A rhetorical question. Of course it is, because it prefers its head conjoined to the remainder of its torso.
But can it continue to look itself in the mirror and call itself brave and noble and an outsider music that stands up for the outlier and the bullied, while it consciously looks away from the ravages that Islamic fanatics continue to reap upon the world? Be it through the destruction of life or cultural artifacts, or a relentless drive to impose its anachronistic interpretation of scripture on enlightened thinking, Islamic fundamentalism is a constantly looming presence in our faces. If we could allow for cultural relativism and look the other way, we would but in a world with fewer boundaries and freer movement, and where politicians love playing to the tune of minority vote banks, this primitive, dogmatic side to Islam – whether there is another is a topic for a different discussion – has very real consequences for all of us.
Many metal musicians say they abhor politics but it is a fact that the music cannot be made in a vacuum, isolated from the surrounding world. It lives and breathes and is imbued with impressions from its immediate environs. Metal has traditionally been the only form of popular music that has tackled topics encompassing the entirety of the human condition. Whether it then decides to investigate them head-on or choose escapism is up to the individual musician’s predilection, but it has never shied away from controversial subject matter.
But in the case of Islam, it most obviously does so. Lebanese black metal band Ayat came to attention some years ago as an anti-Islamic band but have since reneged on their initial stance to claim that they are generally anti-religion. This is perfectly understandable and one empathizes with the band’s concern for life and limb. The bandwidth for civil discussion and free speech is small outside the steadily shrinking sphere of influence for the more tolerant element within Islam.
Naturally, Western metal musicians have only rebelled against the confines of the Christian faith that they were raised in. Scandinavian black metal bands have yearned for the naturalist/paganistic religions of their ancestors which were subjugated by Christian zealotry some thousand years ago. But Christianity has been a moribund, terminal religion for a long time now. Statistics show church attendances dwindling all the time, and how an increasing percentage of traditionally Christian populations, especially in Europe, are slowly professing to a form of latent atheism. Christianity isn’t the immediate threat to life that it once was, and certainly not in the way that speaking out against Islam can be in the present day. This, of course, does not discount the role that the fundamentalist Christian right and its friends in Zionist Israel play by aiding the American military-industrial complex in fomenting strife and conflict all over the world, but, in particular, the Middle East. It is not this article’s intention to downplay the impact that Western interventionism has in making successive Muslim generations of youth turn to more radical strains within their religion.
But Islam, by its very nature, is a proselytising belief system with a massive dose of self-righteousness that rivals, and probably surpasses, its sister pan-Abrahamic religions. It is expansionist and does not believe in passive, cordial assimilation within the milieu of its surroundings. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and the next fifty years will see it becoming the dominant majority in Europe due to inversely proportional rates of procreation. It stands to reason that it will also have significant representation in native parliaments. Will metal musicians be at liberty then to criticize Islamic scripture and activities as they have had free rein to do under the lethargic auspices of Christianity? What would be the prognosis for some poor fool who decides to spray paint a mosque wall on a drunken night? Can the most avowed bleeding-heart liberal apologist guarantee his physical safety?
How will future generations of metalheads react to being brought up in such an environment? Will they lay down arms, castrated and desensitized and resigned like the Eloi of H.G. Well’s Time Machine? Or will they rebel in spite of imminent danger lurking at every turn? The answer may be for metal to go truly “underground”, not just as a cool, pithy phrase as used by yours truly and others but in the sense of real resistance movements. It isn’t hard to envision a time when the music will have to resort to such means to make itself be heard. When this time comes, technology and the internet will be metal’s allies. Playing live will not be viable anymore due to threats to the body, and will be banned anyway, so metal will have to retreat to the relative anonymity of the web and use sophisticated ciphering schemes to advocate its message, and more importantly its right to advocate its message without fear of immediate repercussion (as an aside, it is worth wondering whether any “rights” can be credited to a civilization that has allowed itself to become so enervated in the first place). In doing so, metal will have to join hands with other free-thinking communities tired of spiritual and authoritative fetters, and thus become part of a a greater worldwide movement. Maybe, also, in doing so, it will recover some of the vitality and passion that it has compromised over the years.