Musical denial


It was an August day when my cousin Navid and I were standing in the rain, by the edge of the Hudson River. He was somber, having decided to drop the cheerful façade he’d maintained throughout his visit to New York City. The wind blew his hair from his eyes; I saw tears.

Looking away from me and in a low voice, he recounted the night he learned his friend died as a result of a suicide bomb. A witness who survived said Abbas had been standing outside the Shi’ite mosque, turning off his music player before any of the older men could give him disapproving looks. He had loved Junoon, a popular rock band. He must have been near the bomber, maybe even glanced up and said “Salaam.” Something about the innocence of Abbas’ last act — turning off his music so the imam wouldn’t get mad — touched me deeply.

“It’s funny,” Navid said, looking suddenly at me. “That night it rained hard, like this.” Sitting outside the red-sanded steps of Abbas’ house that very night, the group of young friends knew things had changed. Going through the motions of consoling the family and being there for one another, they knew something foreign had entered their worlds. They were now face to face with the cancer of extremism, something that had always seemed so far away, because it affected the regions up north. Now it was in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore.

Coming from a Muslim family with relatives throughout the world, I can many times  connect the events in the news to people I know. I try to keep the two worlds apart though, but at times the they are too strongly linked.

As with this story.


This New York Times video details the Pakistani rock music scene. The truth may startle some not familiar with a public who uses anti-Americanism as a crutch against many national issues.

Junoon’s beloved lead singer, Ali Azmat, is now on a solo career and has become an icon. He has stopped singing about love and heartbreak, and, like many other musicians, now chooses to sing with current affairs.

The alarming anti-Americanism in the top songs of Pakistan is unsettling.

When asked if he would ever sing about the 200 girls’ schools that were blown up, Azmat looked slightly taken aback but then an expression of denial crossed his face and he declared “You can’t blame the Taliban for that! Where is the funding coming from? It is the agenda of the neo-cons to de-Islamize Pakistan.” His songs routinely condemn the United States for meddling in Pakistan’s affairs, for infringing upon Pakistan’s territory and causing the problems the nation faces today.

Another popular band, the Noori brothers, sat relaxed and carefree, with the most nonchalant expressions as they agreed “The Taliban are amongst the smallest problems Pakistan faces. The West is affected by the Taliban, we’re not.”

Pakistan has been rocked by devastating terrorism this past month; one wonders if the Noori brothers and Ali Azmat mourn for the countless killed, wounded, traumatized…or is their grief reserved for the US?

I should note one of the brothers wore a shirt that said “Not terrorized enough.” Well, exactly how many deaths and how much destruction will it take before it IS enough?

I find it absolutely ironic these musicians are complaining about the west trying to rid Pakistan of the Taliban. The militants are killing Pakistanis every single day, these militants wouldn’t even support the right to music, and yet…and yet we have people in positions of influence being grossly irresponsible and pathetic.

I am at a loss to understand this. I cannot comprehend the thought process it must take to blame the United States, India and Israel for the violence that paralyzes the nation. Bombings at mosques, like the one that killed Abbas, explosions at schools and markets, suicide bombings at aid organizations…how can this all be blamed on others?

What is more disturbing is how their opinions have gained traction amongst the youth.

In his last blog, which can be found here:, Nadeem Paracha implores Pakistanis to gather their wits about them. Regarding the bombings at International Islamic University in Islamabad, he writes

Here we have a university that was attacked by a psychotic suicide bomber who slaughtered and injured dozens of students so he could get his share of hooris in Paradise. The attack was then proudly owned by the Tekrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. And in its wake, we saw enraged students protesting against the Kerry-Lugar act? What a response!
What did the Kerry-Lugar act have to do with the suicide attack? Wasn’t this remarkably idiotic ‘protest rally’ by the students actually an insult to those who were so mercilessly slaughtered by holy barbarians?

He highlights the Pakistani media’s love of the conspiracy-minded mentality, and cites an incident after a suicide attack in Peshawar:

One shop-owner who said he lost more than millions of rupees worth of goods in the blast was slightly taken aback when the anchor asked him who he thought was behind the bomb attack. For a few seconds he looked curiously at the anchor’s face, as if wondering why would a major TV news channel be asking a question whose answer was so obvious. ‘What do you mean, who was responsible?’ he asked. ‘The Taliban, of course!’

In a time where Islamic clergy are taking a stand against the Taliban and suicide bombings (and often being killed for their bravery), it is a downright shame the leading musicians choose to spread an ignorant message of blame and denial.