a daily guide to culture and entertainment, “The Ticket NBC” on NBC Europe. She later studied natural medicine, qualified as a homeopath and presented a health program on RTL. Kristiane was awarded Germany’s most prestigious TV award, the »Golden Camera«, for her television work.
Farah is an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore, studying Communications and New Media. She aspires to be a change-maker, ground-breaker, time-shifting, paradise-seeker.