What do Mick Jagger, Coca-Cola and Lahore, Pakistan all have in common?
They are all elements in one man’s ongoing jihad to build bridges across borders.
Salman Ahmad is a modern warrior, armed with weapons of mass destruction aimed straight at hatred, mistrust and divisiveness. Using his favored tools – a guitar, haunting melodies and poignant lyrics – he is out to tear down barriers and get people around the world to stop and really take a look at each other.
Ahmad is a recording legend in South Asia who counts Al Gore, Melissa Ethridge and Bono as his fans, and has sold over 30 million records with his band Junoon (known as the “U2 of Asia”). He’s a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations who has stood up against political and religious fanaticism to deliver his message.
But the truth is a lot of Westerners know as little about Ahmad as they do his home country of Pakistan. While it may have been in the news more than any other country in the world (beside Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and North Korea) over the last decade, Pakistan remains one of the least understood places on earth.
How do I know? Because I lived and worked there for almost four years after the 9-11 attacks. Because I’ve watched in dismay as Pakistan is repeatedly portrayed as backwater hellhole full of nothing but guns, black turbans and suicide bombers on motorcycles. Because I’ve had to listen, slack-jawed, as other Americans have asked my Pakistani husband – in all seriousness – whether there is furniture in Pakistan or if people just eat on the floor.
In his newly released autobiography “Rock & Roll Jihad: A Muslim Rock Star’s Revolution” Ahmad takes the reader on an enlightening journey that traces both the personal changes he experienced growing up in America and Pakistan, and the bigger changes that have wrought havoc on the generous and strong-spirited Pakistani people.
It’s a great read – sometimes painful, occasionally depressing, but simultaneously funny and uplifting. There’s adventure, romance and a hysterical story about the Rolling Stones’ frontman that is absolutely priceless.
Ahmad does an incredible job of raising the veil of misunderstanding that separates east and west, Muslim and non-Muslim, in a clear demonstration that every person – whatever their ethnicity, religion or nationality – is on a similar journey.
His message of hope and understanding shines through on every page, and much like Junoon’s music “Rock & Roll Jihad” will leave you cheering.