Great Leaps Backward

Not long after the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975 I remember hearing accounts of how the victorious Khmer Rouge was smashing up radios, gramophones, televisions and other consumer goods. It was at that moment I felt certain that Cambodia would turn out to be one of the worst of the Communist tyrannies. On taking a city, most successful armies (even the most well-behaved) indulge in at least a little looting, but the young (sometimes very young) Khmer Rouges for the most part did not. They were something else together, so indoctrinated, so disciplined, that they were prepared to wage war not only against technological progress (thus the later move to the countryside) but, more sinisterly still, against some of the simplest of human pleasures.

Seen in that context, this news from Somalia (to be sure, foreshadowed elsewhere by, say, the rule of the Taliban) makes ominous reading:

MOGADISHU — A hardline Somali Islamist group issued a 10-day ultimatum Saturday to Mogadishu-based radio stations to stop playing all kinds of music or face unspecified penalties, an Islamist leader said. The Hezb al-Islam group, which controls patches of the war-riven Somali capital, said playing music on radio stations was evil.

“We call on the local radio stations to stop broadcasting the songs and all music as well. We give them a 10-day deadline and any radio station found not complying with the orders… will face sharia action,” said Moalim Hashi Mohamed Farah, a senior Hezb al-Islam official, referring to Islamic law.


In the same report, we see another characteristic of much of today’s Islamic wave, its rejection of nation and nationality in favor of a universalism that trumps all and bodes ill:

“We also issue orders banning the local media from using the word ‘foreigners’ to refer to our Muslim brothers coming from outside the country to help us fight against the enemy of Allah,” he [Farah] told reporters.

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3 Responses to Great Leaps Backward

  1. John says:

    In Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, I read stories about the Taliban coming into people’s homes and beating them if they heard laughing. There is the old joke about Puritans being worried that somebody, somewhere is having a good time. For the radical Islamists, it is literally true.

  2. Bob Smith says:

    If they’re listening to music they might be thinking about something other than Islam. Islam demands ownership of your thoughts at all times. Many of Islam’s rules should be seen in this light.

    Muhammad said:

    (1) “Allah Mighty and Majestic sent me as a guidance and mercy to believers and commanded me to do away with musical instruments, flutes, strings, crucifixes, and the affair of the pre-Islamic period of ignorance.”

    (2) “On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress.”

    (3) “Song makes hypocrisy grow in the heart.”

  3. Narr says:

    Even the slightest acquaintance with Islam would make it clear that the critique of nationalism and ethnic pride is mainstream–as far as ideology goes. (The racial pride of Arabs, or the absurd status accorded to descendants of Muhammed, don’t undercut the point.)

    Islamic ideology is explicitly universalistic. Race and Nation (throw in Class too) are divisive forms of idolatry in traditional Islamic thought.

    Why this might surprise anyone, or be considered a new development, I don’t understand.

    As to the music issue, if the stations are playing a lot of Europop, then the prohibition is fully justified 😉

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