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Coalition faces new battlefront


POP music was always meant to be subversive but in Iraq it is proving to be too subversive for the coalition.

As Americans flood Iraq's airwaves with radio stations playing harmless Western and Arab pop tunes, the young are turning elsewhere for their musical inspiration.

They turn to artists like Sabah al-Jenabi who sings: "America has come and occupied Baghdad. The army and people have weapons and ammunition. Let's go fight and call out the name of God."

Banned from the air, such songs are proving increasingly popular in the CD and tape shops of Baghdad, Fallujah and Ramadi.


Even Iraqis generally supportive of the US occupation admit they're attracted to the music. Driver Ahmad Hossein plays al-Jenabi's cassettes in his car.

"I like the music and the lyrics," says Mr Hossein, a member of Iraq's Shia majority, which was oppressed under Saddam. "I don't know why. I don't agree with what it's saying. It just makes me feel good."


Dan Senor, a spokesman for the coalition, told reporters recently that "any sort of public expression used in an institutionalised sense that would incite violence against the coalition or Iraqis" is banned under Iraq's current rules.

Yet, CD shops and cassette stalls sell al-Jenabi's albums, as well as those of other musicians calling for jihad or holy war against the Americans for about 69p.

They appear to be mass-produced by the CD shops themselves.

At Sabah Recordings, a popular cassette shop in a Fallujah alleyway, owner Maher al-Ajrari first denies he even sells al-Jenabi's music. After an hour of hemming and hawing, he admits the jihad tapes are his best-selling products. Other big sellers include Sayid al-Hassooni and Abdul Rahman al-Refai.

Mr al-Ajrari even carries multi-media "video" versions of the CDs. One shows scenes from the Anthony Quinn movie Omar Mokhtar, in which Islamic warriors fight Italian occupiers in 1920s Libya. In another, musicians sing anti-United States songs as news footage of American troops killing and maiming Iraqis rolls by.

"The men of Islam will fight the Americans like leaderless soldiers," al-Jenabi sings in one tune. "We'll drag Bush's corpse through the dirt."

But Mr al-Ajrari says he's got no anti-United States agenda.

"We sell these just for business and for commercial profit," he says.

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