Thursday, September 4, 2008

Arab Pop Music Underworld

A major scandal is making headlines in the Arabic press and even making its way into the U.S. media. Lebanese pop diva Suzanne Tamim was murdered in July in a Dubai hotel. Yesterday, a prominent Egyptian businessman and member of parliament under the ruling National "Democratic" Party was arrested for contracting her murder. Hisham Talaat Mustafa reportedly paid $2 million for the murder of the star, with whom Hisham was romantically involved. He faces potential death by hanging or a life sentence if convicted under Egyptian law. You can read the details of the case here and here and in Arabic here, here, and here.
While female singers have been taken advantage of by rich men the world 'round, I cannot help but feel that there is a special misogyny that surrounds men of power in the Middle East. Alaa al-Aswani's novel "The Yacoubian Building" paints a pretty damning picture of this kind of man in Egypt. The sad thing is that there is a line of thinking that perpetuates such acts. Men cannot be expected to control themselves, so it is up to women to cover themselves and it is up to their families to protect them. If something happens to the woman, it is her fault and her family's fault for not keeping her from such a compromising situation. This is nonsense. Once men are held to greater account, much of the paranoid "protection" of women can be dispensed with because society will have generalized the norms that keep most men around the world from acting like animals. There will always be some exceptions, but the culture cannot go on allowing men to act like total savages while forcing the burden of civility upon the women. The problems of the current situation in some areas are made evident by the prosecution of rape victims in Saudi for being with a non-related male and such. The mindset even creeps into the thoughts of an Arab journalist, quoted in the LA Times article. Look at the words/phrases I've bolded and see the underlying thought process. While this man is not justifying the killing or anything of the sort, his words seem to shift a good deal of the moral burden into Suzanne's court.

Suzanne's whole life was a tragedy. She comes from a conservative Beiruti family which was totally against her singing in public. But she had a great voice and she was obsessed about singing. So she defied her society and decided to enter the world of music. . . . She was a beautiful woman. Her beauty maybe was a curse because she would turn men totally obsessed about her.
See in this last sentence how she is the actor (in a grammatical sense) "turning" men obsessed, rather than irresponsible, power-drunk, rich, greedy slobs making themselves obsessed over another plaything they could get their greasy, filthy hands on.


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