Why would anyone target a concert by the American singer Ariana Grande? The grim answer may lie in the fact that with her revealing stage outfits, her stockings, pink bunny ears and unabashed sexual confidence, 23-year-old Miss Grande is a symbol of everything Islamists hate.
Indeed, one claim of responsibility for Monday’s attack stated: ‘The explosive devices were detonated in the shameless concert arena.’
Those unfortunate enough to live in Islamic State’s caliphate have experience of this doctrine.
Three years ago, the then fledgling Islamic State issued a statement that read: ‘Songs and music are forbidden in Islam, as they prevent one from the remembrance of God and the Koran, and are a temptation and corruption of the heart.’ The directive went on to cite Koranic verses and Islamic teaching.
One young Syrian I met when I was reporting in the region, who lived in the group’s de facto capital of Raqqa, told me dolefully his best friend was thrown in jail for wearing a Metallica T-shirt celebrating the U.S. rock band.
At the many checkpoints through which Syrians had to pass on their way out of Islamic State territory (back when they were allowed to leave), the militants paid as much attention to the length of men’s beards and contents of their mobile phones as to their politics.
Guards, many of them no more than boys, diligently searched mobile phones for any minor infractions of their religious laws: and that included music that ‘insulted’ Allah.
In their sliding scale of punishments, I was told, a single pop song was rewarded by between 30 and 40 lashes with a whip or stick. In another incident in 2015, a group of musicians was reportedly sentenced to 90 lashes each for the ‘crime’ of playing an electronic keyboard.
Like medieval inquisitors, converts to the Islamic State see Satan (shaytan) and supernatural beings (jinns) everywhere and in anything.
In Syria and Iraq, their feared religious police (the hisbah) pay particular attention to teenage heavy metal music fans, which they consider the devil’s work.
Women are treated as inherently suspicious, and are forced to cover up and wear the face veil when outside and never to leave home without a chaperone.
Thus the sight of Ariana Grande and her risque stage outfits would be anathema to the fanatics.
In territory controlled by Islamic State, everything from pop music to musical instruments are banned as totems of godless Western decadence.
That’s why a group of masked Isis fighters were photographed two years ago in Libya — the country from which the Manchester suspect’s family hail — burning a saxophone and drums.
Even before Islamic State moved to create its state in the ruins of Syria and Iraq, there were signs this extremist sensibility was taking root among disgruntled young Muslims in our inner cities.
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