Afghanistan: Singing about women critised by imam

8 May 2006

According to The Times’ correspondent in Kabul, Afghan DJ Besho has been criticised by an influential cleric among Afghanistan’s religious élite

In public, few Afghans are willing to question the authority of the clergy or the inviolability of Islamic law. As such, it can have a significant influence on DJ Besho’s future musical career in Afghanistan when Abdul Rauf, imam at the Herati Mosque in the center of Kabul, is quoted by The Times’ Tim Albone as saying: “Music is not banned in Islam, but to get enjoyment from music is banned. Singing about women and guns is certainly not allowed.”

DJ Besho is 28 years old and his real name is Bezhan Zafarmal. He left Afghanistan with his family when he was 10 years old, moving first to India, then China, followed by Russia, before finally settling just outside Frankfurt, Germany. Today he splits his time between Germany and Afghanistan, where he has a contract with the nation’s most popular tv station, Tolo TV.

In Germany he has what he describes as an 18-strong musical collective in the town of Weisbaden, near Frankfurt. Besho is, somewhat improbably, a trained hotel manager when he is not rapping.

During the Taliban rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, the iman Abdul Rauf was known as one of the few local clerics who criticized the rigid Islamic views and harsh punishments of the Taliban movement. Recently, however, Abdul Rauf was leader of an emotional charge demanding the execution under Islamic law of an Afghan man for converting to Christianity.

BBC News reports that successful independent tv stations, such as Tolo TV, make careful cuts to foreign music videos they show to avoid criticism from the religious establishment. A measure of the sensitivity on religious issues was clear when the country’s Supreme Court sought to ban Tolo TV for showing the Charlton Heston sword and sandals epic, “The Ten Commandments”, during Ramadan in 2004.

“It showed the prophet Moses with short trousers and among the girls,” Wahid Mujdah, a Supreme Court spokesman, said at the time.

At the end of April 2006 the Afghan parliament sacked the Culture Minister, Sayyed Makhdum Rahin – a noted liberal on issues of freedom of speech and expression – and called on President Hamid Karzai to find an alternative.


Saad Mohseni, the Australian-raised Afghan director of Tolo TV, said to BBC News:

“Sixty percent of Afghans are under the age of 20 and they are adapting very fast to a new age. But there is real conflict within families and a definite rift between young and old.”



The Times – 24 April 2006:
‘Gangsta rapper of Kabul puts peace before guns ‘n’ girls’

BBC News – 10 May 2006:
‘Gangsta rap, Afghan style’

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