Egypt’s Musicians’ Union bans artists from wearing “indecent” clothing and using “vulgar” vocabulary on stage and television in a resolution passed at the end of August 2015.
Hani Shaker, the newly elected head of the union, aims to continue to promote Egyptian art, but not at the expense of the country’s morals and customs, thus calling for the elimination of obscene and indecent behaviour by female artists.
In a scan of the resolution that Freemuse obtained through the Misr Al Arabiya media website, the document states that it is “sending an alarm” to all female singer union members to comply with the resolution.
The resolution not only bans “improper clothing”, but also restricts lyrics and gestures that do not comply with the country’s morals and customs. Further, the ban is not exclusive to just Egyptian artists, but any artist who performs in the country, meaning that Egyptian artists who offend the ban will be investigated and non-Egyptian artists will have their work permits revoked.
This is not the first time that the censorship of artistic expression in Egypt has made headlines and come to the attention of Freemuse. In 2014, AFTE and Freemuse published the Censors of Creativity report, which outlines the legal and institutional restrictions in place that continue to restrict expression in the country and makes recommendations on how to reform these practices.
This current Musician’s Union decision continues down the same restrictive path and has drawn ire from around the country and in the Arab world.
Yasmin al-Khatib, a media personality, writer and tv presenter, in a story with Al-Quds Al-Arabiya, criticised Shaker’s decision noting that such a ban would require banning classic old Arab songs that featured belly dancers, saying that “we will have to remove all our art history with movies full of belly dancers and erotic scenes or “vulgar” words”.
In fact, according to a Mada Masr story, belly dancers and singers Shakira and Bardis are currently facing debauchery charges for promoting immorality in their music videos, and in July 2015, Salma al-Fouly was sentenced to a one-year prison term for similar charges for one of her “racy” music videos.
In an interview with Ahram, art critic Tarek al-Shenawi called the rules set by the resolution “artistic adolescence”, especially in a time when Shaker should “focus on improving arts” given their state today as they “suffer from stagnation due to artistic piracy” causing artists to stop producing works of art and a decline in concerts and art celebrations.
‘A hope and appeal’
Shaker, aged 62 and an artist himself with a long and fame-filled singing career, was elected to his new position in July 2015 on a campaign rooted in removing rudeness from performance and returning Egyptian art to its glory days. Even though the current resolution focuses on female performance, in his campaign he also called out male performers for their offensive lyrics and suggestive dancing.
In a story with El Watan News, Shaker called the resolution not a real ban, but more of a hope and appeal.
And one of Shaker’s supporters, Nadya Mostafa, who is also a union member, reaffirmed on Sabahak Masry, a show on MBC Egypt, that the resolution is still only a suggestion, adding that a majority of musicians support it.
Though the resolution currently is intended to be a guiding principle for artists performing in Egypt, Shaker may have further aims to add legal weight to the decision. In a TV interview with Al Asema (The Capital) tv station he explains: “Some people were astonished that I took such decision. I would tell them to wait for more decisions that would legalize this domain.”
Sources and further information:
» Morocco World News – 1 September 2015:
Egypt’s Musician Union Bans Artist from Wearing “Indecent” Clothing
» Mada Masr – 1 September 2015:
Musicians Syndicate head announced ban on “revealing clothes”
» Ahram – 1 September 2015:
Tarek Shenawi on Shaker’s decision
» Misr Al Arabiya – 31 August 2015:
Scan of resolution
» Al-Quds Al-Arabi – 30 August 2015:
Yasmin Khatib mocks Hani Shaker resolution
» Tahrir News – 30 August 2015:
Nadya Mostafa: A majority of musicians support decision
» El Watan News – 29 August 2015:
Hani Shaker: I have not issued a decree banning artists
» Ahram Online – 20 July 2015:
Well-known Hany Shaker elected head of Egypt’s Musician Syndicate
» Freemuse – 23 April 2014:
Egypt should abolish censorship of the arts