The mullahs won't like it

"Yeh Hum Naheen," a pop song topping the charts in Pakistan, has a message for the West: We are not terrorists

Published August 15, 2007 6:44PM (EDT)

Like "We Are The World" or "Do They Know It's Christmas," the Pakistan pop sensation "Yeh Hum Naheen" is somehow simultaneously schmaltzy and yet moving. Eight of Pakistan's pop idols, an exceedingly well groomed and attractive group of young men (and one woman), stand in a circle and emote their heart outs. (Thanks to Sepia Mutiny for the tip.) But where the Western stars who gathered for "We Are The World" were attempting to direct compassion at others, the singers of "Yeh Hum Naheen" -- "This Is Not Us" -- are making a statement about themselves.

Muslim does not equal terrorist.

This story that is being spread in our names is a lie
These stamps of death on our forehead are the signs of others
The name by which you know us -- we are not that
The eyes with which you look at us -- we are not that
This is not us -- this is not us.

Produced and written by a British Muslim, Waseem Mahmood, at the request of his two sons, "Yeh Hum Naheen" offers a welcome counterpoint to the images of troops storming the Red Mosque, or fundamentalist mullahs preaching jihad. But the key to the song's success lies neither in its production values or deft depictions of average Pakistanis going about their daily lives, but in its heartfelt expression of pain.

We have lost on the way the lesson of living together
We are now even scared of each other.
They are others whose faces are on your hands
Your hurts are a deep sea -- our wounds are deep.
The stories that are being spread in our names are lies
This is not us.

If these lyrics referred to a lover's relationship gone bad, the song would just be another disposable, if tuneful, melodrama. But as an expression of a society-wide identity crisis, this avowal of negation -- this is not us -- is heart-rending.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Globalization How The World Works Islam Pakistan Religion Terrorism