Marcel Khalife and Qassim Haddad cause fury in Bahrain’s parliament
Members of parliament in the small Gulf kingdom Bahrain attacked a performance by Lebanese composer Marcel Khalife and Bahraini poet Qassim Haddad as being a violation of Islamic morals and sharia laws
Controversy has emerged with a new work by the famous Lebanese musician and composer Marcel Khalife and Bahraini poet Qassim Haddad. The controversy revolves around the setting of an epic love poem entitled ‘Majnoon Laila’, or ‘Laila Wal Majnoon’, (which means ‘Laila and the Possessed’ or ‘Laila and the Madman’), to music, dance, song and drama by Marcel Khalife.
The performance premiered in Bahrain on 1 and 2 March 2007 as part of the inauguration of the annual Spring of Culture Festival which was organised by the Bahraini Ministry of Information. Marcel Khalife sang at the show while male and female dancers staged the relationship between the two famous Arab lovers, Laila and Qais.
Parliament second vice-chairman Dr Salah Abdulrahman said the event included “sleazy dance moves” which were offensive to Muslims and non-Muslims.
On 13 March 2007 the Bahraini parliament voted to create an investigative committee look into the controversy. Islamists control three-quarters of the 40 seats in the parliament in Bahrain.
Defending freedom of expression
“We have resolved to wage a battle to defend freedom of expression and creativity, and we will mobilise all intellectuals and artists to confront this precedent, which risks undermining our liberties,” said Ibrahim Abu Hindi, who heads a writers’ association.
Mohammad Fadhel writes that the Bahraini press joined the fray, running editorials and interviews with thinkers and artists describing the parliament’s move as an attempt to “gag” citizens.
The Spring of Culture Festival runs in Bahrain until mid-April 2007.
Marcel and Qassim
Photos: Courtesy of Nagam Cultural Project
Agence France Presse (AFP) / The Daily Star – 20 March 2007:
‘Culture fest in Bahrain sparks confrontation’
Gulf News – 14 March 2007:
‘Society to probe ‘religiously and morally offensive’ dance show’
Gulf Daily News – 9 March 2007:
‘ ‘Spring of Sex’ fury at show’
Marcel Khalife’s official website:
Aljadid – essay in Vol. 12, no. 56 (Summer 2006):
‘Mideast Political Paradoxes Put to Words and Music’
|Video statement: ‘Majnoon Layla’
In this statement Marcel Khalife speaks (in Arabic language) about why artists must engage in the defence of creativity.
See the video.