It is banned to ban
Summary of Mai Ghoussoub’s speech at the Freemuse Conference in Beirut, 2005
“Censorship never works.”
‘Slap hips, support domestic violence
‘All Boogaman and sodomites fi get killed…Burn out a Queer, Blood out a queer’
But should these songs be banned? Should they be broadcast only after the children have gone to bed? Ghoussoub thinks not, because however outraged she is by these words, ‘I should have the courage to let others express their own views, however ugly or hurting they may seem to my eyes and ears.”.
At the conference in Beirut, Mai Ghoussoub told about a boy who battered to death a man sleeping rough and claimed to be acting out the violent lyrics of Eminem. He was sent to prison for life, but she agrees with the court’s decision that expressing and acting are not synonymous; she asked: “how it is that we watch Tom and Jerry but do not act out the violence of the cartoon?”
Everything banned is desired
Mai Ghoussoub reminded her audience that Serge Gainsbourg’s song ‘Je vais et je vis’ was banned once, and in Lebanon songs like ‘Riji ala Ishu hal Usfur’ were banned, encouraging everyone to rush out and buy the song. She reminded of the Arabic saying ‘Kul mannou’ marghoub’ (‘Everything banned is desired’).
However, a new form of censorship has emerged. Giant record chains are putting small shops out of business, promoting their own labels. Self–censorship is now the most pernicious form of censorship. Mai Ghoussoub reminded the conference that at the height of her fame Billy Holiday was forced to take the servant’s lift because she was black. “It is racism that should be outlawed. Words as such don’t kill, weapons kill”, she said.
Mai Ghoussoub is an artist and the founder of London’s Saqi Books. She gave this speech as the keynote speech on the underlying issues of censorship at the Beirut conference on Freedom of Expression and Music in October, 2005.