Head to Head : Jordanian Government and Lebanese Rock Band Repeat History.

Head to Head : Jordanian Government and Lebanese Rock Band Repeat History.

Will it happen again?
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One of the opening songs for this Lebanese rock band, Mashrou' Leila’s, most recent album, Ibn El Leil (Son of The Night), uncovers the hidden truth of young Arabs battling a culturally repressive society. As their music speaks to many communities, the adult and youth of the Arab community turn to songs such as, Djinn to compress from the overwhelming pressure to succumb to Arab cultural standards. Translated from Arabic to English, the band’s lyrics read: “Liver baptized in gin…Drown my liver in gin. In the name of the father and the son.. A wall as thick as a wine glass...Pour me another;...Oh I don't do sodas, man I don't do tea. I drown my sorrows, forget my name, and give myself to the night”


In confronting taboo issues such as drinking, drugs, sexuality and more through their music, band members, Hamed Sinno, Haig Papazian, Carl Gerges, Ibrahim Badr, and Firas Abou Fakher have been banned, twice, from performing in Amman, Jordan. More specifically, lead singer of the Band, Hamed Sinno is an openly Gay-Muslim-Arab. The city of Amman’s governor declared the first ban days before the scheduled show stating publicly last year that “some of the band’s songs contain lyrics that do not comply with the nature of Jordanian society,” giving little to no elaboration on this statement.(Translated from Arabic) As artists, in face of the consecutive bans the 5 band members issued a statement saying that they “[W]ill not stop defending the Islamic community on account of this. Nor will we stop defending the LGBTQ community on account of this. Nor will we change anything about how we go about making and performing our music. We are not afraid of the various death threats we’ve received over the last few days. We refuse to be ashamed of supporting our queer band-mate. We are proud of our work. We are proud of our audience, as always. If anything, today we are ashamed of the decisions of the Jordanian authorities.” The complexity of these two banned performances in Jordan were ultimately made considering the Jordanian customs and traditions, however the government’s decisions neglected on both occasions to address the members of the Jordanian community who avidly supported the band’s performances. More specifically, members of the Palestinian and Syrian communities hoped to make it to the performance, as Jordan works as a neutral land for people living in the surrounding countries. Those from Palestine attended who attended a concert in Amman held in 2015 were unable to attend in neighboring Jordan due to the past two bans. Member of the Jordanian Royal Family and current high school student, Princess Rajaa Bint-Talal said in a Skype interview that “The whole incident is not a reflection of us as a people, but rather our current circumstances."

“Call the devil by his name, and call a musician a liar.” - 3 Minutes, Mashrou' Leila


Understanding the political climate of Jordan and its surrounding countries as well as the role that Mashrou’ Leila plays as an outspoken Arab band outlines the suspected reasons for the most recent ban this year. As Jordan is currently one of the only ‘stable’ countries in the Levant area (Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan) it has an agenda to uphold. This includes minimizing the influence and presence of ISIS within the country’s borders. Member of the Jordanian Secret Services, anonymously told me that “Hosting the band in Amman would create an easy target for an attack, whether small or big.” He continued to explain that “going against the traditionalists of the country would also provoke outrage.” It is also important to note that Amman’s population of 4 million is arguably the most westernized region in the country with great ex-patriot influences from the west. This more western mindset present in Amman however, neglects the other 5.523 million inhabitants of the country who overwhelmingly hold the traditional values of Islam, Christianity, and the Arab culture highly. Additionally, in regions that have been threatened in the past by ISIS(attacks/presence)such as Irbid and Karak, there are still slightly traces of ISIS within their more impoverished areas. Holding the concert in Amman could make Jordan an easy target for ISIS, who are adamant that the entire region adhere to their perverted version of Islam. The choice to ban the band this year was made by the Jordanian Ministry of Interior Affairs and not the city’s governor. However, nothing was mentioned of this hidden agenda to uphold the image of peace in Jordan. Current Minister of Interior Affairs, Ghaleb Zu’bi, stated nothing upon the ban. Zu’bi has declined making any statement regarding the ban that he enforced. Zu’bi’s silence is broken by the Jordanian lawmakers who were the ones to speak out and overall initiate the ban. Members of the Jordanian Parliament voiced their unanimous opinion and petitioned to ban the band from performing. In an interview with CNN, Dima Tahboub summarized that the reason for the petition by Parliament members was because of the sexual orientation of lead singer, Hamed Sinno, as openly gay, which would contradict the values of the Jordan.

