Freedom of musical expression in the Middle East – report


06 June 2006

Marie Korpe (ed.)
’All that is Banned is Desired’
Conference on Freedom of Expression in Music, Beirut 2005

Freemuse, Copenhagen, 2006
ISSN: 1601-2127

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There is an Arab saying ‘Kul Mamnou’ Marghoub.’
‘All that is banned is desired.’
And there is a Qur’anic command:
‘Never forbid what God has allowed.
Never allow what God has forbidden.’

Having this in mind it is easy to understand why discussions on freedom of musical expression in the Middle East and North Africa are vibrant.

Very little printed material is available, but recent developments in the MENA region prove that not only do Islamic scholars disagree on the application of the above Qur’anic command, state apparatus and societies also generate different interpretations of political, religious and social limits on freedom of expression.

This report differs from our previous reports being a report based on a regional conference.

The Freemuse regional conference ‘Freedom of Expression in Music’ was held in Beirut from 7-8 October 2005, in collaboration with the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Middle East Office and the Irab-Arabic Association for Music.

The report does not give a full picture of music censorship in the Middle East and North Africa. It does, however, give a picture of a region that – like many other regions of the world – experiences both traditionalist and modernist tendencies, civil and religious trends as well as struggles for self-determination and cultural diversity against cultural domination.

The report includes strong statements from international artists such as Marcel Khalife, Salman Ahmad, Clotaire K & Mahsa Vahdat, who all took part in the conference, and analytical perspectives from leading Islamic Scholars on the ever controversial issue “Music & Islam”.

The report even sheds new light on the controversial case of so called Heavy rock “Devil-worshippers” in Morocco 2003 in a fascinating session including historian Mark LeVine and two of the musicians involved in the case.

“Even worse than obvious censorship from the top is invisible censorship…”
Mai Ghoussoub

Mai Ghoussoub died on 17. February 2007. May she rest peacefully.

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