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Does rock and roll mix with Islam?

February 3rd, 2010
05:12 PM ET

You wouldn't think that rock and roll music would be a good fit with the Islamic faith, but 30 million records say otherwise.

Salman Ahmad is the lead singer and founding member of Junoon.
Salman Ahmad is the lead singer and founding member of Junoon.

Salman Ahmad is the lead singer and founding member of one of South Asia's biggest rock bands - "Junoon" - and can count big name celebrities like Al Gore and Bono as fans.

Ahmad is renowned for being the first rock and roll musician from the region that has torn down barriers between the west and the Muslim world.

The rise of "Junoon" wasn't an easy task - the creation of the group came at a time when angry mullahs wanted music to be banned from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Today though, the band has become the U2 of Asia and the group has already sold a record number of albums across the region.

Ahmad has been a UNAIDS Goodwill ambassador since 2005 and and has been helping to raise awareness to reverse the spread of AIDS through his music.

His new book is called "Rock & Roll Jihad: A Muslim Rock Star's Revolution" and he has just performed at the United Nations.

Here's your chance to ask this inspirational musician your questions.

Do you think that rock and roll music can mix with the Muslim culture? Does it cause too much tension or can it help bridge a gap between the west and Islam? Maybe you want to know who his idols were growing up?

Please post your questions below.

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Mark

    I can think of hundreds of Islamic rock bands that have existed since the early 1960s. Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Pakistan have always produced incredible rock groups.

    February 3, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Reply
  2. Surajudeen

    There is no way Islam can flow Rock n Rock.This is over-civilian contravening the doctrines of Islam.

    February 3, 2010 at 7:30 pm | Reply
  3. Surajudeen

    There is no way Islam can flow with Rock n Roll.This is over-civilian contravening the doctrines of Islam.

    February 3, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Reply
  4. Kamran Yar Khan

    Salam,
    It's time Junoon re-united as is the norm these days with bands like Eagles, AC/DC performing for huge concert tours. Junoon & Vital Signs are the only bands of note who can still revive Pakistan music. The new local acts are devoid of any higher purpose and totally confused about what is 'entertainment'.

    The last video I directed was E.P.'s Hamesha way back in 2004 but after 5 years I've made a comeback. Pakistan has to be revived!

    Taara Jala once again! :-)

    February 3, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Reply
  5. Young Inquirer

    I don't know this band but from stories of students, nor their mission statement, but I will say, as a teacher working in a private school for Saudi children, this band is not a primary source of "westernization" or modern influence in Islam.

    My students have long connected to western culture in their own ways, just as all children find ways to connect to things that facsinate them; the curse of the curious mind infects children and intellectuals alike.

    At times it's clear my students understand the archaic nature of their country's oppresive rules on individuality and womenhood, but at times it's clear Islam is the root of all their greater, humanitarian seemingly egalitarian understandings. Like all religions, great contradictions exist here.

    Islam, as I know it here, does not make room for violence and hate, though often some ancient tribal laws are allowed to trickle down through another generation of lives; trust that, even in living in Saudi Arabia, it seems clear to the younger generation that the Burka is a relic of ancient tradtions, upheld by hardline narrow minded people; there is a sense that the Burka is not going to last much longer in legal terms. If it is worn in other countries, it seems to be worn like red spike mohawks were worn in te early punk days – to defy the establishment.

    Muslims are a kind and considerate people with peace and faith underwriting all they do. With or without the western world, the modern Islam will embrace this band "Junoon."

    And so, in lieu of P.C. additudes in N. America, we will encourage any contribution "Junoon" may make to familiarize the west with Islam and to humanize Islam in the minds of the otherwise ignorant masses, in an attempt to fuel and facilitate what we feel may be a fundamental change in the nature of Islam.

    Being certain Muslims love this band is really our agenda, isn't it?

    Truth is, anything can be turned to propaganda is discussed, examined and exalted using the proper discourse. Like great bands of the past using music to nurture change and create a culture worth defending, so too might this band do so in ways that may invigorate the cause. Are our soldiers now not defending the same rights propounded in the music of elvis? of the beatles? of micheal jackson?

