The Day Somali Music Died

Islamist insurgents have ordered Somali radio stations to stop playing music, a ban that went into effect last Tuesday. This order follows the Islamists’ ban on musical ringtones, movies, men without beards, football, women's beauty salons, and bras. Those not adhering to the new ban risk a grave threat to their physical well-being, which includes getting assassinated or undergoing Sharia-based punishments. Such punishments include having your limbs amputated, your eyes gauged out, your tongue cut out, and your ears cut off.

majority of radio stations in southern and central Somalia stopped playing music and jingles on Tuesday. In Mogadishu, the capital, only the government-controlled Radio Mogadishu, which is protected by African Union peacekeepers, and the UN-funded Radio Bar-Kulan, whose studio is in Nairobi, resisted the order.

In order to understand this phenomenon, it is critical to keep in mind that for the totalitarian radical, experiencing any kind of joy means succumbing to the false consciousness that, in the utopian mindset, must be purged from the earth. Earthly joy distracts from the constant vigilance that is necessary to engage in revolutionary battle.

This is why Lenin refused to listen to music, since, as he explained, “it makes you want to say stupid, nice things and stroke the heads of people who could create such beauty while living in this vile hell.” For Lenin, violent revolution was the priority -- a priority endangered by the emotions music could induce.

Sayyid Qutb, one of Islamism’s godfathers, could relate to this vision all too well -- and he serves as a perfect example of Islam’s rejection of the joyous celebration of this world and this life. In his work Milestones, Qutb demonizes the pursuit of individual interests and sensual pleasures -- but above all sexual pleasure -- and of personal happiness and fulfillment. The word “desire” reverberates through Milestones as a diabolical entity.

Thus, America was, understandably, the main target of Qutb’s fury. He lived in Colorado from 1948 to 1950, and he was enraged by Americans’ interest in having “a good time” and “fun.” He despised all the comforts of modern American life. He was particularly repulsed by a dance he witnessed after a church service. He writes with horror:

The dancing intensified. ... The hall swarmed with legs. ... Arms circled arms, lips met lips, chests met chests, and the atmosphere was full of love.

Here we see totalitarian puritanism as well as the totalitarian craving to reject the reality of personal love.