Last week, the majority of radio stations in southern and central Somalia stopped playing music and jingles, to comply with a ban by Islamic jihadists.
Hizbul Islam, one of the two main jihadist forces in Somalia, issued the order on April 3rd, saying music broadcasts violated Islamic principles. It gave FM radio stations – the main form of news and entertainment in the country – 10 days to comply or be shut down.
This is hardly the first time jihadists have tried - and succeeded - to ban music, and that's because they are simply following their Prophet's teachings, and the prescriptions of Islamic law.
Reliance of the Traveller, an authoritative Islamic legal manual, says that there is "explicit and compelling textual evidence that musical instruments of all types are unlawful". It quotes Muhammad saying things like the following:
"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."
"On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress."
"Song makes hypocrisy grow in the heart as water does herbage."
"'This Community will experience the swallowing up of some people by the earth, metamorposis of some into animals, and being rained upon with stones.' Someone asked, 'When will this be, O messenger of Allah?' and he said, 'When songstresses and musical instruments appear and wine is held to be lawful."
The manual repeats: "It is unlawful to use musical instruments - such as those which drinkers are known for, like the mandolin, lute, cymbals and flute - or to listen to them." The only exception is that the tambourine may be played at weddings and circumcisions.
The issue here is that Islam is a totalitarian belief system that seeks to outlaw all spontaneous acts of "fun" and unregulated emotion, such as that generated by music. After all, as the Bard once wrote: "If music be the food of love, play on." It is no coincidence that Lenin also disliked music because it distracted people from the priority of violent revolution, just as the Ayatollah Khomeini once famously said: "Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious."
Now obviously, there are many Muslims around the world who do listen to music. When I went to Morocco a few years ago, we were treated to a concert by our hosts (I say "concert", but I couldn't really tell where one song ended and the next began), which even featured a belly dancer - can you think of anything less Islamic? In many areas, Western values have entered the lives of ordinary Muslims, but as long as a seventh-century Arabian warlord remains the eternal example of conduct for those who follow him, there is always the danger that progress of this kind can be rolled back and rigid orthodoxy imposed. After all, the "extremists" clearly have their Prophet on their side, and they know this.