Commentary Magazine


Everybody Must Get Stoned

The New York Times‘s Michael Slackman sees the Middle East’s young Islamists as a bunch of misguided hippies:

Across the Middle East, young people like [Jordanian college student] Mr. Fawaz, angry, alienated and deprived of opportunity, have accepted Islam as an agent of change and rebellion. It is their rock ‘n’ roll, their long hair and love beads. Through Islam, they defy the status quo and challenge governments seen as corrupt and incompetent.

Well, yes and no. Among Middle Eastern youth, radical Islam does serve a social and psychological function similar to the one rock ‘n’ roll once served in the West. It provides the comfort of groupthink, the imposition of an aesthetic, and the blueprint of an identity. But that’s where the similarities end.

Even at its most aggressive, rock ‘n’ roll is toothless. At its most transgressive, it’s commercial gold. Chances are, if thirty years ago you were on stage spitting beer and screaming about anarchy, today you’re sipping tea and crying about taxes. The goal of pop music is entertainment. You can spice up rock culture with a dash of anarchy or communism or black power, but in the end it’s just elevated fandom. And when the demands of adult life come calling, the fandom is abandoned.

Jihad is for life. And, of course, death. Young Islamists in Jordan and elsewhere have a very specific idea about how to “challenge governments seen as corrupt and incompetent,” and it doesn’t involve song. If only sharia was nothing more than the Muslim equivalent of Beatlemania.