ROCK AND ROLL JIHAD: A MUSLIM ROCK STAR’S REVOLUTION by Salman Ahmad. Free Press. Hardcover. 240 pages. $24.99
Salman Ahmad is considered Pakistan’s most popular rock musician, though his name may be unfamiliar to most Americans. In this autobiography, Ahmad, the leader of the band Junoon, recounts his wealthy upbringing at an elite British school in Lahore and then as a Beatles obsessed teenager in New York. He describes his return to Pakistan in the midst of General Zia’s military dictatorship, which introduced fundamentalist Muslim codes of conduct into public life. The book follows Ahmad through his journey with Junoon and his ultimate aim to become an ambassador for peaceful relations between India and Pakistan.
The autobiographical journey in this work assumes particular significance because it exposes the often hidden nuances of a society and culture that is of prime importance to international events today. Pakistan is currently center-stage in the war on terror. This book is about what one might call “the other Pakistan” which thrives in the love of God through Sufism, reflected in the daily lives of the people of that country. It is a fact often ignored by the traditional international media and Rock and Roll attempts to dispel the image of the bearded Mullah that sometimes represents the culture and ethos of the area.
The book succeeds in communicating to the Western reader that a peaceful facet of Islam exists and is, in fact, practiced by the overwhelming majority of Muslims. Ahmad himself is a cultural hybrid who spent some of his formative years in Tappan, New York, learning the ropes of survival in an American high school, and becoming a lifelong Yankees fan.
A large part of the book is about growing up in Pakistan. The journey described here is fascinating and aided by friends like Melissa Etheridge, who writes the introduction, and new age guru Deepak Chopra; people whom Ahmad has befriended and drawn inspiration from. This the story of a dreamer who resisted dogma and an artificial and oppressive environment and ended up becoming a pop icon.
On a final note, any reader from my generation would be amused to read about how Mick Jagger spent an evening in the seedy side of the enchanting city of Lahore, playing second fiddle to the much better locally known singer.
Visit http://www.ssgwi.org/ to find out more about the author.
Ras Siddiqui is a South Asian writer and journalist based in Sacramento.