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Off with her head

The relations between Islamic activists and pop culture are explored in an interesting new book: Schmoozing with Terrorists, by Aaron Klein

The reverberations of the latest pop scandal are still reaching our ears: the conversion of Miley Cyrus into a rebel and bad girl. The erstwhile protagonist of Hannah Montana has taken, one after another, the usual steps: the adult record, the provocative show on the MTV Video Music Awards, taking her clothes off in a photo session for publication in Rolling Stone. I hope her parents and/or those responsible for her career moves have taken the necessary precautions: she will now be a target for the jihadists.

This is no joke. The relations between Islamic activists and pop culture are explored in an interesting new book: Schmoozing with Terrorists, by Aaron Klein. Its very existence shows that Middle Eastern extremists are able to swallow their prejudices for the sake of publicity. Klein is a Jewish-American journalist, who lives in Jerusalem.

If we are to believe Klein, he was fortunate enough to talk at length with some representatives of the Palestinian resistance on the subject of pop music. These men were not experts in Western music, but - immersed in the global flow of tele-trash - they knew of Madonna's kiss with Britney Spears on the 2003 version of the same MTV award show.

If they go on tempting men to turn their backs on Islam, they will be considered whores"

They were not amused. Muhammad Abdel-Al, the People's Resistance Committees' spokesman, was clear: "If I meet those whores, I will have the honor of being the first to cut their heads off. Madonna and Britney must not go on preaching their Satanic culture against Islam."

In comparison, Abu Abdullas, a leader of the military branch of Hamas, was something of a moderate. He would offer the singers a chance to repent, after locking them up. However, God help them if they were to persist in their error! "If they go on tempting men to turn their backs on Islam, they will be considered whores, and be punished with stoning or 80 lashes."

Sheikh Abu Saqer alleged that he had no direct information as to who they were. "I have only heard their names on television, when parents complain that children are dropping their studies and abandoning their values, due to the influence of this cheap music, which you people consider culture." The sheikh, be it known, founded the group Sword of Islam, which places bombs in Gaza's dens of impiety: billiard halls, cyber-cafés and - take note - record shops.

We may be inclined to laugh at such delirium. But it is taken very seriously in Islamic countries, where people remember the murders of Algerian singers during that country's civil war, and the execution of Shaima Rezayee, who used to present a music program on Afghan television. The hatred fundamentalists feel for music, even the autochthonous kind, brings about grotesque situations: the Somali radio stations, threatened by the insurgents of Hizbul Islam, had to give up even their jingles and signature tunes, replacing them with vehicle noise, gunfire or birdsong.

Against this depressing background of a desert barren of music, it may come as a surprise that Osama bin Laden was a cool oasis of tolerance. Kola Boof, a Sudanese woman, who in her autobiography claims she was forced to be his concubine, reveals his weakness for... Whitney Houston. Marveling at her beauty, the leader of Al Qaeda wanted to make her one of his wives, after, of course, converting her to the true faith, by convincing the singer she had been "brainwashed" by growing up as a Christian in the United States. It may be better, however, not to use Bin Laden as an example. His plan for the seduction of Whitney involved the murder of her then husband, the vocalist Bobby Brown. According to Osama - and he may not have been far wrong in this - the decline and fall of Whitney was the fault of her husband.

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