    February 3, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Reply
  6. Oscar Sarquiz

    Banning music struck me as barbaric; being proof this is not imperative, please explain whether this and sexism and physical punishments are not essential to Islam. Many of us are scared of these radical attitudes.

    February 3, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Reply
  7. aliz

    hi my name is ali, i am muslim, i think everybody have right to leve their life as they wanted, cuz if they wrong god is there to punish him, junoon is a rocking band i love to hear them.

    February 3, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Reply
  8. Anwar Hawk

    Islam does not allow the Music like Rock and Roll. it is prohibited in Islam. it is a sin. any Muslim played it and listen it should ask for God sincerely for forgiveness. otherwise, severe torment is waiting for them. what God forbid, a Muslim can't do it.

    it should not be the question "can Islam and Rock and Roll should co-exist? God prohibit it. these people are disobeying the God Command. Hell will be the place for them unless God will forgive them. Read my book: Bible, Islam and the Media

    GodMercy4All.com

    February 3, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Reply
  9. Riz

    Salman Ahmed has never been the lead singer for Junoon. I was pretty sure the band was defunct now.

    February 3, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Reply
  10. johnny

    cat stevens is muslim, this is not new

    February 3, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Reply
  11. Tarek

    Its really getting annoying to see how islam is always shown by the media as some extremist, backward thinking, religion that is not civilized, educated, modern. So what if rock and roll is being played by an islamic bang in pakistan. These so called islamists extremists dont really know the meaning of islam, and portray it in their own. Islam isnt as strict as they show it to be.

    The media, the west, europe and other countries, should stop portraying islam the way they do, and should show the true image. these are minorities that are extremists, and the media is using them, to show that all of islam, and its followers are as strict and as uncivilized as them, and this tottally wrong

    February 3, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Reply
  12. Steven Ong

    Perhaps he doesn't take Islam seriously or he interprets it his way. This is his version alone and he does not strictly follows its teaching. That is why he is not like all the others , whose main aim is to capture the world for their religion using the name of their god?

    February 3, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Reply
  13. Dave in Sedona, AZ

    I think it is wonderful that music has the potential to bring the Muslim world closer to the rest of society. Music has the raw emotional power to heal old wounds and bring people together. More power to Junoon. I'm going to iTunes right now to see what I can hear of this interesting group.

    February 3, 2010 at 11:37 pm | Reply
  14. MK

    I personally think this is a media campaign to strengthen the Junoon brand – I grew up in Pakistan listening to Junoon's music. They did NOT face a backlash from the religious community, music is very much in our society and culture.

    February 4, 2010 at 2:27 am | Reply
  15. Sultan Ameer

    For past few years till today the Pakistani pop music industry isn't going forward or at least the pace of going forward is slow compare to the pace of time when your band was active (only few GOOD bands are active and its been months since a Pakistani band or a solo singer produced a blockbuster album). Do you agree with me on that and if you do what are the causes behind it aside from the terrorism factor and also what should be done to faster the pace of going forward?

    February 4, 2010 at 4:03 am | Reply
  16. Ain

    I never understand why musicians, artists and antagonist so called orientalists writers have been propogated by west when it comes to tell other people about Islam and Islamic teachings. I am no one to judge Salman Ahmed, but I would like to state clearyl that any form of music that is obscene or elicit sexual desires or the likes is haram in Islam.
    Would be best if the western media quotes the true commandments from God and stop focusing on the taliban version of Islam that revolves around so called Jihad and killing non muslims.

