The Taliban bans music from the radio in Afghanistan–again

The Taliban hates music. As it roles across Afghanistan in the vacuum created by the withdrawal of American troops, jihadis are taking village after village, town after town, and city after city. And one of the first places they hit is the local media outlets.

Newsrooms are being purged. Journalists and all female employees are kicked out. And if the station was playing music, that stops immediately. The Taliban consider all non-religious music to be anti-Islamic–it was declared a “vice” in 2002 because it distracts people from God–and therefore is forbidden. Taliban programming is limited to broadcasts on agriculture, health, literacy, and propaganda.

Back in January, a local imam in the north of the country complained that loud music coming from a radio station interfered with his prayers. He got a mob to attack the place.

Back before the Americans moved in, the Taliban hunted musicians and killed them. Today’s Afghan musicians are worried the same will happen to them today. Local DJs hired by the Americans to help with the war effort have been abandoned and left to their own devices. They’re freaking out about the Taliban.

What’s the Taliban’s issue with music? I quote from John Baily, a British ethnomusicologist:

“The Taliban like to invoke the hadith, that, you know, the person who listens to music will, on the day of judgment, have molten lead poured into their ears and you can read the rest of it for yourself.

“But there is one interesting point here to make, and that is how the Taliban actually define music, and it isn’t actually correct to say that the Taliban have banned music. They have banned musical instruments and any kind of music-making that involves musical instruments, quite possibly with one exception, and that exception is the frame drum — the duff — because there are hadiths in which the Prophet Muhammad appreciates or allows the frame drum to be used in connection with celebrations of weddings and so on.”

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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