|Salman Ahmad was lead singer and guitarist in the Pakistani rock band Junoon, one of the most popular rock groups in South Asia with 30 million record sales. In his book ‘Rock & Roll Jihad’ he desribes his encounters with angry mullahs and oppressive dictators who wanted all music to be banned from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Excerpts from the book:
“They were screams of rage. And they were coming from the angry mob of students who had broken into the hotel ballroom. They were outraged at what they protested was a den of sin.
“Fahashi! Harami”” they cried. Vulgarity! Bastard!
Somehow these bearded youths had learned about our little talent show. I stared, totally stunned, as these fanatics rushed inside, throwing burqas and chadors on the women and pushing them away from the men they had had the audacity to sit next to in the audience.
And then one of these youths, his eyes filled with a madness that has nothing to do with God, jumped onto the tiny stage. He tore out the amplifier, and then kicked over poor Munir’s dusty old drum set.
A mighty anger welled up inside me and I found my voice. “What the hell is your problem?!!” I yelled at the guy.
He looked at me and my guitar with contempt.
“Give that to me,” he barked.
I stood frozen, unable to process what was happening.
He tore the Les Paul from my hands, and with a fury unlike any I had ever seen, proceeded to bash it on the green marble floor, wrecking it beyond repapir.
The music police threatened the medical students, warning them that the next time they tried to organize such an indecent display, the guns would come out and deadly tribal justice would be meted out in the defense of Islam.
I was a long, long way from suburban New York. Looking at my mangled guitar, I realized that I was now caught squarely in the middle of a cultural conflict the likes of which I’d never experienced.”
“The ‘Accountability’ video was banned from state television, on the grounds it would destabilize the country.
Not only did the video get banned. I also got threatened.
One night, an angry former aide to the dismissed Prime minister Bhutto called me at home.
“Salman,” the aide said, “you’re committing suicide. You’re biting the hand that feeds you.”
That was rich. After all the fervor I’d seen in people’s eyes all over the country for accountability, I wasn’t going to put up with that. I told him to go fuck himself.
This was war. The national and international media lapped it up. The accountability campaign and Junoon’s music and the ‘Ehtesaah’ video were featured in the BBC film ‘The Princess and the Playboy’, an exposé on Benazir’s and her husband’s reign. (…) The politicians hated us, but what did they expect? Art disturbs.”
Excerpted from ‘Rock & Roll Jihad: A Muslim Rock Star’s Revolution’ by Salman Ahmad. Copyright © 2010 by Salman Ahmad. Excerpted with permission by Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
The book was published by Free Press on 12 January 2010. 240 pages.