Meet Salman Ahmed, Rock and Roll Jihadi

Junoon's singer says the guitar is mightier than the sword.

ByABC News
October 3, 2010, 5:37 PM

Oct. 3, 2010— -- The British and American governments' latest weapon in the fight against al Qaeda isn't a missle or an intricate piece of technology, but a long-haired rocker named Salman Ahmed.

Ahmed is the lead singer of rock band Junoon, a band that is using music to urge students to choose electric guitars over extremism.

Ahmed, who has already reached over 30 million records sold, is arguably the biggest rock star in the Muslim world. But he has a much bigger mission: rock and roll jihad.

The concept is loosely defined by Ahmed as a way of using music to stand up to the violent rhetoric of Islamic terrorists. His songs provide an alternative outlet to young Muslims who are angry and rail against perceived injustices in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.

"It's actually harder to build something from the ground up, help society. It's much easier to blow yourself up," he told ABC News' Jim Sciutto, while discussing how to help give a voice to that anger.

"When I was 18-19 years old, when I couldn't make sense of the world, it was movies, music and storytelling which gave me answers, so that's what I am going to do on my own," Ahmed said.

Ahmed began his career as a musician with the Pakistani pop group Vital Signs, but in 1990 creative differences forced him to leave and form Junoon. He has now won many international awards and has even recorded and released his first solo album.

Alarmed at the success that extremist clerics have had in recruiting western Muslims to violence, from Times Square to Fort Hood, both the U.S. and British governments have enlisted Ahmed's help to speak and perform on college campuses.

Ahmed was even invited by Bill Clinton to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2006.

Terrorists have responded with death threats against Ahmed and his fans. But young people still show up by the thousands to the band's concerts.

"What were they saying?" Ahmed asked of his fans. "They were saying we are sick of the politics of violence, right, we want engagement. Simply by staying silent you are good as dead."