Interesting article by Robert Fisk in the Independent at the weekend (5 Dec 09) on Islamism and music:
'But music and Islam have a dodgy relationship. In Saudi Universities – and here I thank Jonas Otterbeck, Independent reader extraordinaire of Malmo University in Sweden – the most sanctimonious of students have assaulted music enthusiasts; when a professor at King Saud University, Hamzah Muzeini, condemned this brutality in the daily Al-Watan newspaper, he was convicted by a Sharia court – a ruling later overturned by King Abdullah. Yet according to journalist Rabah al-Quwai'i, some sheikhs encourage youths to burn instruments and books in public. In Saudi, I should add, Christmas carols – like all Christian religious services – are banned, except for the all-purpose "Jingle Bells". Father Christmas, I suppose, wasn't really a Christian.
It's not difficult to understand the objections to modern music and pop. Hamdi Hassan, a member of the Egyptian Assembly for the Muslim Brotherhood, complained about Ruby's first video and "the gyration of other pop stars". Incredibly, of all issues raised by the Brotherhood in the Assembly between 2000 and 2005, 80 per cent involved cultural and media issues – so much for the injustices of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan!
In my own country of choice, Lebanon, the Ministry of Defence monitors music, according to musician Mohamed Hamza. In November, 1999, Marcel Khalife was charged with blasphemy before the Beirut courts, an outrageous infringement of cultural liberty supported by the Sunni Grand Mufti, Mohamed Kabbani. Khalife had set a verse by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish to music in his album Arabic Coffeepot, but Darwish's poem contained lines from the Koran (part of verse four of Sura 12, for the uninitiated) and protesters argued that Khalife had defiled the Koran by singing it as part of a commercial song. Shiite clerics – to their great credit – defended the song-writer. He was acquitted, the Beirut judge adding that Khalife had "chanted the poem in gravity and composure that reveal a deep perception of the humanism expressed in the poem ornamented with the holy phrase." Phew.
But when Amar Hassan wanted to sing about love as well as politics in the Palestinian city of Ramallah in 2005, he was threatened before a Nablus court and his concert broken up by gunfire and the explosion of stun guns. The conflict, as Otterbeck realised in his thesis, has deep roots: between secular nationalistic music and Islamist music. In Algeria, the Islamic Armed Group made their point in lethal fashion, assassinating Berber singer Matoub Lounès'.
Full article here.