"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
On the 18th of November, 1994, Palestinian worshippers left a mosque in Gaza after prayers and found themselves confronted by armed soldiers who were there to stop a planned demonstration of support for Hamas. When some of the worshippers began throwing stones, the soldiers retaliated by opening fire upon them, killing 14 and wounding over 200. Because some of the people were planning to attend a rally in support of Hamas., within 24 hours of the bloody crackdown, various news reports described the victims as Fundamentalists, Extremists, Islamizes, Terrorists, Guerrillas, and Militants. The question arises: If you cannot vote, and you cannot demonstrate, and you cannot throw stones, what can you do to fight an occupying force?
Muslimgauze began approximately 11 years ago as one man's obsession. Driven to present opposition to the Israeli annexation of the Gala Heights and occupation of Gaza, Muslimgauze began recording albums of rhythmic dissent. Muslimgauze is punctuated by layers of texture and ambience floating in and out in a hypnotic collision with Arabic voices and a persistent spiraling beat. After every significant political event in the Middle East, Muslimgauze responds with an unrelenting counterspin to the ceaseless anti-Arab propaganda. We spoke with Muslimgauze six days before the bloody crackdown in Gaza by security forces.
When were you first introduced to Islam, the Palestinian Intifada, and Middle Eastern politics?
It was the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. That was the main starting point. From there, my interest in the whole area started, but principally in the Palestinian situation really.
Since most of the song titles and graphic art on your CDs are very provocative, I am wondering why have you have chosen not to elaborate these controversial titles and images with lyrics.
Well, there is a fine line between preaching and information. As soon as you start writing songs and lyrics you are preaching to people. Also, most music is ruined by people who can't think. So if we have everything done for us and we can t think for ourselves, then there are no songs as such. The titles are used as my marks to guide people to hopefully get more information on the situations.
Do you do the graphic art yourself?
No, it's the kind of scenario were we can have other people's input rather than everything just me. So it's left to the labels who know what I'm doing so they come up with things.
You have a strong rhythmic base to your music and a heavy emphasis on percussion, does that come from some aspect of Islam?
No, it's just what interests me, percussion sounds working with other sounds as well, it's whatever interests me really. We don't aim to be pigeonholed into any musical category, that's one thing that I hope Muslimgauze can't be, you know, put into a specific box; we do this or that or the other. Personally, when people ask me what it's like, I can't really explain.
How do you feel about the so-called peace between Israel and the PLO and what is your opinion of Arafat?
There won't be any peace. There can't be any peace, it can't be solved. Arafat is doing what he's always done, which is the best for his own people. He can continue to talk and Hamas. can continue direct action. It's like a two-pronged attack. The CD we've just finished is called Maroon, which is influenced by the situation that the Palestinian's are in at the moment, marooned between the peace process and retaliation. They have every right to retaliate and are justified in doing so. At the moment they are talking, but you can't talk forever.
There's a fine line between talk and action.
It just depends on what kind of action is taken, if Israel is just going to talk and talk then it can't continue. That's the whole idea that has influenced the new music.
What do you think about Hamas. and other groups like Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and Abu Nidal?
Total support. Total support. Lebanon has been stolen from them, it's not as if they can vote the Israelis out so... It is easy to criticize these organizations if you live in the west and you're able to vote and live well. These people have had everything taken from them.
Do you think these groups are nationalists of a nation which does not yet exist?
That's what they're striving for, to be in control of their own lives. Their own land, water, food... Everything is controlled by an occupying force.
How do you feel about nationalism in general?
It's pretty important, it's about where you belong so its very important. That's what happened to Yugoslavia, it has reverted back to the way it was when before communism hit them.
Both Jewish and Islamic fundamentalism has been on the rise. There have been crackdowns on fundamentalist Muslims in Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and of course other countries. Do you think these fundamentalist movements will eventually take political control over those countries?
Well, it all depends on what the people want. If they want more religion then that's what they'll get. It's up to the people. Again, it's not for the west to dictate what these lands, these people want, which is what always happens.
But when the Algerian people voted for an Islamic government during their elections in 1991...
They locked them up. Pretty clever of them. That wasn't really democracy in North Africa anyway.
The Muslims of the former Yugoslavia have been for the most part left to fend for themselves. How do you feel about that particular situation?
It's the same situation: if you haven't got oil, you've got no chance. If there were an oil reservoir under Bosnia, then it would be different. There have been arms sent by other Islamic countries covertly but it seems to be a bit more open now. But certainly, more should have been done for them.
Here in the West we have had horribly biased news coverage, what can you tell me about the last year's massacre in Hebron at the Ibrihimi mosque and do you think there were other forces at work besides just Baruch Goldstein?
I can imagine... Well, it's the pressure groups, so that's all you get, one-sided. [The Hebron Massacre] is absolutely an unbelievable situation. A catastrophe really, a war crime in fact, I think it's that bad. Because the guy was let in. Who let him in? If not the Israeli army, then certainly the guards, I mean, the Mosque was guarded. It s a ridiculous situation.
