Egypt: Syrian singer sued for defamation of religion in her new song

8 October 2020
Image: Assala Nasri in her “Riqfan” Lyrics video / Screenshot taken from YouTube


September 2020: Egyptian lawyer Samir Sabry filed a lawsuit along with Public Prosecutor Hamada El-Sawy against the famous Syrian singer Assala Nasri for partially quoting a Hadith from the Prophet Mohammed in her newest hit song Rifqan, according to Egypt Independent.

Nasri’s song was received with backlash on social media platforms for being disrespectful towards the Prophet Mohammed, as Sabry claims in several local news sources, but also for its portrayal of women as fragile beings. The Hadith the song quotes from refers to the duty of men in taking care of women with delicacy and gentleness.

Samir Sabry, an infamous lawyer, is known for filling over 2,000 complaints against popular artists, claims the singer committed the crime of contempt against religion, which is to be punished under Article 98 of the Egyptian Penal Code. If the singer is found to be guilty over this claim, she can face a prison sentence of a minimum period of 6 months to a maximum of 5 years, or she will have to pay a fine ranging in the value of 26 to 57 €.

In an interview for Egypt’s Attessia TV program, songwriter Mohammed Abu Nemah defended his artistic freedom on quoting the Hadith. According to Nemah, he found that a majority of Muslim scholars allows quotations of this nature as long as they are done appropriately – which match his intentions, namely, to promote fair treatment towards women.

Sabry’s complaint is supported by the Islamic Research Council of Al-Azhar, which stated on the 21 of September that listening or supporting a song that quotes a prophetic hadith is not only disrespectful to the Prophet Mohammed, but also not legally permissible. The lawyer also requested to the Attorney General that Assala Nasri, who resides in Egypt, be banned from leaving the country. Moreover, the Islamic Council recommended that the song is not to be listened or promoted.

Freemuse’s State of Artistic Freedom Report 2020 documented that in 2019 84% of artistic freedom violations in Egypt were perpetrated either by the government, pro-government bodies or private persons. And in most of these cases, the artists faced criminal legal proceedings, with some being detained and sent to prison. This goes against what is defended by Articles 65 and 67 of the Egyptian Constitution of 2014, which guarantees freedom of opinion and creation. 

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