‘Mohammedans Target Music’

“Without music, life would be a mistake.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche

“The sheer ubiquity and variety of music found throughout the globe – Mexican mariachi, New Orleans jazz, Navajo night chants, Peruvian panpipes, Indian raga, Seattle grunge – suggests…that it is an innate part of humans, woven into the fabric of our very being.

“It is almost incomprehensible, then, that violence and hatred could ever be directed towards this enriching artistic form and its audience; and yet, as demonstrated in Manchester most recently, this is exactly what happened. 

“Attacks of this nature, and the revulsion shown towards music by the Islamist aggressors, may be especially puzzling to liberal audiences. After all, the status afforded to many musicians across the world is matched perhaps only by royals, leaders and other dignitaries. (Within the UK, for example, consider Harold Wilson’s deliberate association with ‘The Beatles’ throughout his term in office, or Tony Blair’s welcoming of ‘Oasis’ Noel Gallagher into 10 Downing Street after ‘Labour’s 1997 general election win). In fact, some postulate that the increasing secularisation of society leads to the sacralisation of culture, with the concert venue replacing the house of worship, and the musician assuming the role of high priest. 

Harold Wilson with The Beatles, Variety Club of Great Britain Show Business Awards, March 1964. (Ronald Grant Archive-Mary Evans Picture Library-AAP)

“Historically, however, both music and musicians have had a somewhat ambiguous societal position, far removed from the prominence they now enjoy. In the civilisations of antiquity, while music was recognised as an ideal form in which to communicate divine orders, musicians themselves were often slaves; and in Persia, music was for a significant period an activity limited to prostitutes.

“Even the great thinkers of ancient Greece expressed some puzzling attitudes. In “The Republic”, Plato – in his usual emphatic way – wrote:

“Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten.”

“Such a threat did Plato ascribe to music that in his ideal, utopian state, he stipulated that all musical activities should be tightly controlled. Even Aristotle, who praised musical training as an intrinsic element of a liberal education, said of musicians:

“We call professional performers vulgar; no free-man would play or sing unless he were intoxicated or in jest.”

“The fact that these views strike the majority of us as bemusing and archaic is a testament to how far societies have progressed in their outlook towards both music and musicians. Yet even today, in the 21st century, there remains a conspicuous example that bucks this trend.

“Islamist-inspired attacks on the Manchester Arena and Bataclan concert hall in Paris were deeply shocking but were, sadly, neither surprising nor unique. And while some people may be familiar with specific features of ‘Islamism’, such as its advocacy of blasphemy laws evidenced by the abhorrent ‘Charlie Hebdo’ attacks, its disdain towards artistic mediums such as music and dance is perhaps less well known or understood. 

Des gens s’échappent du Bataclan, quelques minutes après l’attaque, le 13 novembre 2015 à Paris (REUTERS-Christian Hartmann)

“Underpinned by broader ‘Salafist’ (an ultra-‘conservative’ {‘fundamentalist’} sect of Sunni Islam) rulings on music, Islamists deem music ‘haram’ (forbidden), with those who practice it deserving of punishment.

“This can be witnessed across the globe, such as Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, where an outlawing of all musical forms took place, with arrests of musicians being frequently made. (Though, with great irony, some Islamists in earlier stages of the revolution copied and distributed the music of Bijan Kamkar and other top Iranian musicians, due to its anti-Shah message). More recently, Islamist insurgents in northern Mali banned the aural medium, forcing many performers into exile – a heart-breaking situation for a country with such a rich musical heritage. 

Malian band ‘Songhoy Blues’. (Photo–BBC)

“One of the more pressing issues, however, is that these puritanical attitudes towards music are not just restricted to Islamists. Though the vast majority of Muslims abhor the violence perpetrated against this art form, condemnation of music is still preached within some ‘conservative’ {‘fundamentalist’} circles.

“As James Brandon, a specialist on Islamist extremism, states:

“Why do jihadists target music venues & bars? To appeal to non-jihadist Islamists/conservatives who think such activities should be punished.”

“Of course, any individual should be free to renounce music if they so choose, particularly if it conflicts with their own spiritual path. But for too long, hatred and contempt for music has gone unchallenged, providing a fertile ground in which for extreme, anti-music views to grow.

“In countering this narrative, certain Islamic scholars, such as Sheikh Abdullah al-Judai, have described the notion of outright music prohibition as historically inaccurate, and point to the fact that musical instruments in Arabian society predate Islam and remained there afterwards. Theologian and researcher Dr Usama Hasan similarly highlights the lack of corresponding scriptural basis for these claims, and asserts that there is

“no clear-cut ‘ayah’ of the ‘Qur’an’ specifically about music and/or singing”.

“He goes on to say that passages within some hadiths, supposedly condemning music, are weak or fabricated . Hasan also emphasises instances of the ‘Prophet’ Mohammed approving singing and the playing of music, such as at weddings:

“O Ayesha! Did you not have any music and singing? For the Ansar love that!”

“Given how widespread the Islamist ideology has become — and its appeal is yet to show signs of slowing — it is essential that the ideas underpinning Islamism be delegitimised. Part of this process must be to encourage a shift away from a Salafi-inspired view of music… Music is much too important, too beautiful, too spiritually nourishing to be viewed with such disdain. As the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote:

“Without music, life would be a mistake”.

–‘Music and Islamism: Why Islamists target music venues’,
Sandy Buglass, Quilliam, 14TH JUNE 2017


See also:
“The man who spent his life singing the praises of the ‘prophet’ Muhammad…was accused of blaspheming the ‘prophet’, and he was executed for it.

“During ‘Ramadan’.”

“One of Pakistan’s most famous and respected musicians, celebrated for devotional songs from a centuries-old mystic tradition, has been shot dead by ‘Taliban’ gunmen in Karachi…”

–‘You Can’t Kill The Music’ (Murder of Pakistani Musician) {July 30, 2016}:

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