Why would ISIS target an Eagles of Death Metal concert?

Eagles of Death Metal are known for their irreverent humor and bluesy sound. So why was one of their concerts targeted by terrorists?

Alex Matthews/Reuters/File
Jesse Hughes (l.) of the rock band Eagles of Death Metal performs with drummer Joey Castillo (r.) in Los Angeles in October 2014.

Why would the Islamic State (IS) target fans of Eagles of Death Metal, a California band known for its irreverent humor and bluesy sound?

It's not known that ISIS had an specific hatred of this band, but the group was probably simply a target of convenience – one likely to draw large, young crowds in Paris interested in Western music.

The Islamic militants are no fans of Western music, having condemned and even outlawed it. In 2014, when the terrorist group overtook the Syrian city of Raqqa, they swiftly banned smoking and music. They also required women to wear a full-face veil, and shops to close before and during prayer times.

"Songs and music are forbidden in Islam, as they prevent one from the remembrance of God and the Quran and are a temptation and corruption of the heart," read a statement from IS, reports Arabic newspaper Al-Monitor.

Muslims, in general, are divided on whether all music or just some music is prohibited. The Quran doesn't mention it. There are passages in the Hadith that mention music and the ban often is based on intent: Some kinds of music led to immoral behavior. Singing and drums are OK in many Muslim cultures. When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan in the 1990s, they banned all music.

Violators of the Islamic State rules risk physical punishment or even execution.

"If they see anyone holding a pack of cigarettes, he will receive a couple of lashes," a Raqqa-based driver told the Arabic news channel Al Arabiya. "At the same time, if they find a place that sells cigarettes, they will burn their entire inventory, put him in jail, and whip him."

The violence at the Bataclan concert hall was one of several coordinated attacks that took place in Paris on Friday, including explosions just outside France’s main sports stadium during a France-Germany game. In a statement, IS claimed that the Bataclan venue had been targeted because of its immoral nature.

"The targets included the Bataclan theatre for exhibitions, where hundreds of pagans gathered for a concert of prostitution and vice," reads a translated version. "The result of [all of the] attacks was the deaths of no less than two hundred crusaders and the wounding of even more. All praise, grace, and favor belong to Allah."

Following the shooting attack at the Bataclan, another band that had been scheduled to perform that weekend, Deftones, posted on Facebook alerting fans that all members of the band were safe and well. They had been in the Bataclan audience on Friday evening.

"Thank for all your inquiries on our well being. Band/Crew all safe and accounted for at this time. Prayers for those affected in these tragic events," Deftones wrote.

Both Eagles of Death Metal and Deftones are planning to cancel the rest of their European tours and return to the United States, reports AFP. Other bands have made similar plans.

"It is with profound sadness and heartfelt concern for everyone in Paris that we have been forced to announce the cancellation of the rest of our tour," the alternative-rock band Foo Fighters wrote in a recent Facebook post. "In light of this senseless violence, the closing of borders, and international mourning, we can't continue right now.… Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was hurt or who lost a loved one."

Rock band U2 also announced its intentions to cancel its Paris concerts, adding, "We are devastated at the loss of life at the Eagles of Death Metal concert and our thoughts and prayers are with the band and their fans. And we hope and pray that all of our fans in Paris are safe."

If history is any indication, these and other musical groups will be back on stage soon, likely fundraising for victims of the Paris attack. 

After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York City, a series of signature concerts were held by major music stars - to make sense of the tragedy and to help a nation heal. 

Billboard magazine notes:

Two landmark events -- The Concert for New York City and America: A Tribute to Heroes -- were organized after the attacks, spurring artists to write inspired new material and re-appropriate classic rock tracks to fit the current milieu.

Compared to more concrete measures, the role of music in the aftermath of 9/11 may seem trite, but these two benefits helped rally a city and a country to put aside differences -- temporarily, at least -- and focus on rebuilding something as important as any physical structure: the national psyche. 


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