The Concert For Pakistan

Earlier this summer I received a call from Salman Ahmed, author of Rock and Roll Jihad and cofounder of the popular band Junoon. We first met as part of the Arts and Culture initiative at the US, Islamic World Forum and have become fast friends. “Hey Sufi!” I greeted him. “How’s it whirling?“ Hey Wahaby!” He replied laughing.

Usually calling to chat and to discuss various issues, this time he was on a mission. Had I heard of the Concert for Bangladesh in 1970 he asked? Of course I have. Who hasn’t? I left out the fact that I had become obsessed with the Beatles while I was growing up, blamed Yoko for the breakup of the band, took John Lennon’s side in a fight that happened when I was in diapers, and was disappointed that Julian, John’s son was born on April 9th, not the 8th like me. If only my mother had waited. Oh, and I preferred Cynthia to Yoko. Yes, I had real feelings and opinions about historical occurrences involving dead men with messages. It comes with the territory.

The concert for Bangladesh was a landmark concert to raise humanitarian aid in the aftermath of Bangladesh separating from Pakistan. Beatles George Harrison and Ringo Starr took part in that historic event as did Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and others.

Salman was planning The Concert for Pakistan at the United Nations. That’s cool, I said. He continues to tell me that he will be performing. Sting is going to be involved. Deepak Chopra. Outlandish. Melissa Etheridge. And others are signing up. U2. Wow! I said. Congratulations! I was waiting for him to offer tickets because it would be pretty mean if he just called to tell me without inviting me, but I wasn’t going to ask. I’m a Sting fan. I read Deepak Chopra. I loved Outlandish’s cover of Cheb Khalid’s Ayesha (its funny how words sounds better when they’re not slurred). Wow! I replied. U2! No, You too he says. That’s what I said. No its not he laughs. We were wondering if you, as in Naif, could join us too, on stage to speak about the Pakistani member of THE 99. Say what ?! It’s a good thing he was on the phone. My juvenile nonverbal reaction would have surely gotten me uninvited. What an honor!

The Concert for Pakistan has been organized to raise awareness and funds for the millions of Pakistanis who have been displaced during the war between the Pakistani military and the Taliban. On September 12th in New York City, artists are assembling at the UN General Assembly to help that effort. I am planning to introduce THE 99 concept, show a sneak peak of the upcoming animation that is being coproduced by media giant ENDEMOL and speak about the significance of THE 99 in general and Hadya, the Pakistani member of THE 99 in particular.

Being invited to be part of this event is a major milestone for THE 99. The mission of THE 99 has always been a social entrepreneurial one. It has been about doing well by doing good. It has been about offering hope and alternative role models to a region plagued with self styled Messiahs waging wars in the name of religion. This is neither new nor endemic to Islam. The only thing that broke the Catholic Church’s grip on Europe after having led it into the dark ages and terrible wars was the Renaissance. It was Arts and Culture that went head to head with fundamentalism and ultimately won. It was the ability of giving interpretation of everything, including religion, back to the people. The stage has been set for an Islamic Renaissance. The time is now. And THE 99 is proud to take part in this historic event.

Oh, and did I say Sting was going to be there?