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The singer and spiritual seeker says he is standing against Trumps travel ban and standing up for ambiguity and poetry

Protests about Donald Trumps travel ban are taking many forms but perhaps one of the most unexpected is the release of a new album by Ben Lee, called Ben Lee Sings Songs About Islam for the Whole Family.

Yes, its a poppy, catchy album about Allah for kids, written by a Jewish-raised dude from Sydney.

Lee, an Australian musician who is based in Los Angeles, says he is seeking to distil the essence of Islam through music at a time of increasing hostility towards Muslims.

He tells Guardian Australia that originally the songs were going to be part of a multi-album project exploring the great religions of the world including Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism but the political situation in the US prompted him to put out the Islam-themed album separately.

All proceeds will go to the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the organisations challenging Trumps restriction on travel to the US for people from six Muslim-majority nations.

All of this stuff started to happen with the travel ban, and I thought, you know what nows the moment. And if you let these moments go past and you dont stand up, then they slip away. This album is not a hardcore piece of activism. Im standing up for ambiguity and poetry.

Much of the mysticism of spirituality has been left behind, Lee argues, in what he describes as a rush to one of two positions: Either youre a fundamentalist who takes every word of text literally, or you hold a liberal atheist view where you believe in no God, no grey areas.

There is a whole other area that I would love to hear us talking about, which is the psychological value of our myths and stories.

Ben Lee says he wants to contribute to positive change through the education of children. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Lee has long been a spiritual seeker. Raised Jewish in Sydneys eastern suburbs, he moved to New York when he was 18 and studied with a chi kung master, Nan Lu, at the American Taoist Healing Center. From there he was introduced to Hinduism and his guru, Sakthi Narayani Amma.

He later married the British-American actor Ione Skye in a Hindu ceremony and has written an album about ayahuasca, the hallucinogenic taken in South American shamanistic circles.

The [Islam] project springs from my own experiences in these religions and the common thread behind them I wanted to put out a record that describes the common ground we have, not the differences, he says.

Much of Lees work since his breakout album, Awake Is the New Sleep, has been influenced by his spiritual awakenings and investigations.

Once youve seen the world through different types of eyes, you can never go back. Ive looked through the eyes of people who have internalised these spiritual stories and that is channelled on to the album.

The LP as youd expect of a collection of childrens songs is sunny and upbeat, a contrast to the heavy associations people make about Islam in many parts of the west. A lot of people have asked Lee about sharia law and violence in the Quran but he says its a mistake to interpret any religious text literally.

The point of this project is honouring these texts as poetic works. There have been many problems with spirituality when it comes to the forming of churches, laws and cultural norms.

Lee is not too fussed with the cultural elements of religion instead he is attracted to the stories, the mysticism and potential to tap into what he has described as hidden energies that run through everything.

As a Jewish person, I never was drawn to the cultural bonding. My interest is the mysticism of each culture and a practical application of consciousness that each of the religions lay out. Even if we dont use the word God, there are different places in our psyches we can act from.

If you look at the US administration, its acting out fear, aggression and intolerance there is a decision we make about which part of ourselves to voice.

The part we voice should be loving and authentic, Lee says. As to how Ben Lee Sings Songs About Islam for the Whole Family can change the conversation were having about Islam: Any contribution that our generation makes will be through the education of our children. I would hope that if I make music that parents want to play in the car if we can begin these ideas in the home [and] look intelligently, not fundamentally, we begin to hear the authentic and true parts of Islam.

Not everyone is a fan of the concept and Lee has received a fair bit of hate for the album on his Facebook page. He has tried to respond compassionately but, ultimately, hes found the best way to manage trolls is just to delete their comments.

More challenging, he says, has been the attitude of people in his own circles. There is a large segment of my community where the election result has justified their depression about life. They say, See, I told you life is unfair. Thats a dangerous viewpoint. I still believe that love is a force that can conquer everything else and I try not to get drawn into a cultural depression, which is very defeatist. Theres no energy there.

Lee is also dismissive of what he calls pink spirituality a mashup of new age and positive thinking that says: Everything is cool everything will work out. If you look at real mysticism, there are real problems and you need to engage. All I know is that Im not going to turn away from my responsibility.

Ben Lee Sings Songs About Islam for the Whole Family is available now on iTunes

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