August Issue 2010
Interview: Ali Azmat, musician (former member of Junoon)
“Our media has painted Islam in such a manner that every time you think of it, you think of the Taliban”
Q: At what point in time did you discover Islam?
A: I never discovered Islam. I was born Muslim. My family was religious and I started studying the Quran in classes 3 and 4. However, when we were growing up in the early 90s, MTV arrived in the country. We were completely in awe of that culture, and I was to some extent blown away by western civilisation.
Q: How do you define western civilisation?
A: Well, western civilisation is not really the western civilisation [per se]. It’s the counter culture, started at a British institute called Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. In collaboration with British intelligence, they started to replace the whole world’s culture with a new culture. For instance the modern rock sound is a British rock sound that includes the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, etc. These are all tools of imperialism. The imperialists never went away. They only let go of the territories because they realised that the territories were too expensive to manage and they had borrowed a lot of money from banks.
Q: Was this a search for identity?
A: Yes, at the beginning it was a search for identity. We were rebelling against a system. We didn’t want the maulvis to stop us from anything and we said to hell with them. We were the first ones to stand in front of a madrassa and sing Sayoni. We weren’t singing about vulgar things, we were singing about God, which people appreciated.
Q: What is your concept of religion?
A: Religion is simple: namaz, roza, hajj; plus Haqooq-ul-Ibaad (your duties as a person) — Don’t lie, steal or murder. This code of conduct is common to all religions. It’s all about being a good person at the end of the day. The jihad is within. It is about fighting one’s own demons.
Q: Do you follow Zaid Hamid’s teachings? What is the Ghazwa-e-Hind that he speaks about?
A: I don’t follow Zaid Hamid at all. I only did a TV show with him called Iqbal ka Pakistan. Ghazwa-e-Hind, I believe, is a hadith of our Prophet (PBUH), which reads: “I see another Ghazwa in Hind.” This is an ideological concept, meaning Muslim values will be implemented all across the world. A religious scholar could probably explain it better.
Q: Are you preaching Islamic values through your music?
A: I am raising awareness about this subject — at every concert through my music and every talk show. Our media has painted Islam in such a manner that every time you think of it you think of the Taliban. We have to fight against this perception. We need to wake up!
Q: It was generally assumed that all jihadis were from low-income groups. But Faisal Shahzad and the botched Times Square bombing incident changed that perception. What are your feelings on the subject?
A: Jihad is about fighting one’s own demons. These people are turning on their affluence because they are looking at all the injustices taking place around them and they feel a love for “mother earth.”
There is one school of thought that believes that people turn violent because they have been harmed directly. An example would be if my house was blown up with a drone I might react. But there is another school of thought that sees that all humanity is suffering because of the “zionists” or the “neocons,” or whatever forces there are, and they feel the need to do something. Faisal Shahzad stood up for humanity’s suffering.
Have you ever stopped to check where the suicide bombers came from … or the Taliban that appeared in Swat? They had guns, radios, and arsenal and at the same time 40% of American military hardware was missing from military depots. This is what they call the Yugoslav solution. This exact same thing happened in Yugoslavia. They make people fight against each other and then they break up a country, which is rich in human and natural resources.
Q: Why have you become so anti-West?
A: Living in this country changed my viewpoint. Before 2005, we were completely in sync with western powers and we were following them. But then we realised that their policies were destroying our nation. We had to go back to our roots. Their war machine is out of control. The military complex serves their corporations and their vested business interests. They create wars and then go mop up the place.
Maheen Bashir Adamjee is an APNS award-winning journalist. She was an editorial assistant at Newsline from 2010-2011.