Rockstar Bridges Gap Between Moderate and Extremist Islam

January 1, 2006

Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press

Wire Service: RNS

On January 1, 2006 Religion News Service reported, "One of Salman Ahmad's earliest gigs was a talent show at King Edward Medical College in Lahore, Pakistan, where he was studying to be a doctor. Moments after he strummed his first chords, Islamic fundamentalists barged in, smashed Ahmad's guitar and drum set and broke up the show... Little did they know at the time, but those fundamentalists helped spawn an international star whose faith-based music reaches millions of Muslims, prompting comparisons to another do-good rocker, U2's Bono. Perhaps more important, by promoting interfaith understanding, Ahmad has become a pivotal figure in the war between moderate and extremist Islam. 'That one incident really changed the way I started thinking. I realized that if there are some people who feel threatened by music and what music means for people, then I should do more of it,' Ahmad, a devout Sufi Muslim, said in an interview. Ahmad, 41, is best known as lead guitarist of Junoon, a Pakistani-American rock band that is wildly popular throughout South Asia and among the South Asian diaspora, selling 25 million albums — as many as Nirvana, ZZ Top and Janet Jackson have sold in the United States. Many of his songs have topped MTV India's music charts for weeks on end. But fame was never enough for Ahmad, who has parlayed his popularity into lobbying for Third World development and building bridges between the Islamic and Western worlds."