Once in a while a story comes along that reveals some surprising cultural similarities between our culture here in the U.S. and another one in some far-flung location on our planet. In this case, we’re talking about young people in places like Iran, Lebanon and Egypt, who appear to be as dedicated to their love of heavy metal rock music as any fan in the world.
A new book entitled Heavy Metal Islam by Professor Mark LeVine from the University of California, Irvine reveals some surprising facts about the heavy metal scene in the Middle East. Just the phrase "heavy metal scene in the Middle East" doesn’t sound like it makes sense from what most of us know about that part of the world.
The images we see from that region of the world would probably not compel one to imagine that there is a growing movement among the young people there that finds them gathering in large numbers to attend concerts featuring home-grown heavy metal rock bands.
As one might expect, metal fans are more free to indulge in the consumption of the music they love in certain countries of that region more freely than in others. While a group may be free to perform for 100,00 fans in Lebanon, and rock the house with Pink Floyd cover tunes, the situation in Iran is very different where the basij, otherwise known as the "morality police" (I’m still trying to get my head around that one) are on the lookout for those who are caught acting in a way that is not in line with the rules imposed upon them by their Islamic leaders.
LeVine’s book also reveals some incidents that have taken place that would shock the people of most western cultures, such as the jailing of children as young as 13, when photos surfaced of fans at a concert who appeared to be holding crosses upside-down, which was perceived as "devil worship" by the authorities.
There’s no doubt that the religious leaders in some of the countries in the region see the popularity of western music as a threat to their way of life, or more specifically, their iron-fisted control of the citizens who are unfortunate enough to live beneath the shadow of these fanatical regimes.
It would appear that things might be starting to change in that troubled region of the world. It will no doubt be a slow process, but wouldn’t the sight of Arab and Israeli kids all rocking together at the same show be something to see?
The mullahs and their puppet regimes will not release their grip on power easily, but nobody lives forever, and this up-and-coming generation may be poised to change the character of that region of the world, where conflict has virtually been a way of life for a very long time.
For more on this, click on over to Slate.