“Sheikhs against shakes”

Nine years ago I wrote a post about Islamist reaction against popular Middle Eastern singers such as Haifa Wehbe. For some reason, I kept working in references to Sappho.

The process continues. Now a court in the new, improved Islamist Egypt has ordered al-Tet, a television channel devoted to belly dancing, shut down.

The channel was also accused of airing advertisements that “arouse viewers,” sell sexual-enhancement products and promote matchmaking, according to the court’s statement.

According to [Baleegh] Hamdy, the court ruling was not based on accurate evidence. “The judge was supposed to check the facts present in the lawyer’s allegations.”

There is not much the court can do about the the owners’ YouTube channel, however.

Weapons of Singing Destruction

Since Google sends some readers seeking news and photos about such new Arab singing stars as Haifa Wehbe and Nancy Ajram to this blog, here are two articles by Charles Paul Freund that might interest you.

“Look Who’s Rocking the Casbah: The Revolutionary Implications of Arab Music Videos,” Reason magazine, June 2003.

“Weapons of Singing Destruction” The Escalating Storm over Arab Pop Videos,” Reason magazine, October 29, 2003.

Freund writes:

If you add the voluminous press and publicity machine that has grown around this scene, it begins to take on the proportions of a cultural frenzy. Such phenomena have a long and fascinating history; they occur when a cultural form becomes available to an audience that uses it to assert and validate its quickly shifting sense of itself. The Netherlands famously experienced such a phenomenon in the 17th century, when members of its suddenly enriched middle class latched onto paintings of themselves and their world as a way to express and validate their new social power. At the time, such subject matter was a departure for painters; indeed, it was the first time that anyone outside the aristocracy had owned paintings. The emerging British middle class of the 18th and 19th centuries went through a fiction-reading frenzy (of Grub Street “trash,” mostly) as it sought models for its emerging social opportunities and identified with characters grappling with an industrializing, urbanizing world. Similarly, movies and rock music were powerful forms for different generations of 20th-century Americans. They used such forms to play with the new possibilities of identity that were coming within their grasp.