They have erected a monument to Goldstein in Hebron.
That just sums the whole people up. It's just a vile regime.
Last night a 14 year old boy with dynamite taped to his body rode his bicycle into a group of Israelis and blew himself up, killing several people...
Those things will always happen until Palestine is Zionist free. There will always be legitimate targets.
Do you have complete animosity toward the state of Israel and its people or would you exempt certain Israelis that you might consider good people?
No, I wouldn't. No, I wouldn't talk to any of them, the whole people are disgusting so no, I wouldn't. Just look at the record of what they've done, it's incredible. So I would not tolerate anything to do with Israel. I mean, it's my opinion, a Manchester musician's point of view. I know other people will probably say I'm wrong and they won't support me but it's just what influences my music.
I find it interesting that you are not a Muslim yet you have taken such a strong position for a people, and an entire political movement, is there something about Islam that you find in opposition to you beliefs?
I'm nonreligious. It just brings so much trouble. If other people believe, then it's up to them, but it's not for me. You don't have to be "X" to appreciate "X"'s situation. A few years ago there were a lot of people who were anti-South Africa. They were part of the anti apartheid movement. If those people were okay, then if you support the Arab point of view, why are you considered such a freak? That's all that is happening in Israel now, it's apartheid.
Do you think that Islam will spread even more so than it already has?
Yeah, I think it's growing quite well as it is, maybe down the road there will be some sort of a conflict...
Which leads me to my next subject. Most of the music that you create tends to be in response to current political situations. I would like to take a few steps into the future and discuss what you think will be the future state of the Islamic world will be like. What do you see as the ultimate outcome of the conflict between Palestine and Israel?
As it should rightfully be: the state of Palestine with Jerusalem as the capital.
Do you think there will be a complete displacement of the entire state of Israel?
Yeah, the sooner the better. Hamas. and Islamic Jihad have taken Israel on while the PLO talks. They are funded by most Arab states I should think. Most certainly Syria and Iran.
You have an earlier CD entitled the United States of Islam. To me that seems to hint at a common prophetic theme of a unified Arab-Asian military alliance against the west. Do you foresee a union of former Soviet states, China, North Africa, and other Islamic countries?
Yeah, it could be a Pan-Arabic force like Tajikistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, a whole force... Whether it will come off or not, I don't know. It should, but they've all got their own interests so I don't know whether Syria would join up with Iran or Iraq. China is unwieldy. They'll sell arms to anyone who has the money, but it is very big communication wise so I don t know...
Do you believe that a final Muslim prophet or some other Islamic leader like the Shah of Iran will appear soon as do many followers of the various sects of Islam?
I doubt it very much. As I said, I steer well clear of religion. Its just not a major force with me. It's more the political situations than the religion. These people believe in it so it's up to them. That type of leadership is gone forever, I think. In Iran at least. The Shah was a particular phenomenon of Iran because Iran was quite different than any other Muslim country. It's just a different type of region and setup. I just hope that one day it will take over Iraq and have more power.
How do you regard the Hussein regime?
I support Iran, so when he attacked Iran I was hoping he would get beat, but the West gave him arms so that he could beat Iran which he didn't do, and he came back to haunt them.
A few Muslim countries are now nuclear capable, Pakistan, Iran, and it is rumored that Libya has now purchased one. What are your feelings about an Islamic nuclear bomb given that there are Israeli and American nuclear missiles in the region?
Well, if Israel has got one then why not Pakistan, Iran or Libya? It's just like the same situation in Bosnia, one side has got all the arms and the other side hasn't.
If Israel used a nuclear bomb in against any of it's neighbors would you support the retaliatory use of a nuclear bomb against the state of Israel?
No. I don't think you can use a nuclear weapon. No, I'm not really into the use of nuclear weapons. If you dropped one on Egypt, you've got Syria on the other side to retaliate so that would be pretty stupid. No, nuclear weapons are a different thing all together, I mean that's just madness. It just gets so out of hand. There are just so many great buildings and things that would be destroyed. It's just mad...
What is the Blue Mosque?
The Blue Mosque is a magnificent building in Turkey. It's one of the great architectural works of Islam. It's just another side to Islam that other people don't see. Instead of all mobs chanting in the streets, there's another spiritual and architectural side as well. So that was the reason behind the title, somebody might see Blue Mosque and start wondering what the hell it is.
What kind of feedback do you get from Palestinian, Islamic, or Arabic sources?
None. Not any, but we don't look for it, it's not important.
What about criticism from Jewish people or supporters of Israel?
Oh we get... well we do get abuse, yeah. But that's just normal because I'm putting forward a view that they don't like.
Can you sum up Muslimgauze for those unfortunate souls who may not have had the opportunity to hear your music?
Every piece of music is influenced by a particular fact, be it Palestine, Iran, or Afghanistan, the whole Middle East is an influence to Muslimgauze. From the political situations I am influenced to create music, endless music.