By Iftekhar Hai, San Mateo County Times
THE UNTIMELY death of Michael Jackson became international news, and it has affected many people, including my children and grandchildren.
I dedicate this column to the philosophical and spiritual turmoil I felt when I heard Jackson died June 25 of an apparent cardiac arrest.
He had an extraordinary charisma, absolute innocence and a childlike charm that never left him.
As his music spread all over the world, bringing him wealth and recognition, he slowly transformed his God-given African texture and features into something else.
I could never explain this part of his life to my children.
He appeared to have a genuine concern for children and wanted to offer them a world that was denied to him as a child because of the abuses he claimed to have suffered.
I was very happy for him last year when he reportedly became a Muslim in Bahrain. He had apparently followed the footsteps of his brother Jermaine Jackson, who converted to Islam 20 years ago and found peace when he gave up drinking, drugs and womanizing. Michael Jackson admired this kind of change in him.
So in search of peace, he lived in Bahrain.
For some time, Jackson thought of making an album in Bahrain to promote spirituality and signed a contract. However, when he returned to America, he was too afraid of the consequences of aligning with the Islamic faith.
Islamophobia is a curse in America. He was advised by close associates and sincere friends not to go public with his new found spirituality.
He remained in his own closet of spirituality that few outside his close circle knew.
American pop culture is not about religion but about a world of fantasy â€” a flamboyant facade. And he sunk deeper and maintained a lifestyle that increased his dependency on drugs.
He lost all peace of mind and self-control to such an extent that his personal doctor said, â€œI had to wake him up with medication and had to put him to sleep with the help of medication.â€
Michael Jackson is a trivial pursuit of American popular culture.
In my culture we say, â€œthis was a bud that was cut before it could fully blossom.â€
Practically, we have powerful people who worship money and power and who are constantly defeating any new ideas that challenge the status quo. Jackson â€” who was sweet, innocent and talented â€” fell victim.
I am obsessed with the question, â€œWhy couldnâ€™t Elvis and Michael Jackson remain famous, rich and on a musical pedestal and still live a drug-free and spiritual life?â€
Ali Akbar Khan of Berkeley was such a musician, who gained great wealth, fame and popularity and left more than 1,000 students who are spiritually elevated musicians.
Michael Jacksonâ€™s death to all of us is one that is sobering. One can climb to fame, acquire great wealth and riches, but death comes knocking without much fanfare.
Nevertheless, Jacksonâ€™s very public death is a powerful reminder that no matter how famous, talented or wealthy one is, death comes sometimes sooner than later.
He has now entered a world of extraordinary perception, a world that makes his â€œThrillerâ€ video seem mundane.
Given Michaelâ€™s r eported conversion to Islam last year, Muslims count him as one of our own, and we pray that he can finally find the peace he never found in this world and that he is in a place, God willing, of mercy, forgiveness and solace.
Iftekhar Hai is president of United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance and a resident of South San Francisco.