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Arts

Punk and metal bands riff on conservative Islam

In Indonesia and Malaysia, subcultures lyricize hardline religious views

Street Boundaries, one of Malaysia's most dedicated anti-fascist skinhead Oi! bands. The late Rozaimin Elias, a anti-fascist hero, plays guitar on the far left corner (Photo by Cole Yew)

JAKARTA/KUALA LUMPUR -- Five young men stand in single file on a rickety stage. Behind them, a line of loud, screeching amplifiers transforms their anger into a hailstorm of pounding sonic bullets. Youths stand cheering below the stage, shaking their heads up and down and pumping their fists in the air, mesmerized by the relentless noise. This is not madness, but the powerful effect of subcultural liberation.

The rebellious delights of the metal and punk music subcultures are no longer the exclusive domain of bored white millennials: In Indonesia and Malaysia, which have some of the most active extreme music scenes in the world today, the traditionally anti-conformist metal and punk music subcultures have spun in new directions. After appropriating Western styles and symbols, Southeast Asian Muslims have turned them into mouthpieces for conservative Islamic propaganda.

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