December 3, 2015 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 68

Leading Up To The Bataclan Massacre In Paris: ISIS's Jihad Against Music

December 3, 2015 | By Steven Stalinsky*
MEMRI Daily Brief No. 68

"Music... is the flute of the devil." - Osama bin Laden[1]

Following the November 13 attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, the Islamic State (ISIS) released a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, and noting that it was a response to France's war on Islam and its insult to Muhammad. The attack against France, it said, was a warning, and only the "first rain." It also revealed that eight men wearing explosive belts and carrying machine guns had raided "carefully chosen" targets in the heart of the French capital, including, in addition to the concert hall, the Stade de France national stadium and a number of targets in the 10th, 11th and 18th districts of the city.

About the Bataclan concert hall, where the majority of the attack's victims were attending a concert by the American rock band Eagles of Death Metal, ISIS wrote that the place had been packed with hundreds of "polytheists" at a party of "fornication and debauchery." Thanks to Allah, it said, the simultaneous attack had succeeded in shaking Paris and its streets, and killing more than "200 Crusaders."[2]   

The choice of the Bataclan is in line with ISIS's hatred for the West. It included an American band, a packed concert hall with intermingled sexes, women in Western dress, alcohol, and live music - all things it considers un-Islamic and forbidden.

Since ISIS came to power, it has targeted areas in its control in Iraq, Syria, and Libya where music was played, as well as physically punished musicians and destroyed musical instruments. These punishments have included public flogging for the musicians and burning of the instruments.

Musicians are one of many groups targeted under ISIS control. The group has put out statements and posted signs warning that music is haram (forbidden in Islam) and outlining the crimes involved in listening to and performing music, or even owning musical instruments.

For example, on January 21, 2014, the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat reported that ISIS had issued a statement banning music and songs in cars, at parties, in shops, and in public in Syria's Raqqa province. "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 statement read. "Whoever violates these rules will subject themselves to the necessary Shari'a punishment."

In Tigris (Dijla) Province, Iraq - ISIS Decorates Streets With Anti-Musical Instrument Posters

On June 22, 2015, the press office of ISIS's Tigris (Dijla) Province in Iraq released three photos of public billboards. The first warns against the use of musical instruments and includes a Hadith which states: "Some groups from my nation will regard musical instrument as permissible." The second photo features a billboard with an ISIS flag, and the third shows a rifle and a Koran next to a statement which reads, "The basis of the religion with a book that guides and a sword that gives victory."[3]

In Al-Bukamal, Syria - More ISIS Anti-Music Signs

ISIS militants hanging posters to the town of Al-Bukamal, Syria

In Bujaq, Syria - ISIS Sentences Musicians To Flogging, Destroys Their Instruments

According to January 20, 2015 media reports, and to content shared by ISIS followers on Twitter, the ISIS religious police seized musicians' instruments and punished the musicians with 90 lashes in a public square, in a raid alleged to have taken place in Bujaq, Syria, a few miles east of Aleppo. Their instruments were subsequently destroyed.

"Flogging of a sinner 90 lashes"

"Flogging of a cigarette smuggler 90 lashes"

"Destruction of musical instruments"

"Destruction of musical instruments"

Barqa Province, Libya - ISIS Religious Police Burn Musical Instruments

On February 18, 2015, the media wing of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Barqa Province, in eastern Libya, published a series of photos documenting the activities of its religious police. One set of photos shows a group of masked ISIS members torching a pile of drums confiscated by the religious police.[4]



Benghazi, Libya - ISIS Destroys Musical Instruments

In April 2015 in Benghazi, Libya, ISIS militants destroyed musical instruments by setting them on fire. Photos of the destruction were posted to an ISIS-linked account on, and a link to them was shared by a pro-ISIS account on Twitter:[5]

"Barqa Province - Picture Report - Confiscation and destruction of musical instruments in Benghazi."

Destruction of musical instruments[6]

Western Musicians' Reactions To ISIS's Paris Attack

In the wake of the November 13 Paris attacks, many Western musician released statements of condemnation, but without mentioning ISIS by name. Notable examples include Coldplay, Madonna, and the Foo Fighters. The Foo Fighters' statement read: "It is with profound sadness and heartfelt concern for everyone in Paris that we have been forced to announce the cancellation of the rest of our tour. In light of this senseless violence, the closing of borders, and international mourning, we can't continue right now. There is no other way to say it. This is crazy and it sucks. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was hurt or who lost a loved one."

A major U2 concert in Paris scheduled for the night following the attacks, which was to have been broadcast live on HBO, was postponed by the French authorities. According to USA Today, the group's front man Bono said: "If you think about it, the majority of victims last night are music fans... This is the first direct hit on music that we've had in this so-called war on terror. And it's very upsetting. These are our people... The cold-blooded effect of this slaughter is deeply disturbing and that's what I can't get out of my head."

Also in USA Today, Bono recalled his visit to a 2003 music festival in the desert of Timbuktu, in Mali: "There were rocket launchers at the edge of the festival grounds, which wasn't very rock 'n' roll. Within a few weeks, Mali had been taken over by the extremists. The inn where we stayed was turned into the hall of Islamic justice. Musicians were having their hands cut off in the same hotel where we slept and ate. They hate music. They hate women. They hate all the things that we love. This is an illness in the world and we just can't give into it."

U2's Paris concert was rescheduled for this weekend. Bono told The New York Times in an interview published today: "Terrorism relies on people being terrorized, and we were not going to be. We felt the biggest and the only real contribution we can make at moment like that is to honor the people of Paris, who brought us the concept of libert├®, ├®galit├®, fraternit├®...

"ISIS and these kinds of extremists are a death cult. We're a life cult. Rock 'n' roll is a life force, and it's joy as an act of defiance. That's what U2 is. That's at the very heart of our band. More importantly in this case, it's the very heart of our audience. I can now already hear that we will be drowned out by that French crowd. And that's powerful."

Appendix: Jihadis And Islamists Tweet - Music Is Haram

The following are tweets by jihadis and Islamists stating that music is haram:


*Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of MEMRI


[1] Wright, Lawrence. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. New York: Knopf, 2006. Web:

[2] Shumoukh Al-Islam, November 14, 2015

[3] Source:, June 23, 2015.

[4] Source:;



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