Homophobia in Egypt Sees Mashrou' Leila Attacked, Possibly Banned

Published September 25th, 2017 - 01:37 GMT
Mashrou' Leila. (Facebook / Mashrou' Leila)
Mashrou' Leila. (Facebook / Mashrou' Leila)

A few years ago, the Arab world was bereft of alternative Arab bands. Then there was a renaissance, early in the decade: bands like Mashrou’ Leila and Soapkills suddenly started making noise. And now, that this noise is loud, it seems authorities want it out.

Egypt has now joined Jordan in being guilty of stopping Mashrou’ Leila from performing. The Egyptian Musicians’ Syndicate, headed by singer Hany Shaker, has is reportedly "investigating" whether it would ban all further shows after a performance last night saw audience members wave the rainbow flag.

Mashrou’ Leila has, over time, been designated as something of an LGBT+ band; this is in part due to their music, which includes love songs like “Shim El Yasmine,” but is also due to the band’s front-man and vocalist, Hamed Sinno, being openly, visibly gay.

Egyptian stations have had a field day with the results.

In a phone interview with the TV program Al-Share’ el Masry (Egyptian Streets), Musicians Syndicate representative Reda Ragab said the country would not support the “gay arts” and would be "looking into" whether further performances would be held in the future.

Last Ramadan, Jordan banned Mashrou’ Leila for a second time, following pressure from a vocal, bigoted cluster of government officials who claimed the ban represented the public’s desire, stating that the sexuality the band flaunted broke Jordanian “customs and traditions.” A single afternoon’s investigation by Al Bawaba found that the truth was more complicated—as must be the case in Egypt.

The Egyptian Musicians’ Syndicate was a controversial move organization founded by el-Sisi’s government in hopes of controlling music in Egypt. Popular singer Hany Shaker serves as president and has made full use of his powers, banning shows he deems morally “questionable.”

What this means for alternative Arabic music and more visible representation for LGBT+ audiences remains to be seen; as of publication time, the band has yet to release a statement.

This is a shameful moment for Egypt, a country which has, in the past, produced some stunning, enduring Arabic art, from authors like Naguib Mahfouz and Tawfiq Hakim to icons like Umm Kulthim.

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