, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 211-228

Battling over the public sphere: Islamic reactions to the music of today

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Abstract

This article analyses discussions about music in the new public sphere of the Arab world. First, it focuses on what states do to control musical expressions and what functions religious actors have in that control. Four cases are looked into: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and Palestine. Then the article discusses theological arguments, in the public sphere, about music. The theologians are divided into three positions: moderates, hard-liners and liberals. It is argued that structural changes of the public sphere—especially with regards to new media and consumer culture—have caused a heated debate about music and morality. While hard-liners and moderates engage in a discussion about the legal and the forbidden in Islam, liberals stress the importance of allowing competing norms. Examples of extremist violence against musicians is discussed and contextualised.