    February 4, 2010 at 6:58 am | Reply
  17. ZGK

    As in all major religions, Islam has extremist as well as moderates; the issue at hand is not wether Islam and Rock & Roll or any other type of contemporary music can co-exist, the issue at hand is can muslim people have the liberty to choose what kind of music they want to listen to. Music is part of nature, we all can sing or hum and we all have ears to listen to the sounds of the world including music...any type of music...if one does not like a particular type of music he or she can choose to turn it off. It is unjust to blame anyone for listening to music the same way it is unjust to blame anyone for believing in Islam, Judaism or Christianism...come on people leave your hate, racism and bigotry behind, there are 6000 million people in the world and we all need to learn from the past...kindness and tolerance are virtues that can be learned....peace

    February 4, 2010 at 10:21 am | Reply
  18. Saad Suliman

    Hats off to Junoon.. I remember once seeing a video of U2 concert where Salman Ahmad opened the event with his incredible guitaring, specially on Bono's request. Junoon has been an incredible force to bring people from India & Pakistan closer, where the mere public praise of other country can result in life threatening consequences. I remember once hearing an Indian radio show where the RJ asked a caller what are her main beliefs in life. She said 'Love God & Love Junoon'.

    Salman has been a visionary from the very beginning and was a member of Pakistan's very first pop band 'Vital Signs', which is considered to be the pioneer of modern music in Pakistan. Then he started his own band 'Junoon' which became the biggest sensation in Asia (not just South Asia) and the band performed all across Asia, Africa, Europe & the Americas. Junoon called itself 'Sufi Rock Band'. Sufi-ism is considered to be a practise followed by some Muslims whereby they are involved in praying and meditation all day and all night and completely forget the worldly matters. They also play and dance to religious music. Sufis are hated by the fundmentalist Mullahs of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, India Bangladesh etc., because of their 'Deviation' from the teachings of Islam. At best, Sufi-ism is peacful but controversial.

    On a personal level, Salman is a bery humble, down-to-earth person, who enjoys sports and once played in the under 18 National Cricket Team of Pakistan. He is also a big fan and person friend of Pakistani Cricket Legend Imran Khan.

    Keep Going Salman.. We Pakistanis no matter where we live in the world, are damn proud of you.

    Syed Saad Suliman
    Dubai, United Arab Emirates

    February 4, 2010 at 10:23 am | Reply
  19. Abdullahi

    To me,music in islam is not totaly accepted,not to talk of this of our generation.It is adviceable for muslim children to go far from any anti islamic band.As far as this generation is concern, we can do without entertainment,but its better we go for the decent ones.

    February 4, 2010 at 11:40 am | Reply
  20. Mira

    Do you think that your music has actually made a difference? or has it further polarized people?

    February 4, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  21. shab

    Do you think that your band was just made popular because it was something new that pakistan had never experienced? Do you think it would have been popular otherwise?

    February 4, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Reply
  22. ayesha

    Well Done! We appreciate how you have used music to unite people Salman. You follow Sufism which was all about music as part of reaching out to people and passing the message of God. Religion is a way of life and like all religions so is Islam.. be a good human being, do not hurt God's people and follow the path of truth. Please do explain to the world the true meaning of Jihad and how Rock & Roll Jihad is an analogy you are making to using something beautiful and soulful to bring peace to the world around us? What role does music play and has played in the past in conveying the message of God?

    February 4, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  23. Vatsala/Sayonee's Mom

    Salman, what aspects of your religion do you follow and what parts do you question? Were you always close to religion or did you have a religious aha moment on the way - and if yes, when was that? And don't you find it tedious to always have to explain and often defend your religion?

    February 4, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Reply
  24. bambi

    what made you take the risk of leaving a stable profession like medicine and move to music? who supported you and who did not?

    February 4, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Reply
  25. Shama

    In Pakistan music is natural and religon has never been an obstacle.
    People of Pakistan will always admire music that is decent, unique and rich, regardless of it being Rock and Roll that takes off by one of their own! One thing to remember is that Pakistan is a very unique culture and is the cross roads of multi ethnic culture and society. Majority of the population does enjoy music. The passion for music will always be a 'Natural' for the majority of the Islamic world.

    February 4, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Reply
  26. Bhatti

    When will You sing with Ali again?

    February 4, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Reply
  27. noor

    Salman you are doing very well on your own... people give up this obsession of singing again with Ali... move on! Salman has moved on and he does done marvelously well for himself... Way To Go Salman! We are proud of you....

    February 5, 2010 at 3:30 am | Reply

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