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Music is used as a political tool in Islamic organisations

News: Jul 03, 2017

Anashid is a genre of music used by Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas to, among other things, stir emotions, send messages and create unity. Membership of these organisations is not a role that one can step into and out of, meaning that the same type of music is also prevalent in personal contexts and thus becomes a part of the individual’s identity. These are the findings of a thesis from the University of Gothenburg.

“One of those I interviewed said that this music triggered him, gave him the courage to carry out actions that in truth go against human nature,” says Carin Berg.

Aside from marches and classical music, anashid is one of the few forms of music accepted within Islam. Anashid can most closely be described as hymns, with basically religious content. Their theme may be resistance, nationalism, jihad, protest against Israel. The political message is integrated with the religious.

Carin Berg is one of very few who have succeeded in gaining access to leading members of Hamas and Hezbollah to interview them on how they use anashid to strengthen and unite their organisations, control members and encourage political activism.
“Anashid is use to inflame the masses at political rallies and demonstrations. Or as background music in propaganda videos,” explains Carin berg.
“It was apparent at those events that I attended, that this music is capable of stirring emotions and touching people in a way that no other channel of information can,” she says. Anashid is therefore also a powerful tool for leaders to control the thoughts and feelings of the people.

In addition to how the leaderships of the two organisations use the music, Carin Berg has also investigated how anashid is perceived by their members. She can demonstrate that, contrary to popular belief, there are no strict boundaries between the organisation and the private individual.
“Irrespective of whether one holds a formal post or are simply a supporter, you are Hamas or Hezbollah,” she says.
“The division we see in Sweden between the private sphere and engagement in a political party does not exist among the members of these organisations. Therefore, anashid is also often heard in contexts outside of the organisations’ actual spheres of influence.

Carin Berg carried out field studies, observations and informal conversations during a nine-month stay in the Middle East. The long period spent in the location meant that she was able to get to know informers and gain the trust of leaders within the organisations. However, opportunities to carry out the work were still limited.
“It is difficult to operate outside set limits and still maintain one’s contacts,” she explains.

This level of vigilance also applies to the organisations’ members. However, in this regard Hamas and Hezbollah differ somewhat.
“If a member of Hezbollah, which has a well-oiled control apparatus for artistic expression, were to play forbidden music, the consequences will generally not go beyond a passing admonishment. With Hamas, control is more fluid and individuals may take the law into their own hands in an entirely different manner, for example by summarily closing down a concert or CD shop that conflicts with the organisation’s standards,” says Carin.

Attitudes to censorship are divided among men and women on the street.
“Some of those I interviewed felt that anashid helped them to maintain focus on what is important in life. For others, it was more of a hindrance to continually have to listen to this music, and it was seen as inhibiting those who wished to develop musically,” she says.

Contact: Carin Berg, telephone: +46 (0)70 457 0177, email: carin.berg@globalstudies.gu.se
Thesis title: The Soundtrack of Politics. A Case Study of Anashid in Hamas and Hezbollah.
Learn more about the thesis at: http://hdl.handle.net/2077/52195

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Page Manager: Lars-Olof Karlsson|Last update: 3/27/2008

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