Heavy Metal Islam: Rock Resistance and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam by Mark LeVine

By Bill Kohlhaase

Posted February 5, 2009 in Arts & Culture

When kids in Arab countries discovered MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball on satellite TV, the world changed. How? Death metal came to Iran, head banging to Egypt, rap flourished in Palestine, break dancing in Morocco and raves raged in Pakistan. Mark Levine’s study of this unexpected phenomenon uncovers youthful passions within Middle Eastern and North African Islamic culture that few of us knew existed. Levine, a musician and professor of Middle Eastern history at UC Irvine, spent time with musicians, fans, promoters and sociologists to come up with this fascinating account. Like their counterparts in North America and Europe, heavy metal fans tend to be alienated lower and middle class kids who use music as an outlet for social frustration. But there are major differences. Performing live in Iran or being accused of worshipping Satan in Egypt can earn you the death sentence. LeVine describes one Pakistani concert where fans are chased away by men with guns while outside 6000 religious youths burned CDs, videos and televisions. But he finds hope and common ground in a world-wide embrace of rock music. As one fan tells LeVine, “people who hate each other all like the same music.” We say, rock on.

–Bill Kohlhaase

Three Rivers Press, paperback, 304 pages, $13.95


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