The embassy said it was 'cognisant' that some may attempt to characterise this move as an internal conflict, allegedly involving diplomats who switched allegiance to the Taliban
Perhaps the most ironical aspect of reports emerging from Afghanistan that the Taliban made a bonfire of musical instruments in their attempt to stamp out an activity they consider unIslamic is that they coincide with the 43rd death anniversary of a man considered by many as the greatest male singer to have emerged from South Asia. Mohammed Rafi was a lower-caste Muslim, a simple and unlettered man, but second to none in his piety.
Blessed with what many called God’s own voice, he was a devout Muslim who was known to respond to praise of his prowess by raising his hands to the heavens to suggest that a higher force was responsible. Legend has it that there came a time in his career when he was advised by some clerics to give up singing as they deemed it un-Islamic.
Rafi retreated briefly, until with simple but irrefutable logic he concluded that using a talent given to him by God could hardly be deemed antithetical to his religion. And although he was not destined to live very long, succumbing to a heart attack at the age of 54, Rafi strung together a medley of songs of virtually every genre and in several languages, and is revered even today by musicians around the sub-continent. For the Taliban to assume they have a monopoly on the tenets of Islam, and that their edict against music must be followed by all Muslims is plainly ridiculous, one that even the mildmannered and non-controversial Rafi may have frowned upon.
The religious police in Afghanistan blame music for the “destruction of society” and say it causes the “misguidance of youth”. The Taliban therefore collected musical instruments including guitars, harmoniums and table sets from wedding halls in Herat and set them on fire. The move comes in the midst of other obscurantist measures that include stopping education for women and girls, and clamping down on human rights.
But several Islamic scholars agree that nothing in the Quran forbids music, and many in fact consider it as an offering to the Almighty. The founder of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, which has seen teachers and students stay away from classes, has appealed to musicians around the world to intervene. In a tweet, he called on “music advocacy groups, music industries, music educational entities, orchestras and musicians to raise their voices in condemning musical genocide by the Taliban.” But it is unlikely that his fervent plea will provoke enough of a response to change the thinking of the Taliban.
The last time they were in power, they had even banned listening to the radio. As we mourn the fate of Afghanistan’s musicians, let us leave the last words to Bahadurshah Zafar, words immortalised by Rafi more than six decades ago: “Lagta Nahin Hai Dil Mera Ujde Dayaar Mein; Kiski Bani Hai AalamE-Napaydaar Mein”.