Turning to the Jordanian population, it is evident that the opposition of the band is large due to the traditional mindset of many elders. My father, a citizen of the Jordanian community hears me play their music and references to it is “garbage” and often tells me it's corrupting my mind. People of this mindset prefer music from their past, such as Oum Kalthoum, Abdel Halim Hafez, and Fairuz. Sticking to traditional Arab culture is prioritized and according to Hanan Khalaileh,65, “It’s the only thing we have left as Arabs.” 

Yet, member of the millennial Arabs, Maysa, 21, states “Everyone older than us just wants to act like these things don't exist. They want to deny homosexuality, they want to deny underage drinking. But most importantly they want to force us to have the same mindset as them. They fear change.” 18 year old Noor Sabha acknowledges however the “act of safety” that the Jordanian government implemented stating that “the majority of Jordanians, unfortunately, are homophobic,” and allowing Mashrou' Leila to perform would “trigger public outrage against the government or the King himself.” During the tense week of the most recent ban, Jordanian supporters of the band sought out social media platforms to voice their frustrations. Up and coming Arab social media star, Jordanian citizen, and freshman at Swarthmore College, Laila Hazaineh made a Facebook post stating “Whoever doesn't like the band don't go to the concert. There's no point in imposing your ignorant opinions onto others.” The band reflected upon the immediate reaction of their fans during both bans saying in their public statement, “one has only to look at the reaction of the Jordanian people to the cancellation(s), to see that the notion of a singular, homogeneous society that shares these “customs, and traditions,” does not seem to apply to Jordanian people,” That is just it. There is a direct disagreement with the progressive Jordanian community and the culturally repressive government. While Mashrou' Leila’s mission as artists is to challenge the norms of traditional Arab society, the society itself is not unanimously ready for this change. In the words of Mashrou' Leila’s song, Lil Watan للوطن For the State,"...with slogans they reply, and conspiracies they invoke, for their slogans to provoke, they call treason when you call, for changing ... the state, they made you despair, so you sell your rights to save... the state.”

Cover Image Credit: Somerset House

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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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10 Microaggressions That I'm Completely Over You Saying

No, you're not being sensitive, that was actually kinda rude.

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I have always noticed little phrases that make me tick a little bit. You know, the ones that make you tilt your head a bit and think "Did they really mean that, like I think they meant that?" but then you just brush it off. However, the other day I was having a conversation with my best guy friend. He was explaining to me a funny story involving his older brother and at one point I said "I relate" to which he responded, "it's different for girls."

Wait, what?

Here are some subtle, everyday micro-aggressions that are getting a little old:

1. "You don't get it, it's different for boys."

Honestly, you're right. It is different, and that's why this comment bothers me, because it shouldn't be different for guys. We should be held to the same exact standards and experiences.

2. "Is it like... that time of the month?"

What if it is? That shouldn't be any of your concern. You mean to tell me you wouldn't be a happy-go-lucky ray of sunshine if it felt like there were jackknives playing hopscotch in your uterus? That's what I thought.

3. "Don't be such a girl."

That's exactly what I'm going to be. Partially because I am a girl, and partially because whatever it is you're trying to force me to do, I genuinely don't want to do. Leave me alone.

4. "Lol am I totally being friend zoned right now?"

Hahahahaha... yes. Just because you're a boy, I'm a girl and we have struck up a conversation does not mean there are butterflies going crazy in my stomach, nor will I reconsider my "friendship" status simply because you have verbally stated it. Sorry, not sorry.

5. "Are you sure you want to wear that?"

Oh, this? You mean the article of clothing I purposely picked out of my closet and have put on my body and not taken off? No, I'm actually not sure if I want to wear it yet. I'll let you know at the end of the night.

6. "Why don't you smile more? You're cuter when you smile."

And you're cuter when your mouth is shut and you're not telling me what to do. Also, I always look cute.

7. "You're being dramatic, it's not that deep."

Fun fact: It's actually as deep as I want it to be. Everything you say is up for my interpretation. I don't know how you're thinking or how you want me to process what you're saying... so if I think it's that deep, it's that deep.

8. "Well, you do this better than I do anyway."

First of all, you're most likely not even trying. Second, I don't know what I'm doing half the time and I asked you to do it for a reason. So, just do it.

9. "How could you possibly not want children?"

By not wanting them. See? That was easy to understand.

10. "There's no way you guys are 'just friends'."

There actually is a way. By being friends. The same way you're just friends with your bros and with that girl in your math class that sends you the notes. Friendship is very much possible.

* * *

To be completely honest, I've said some of these phrases. Some of them even to men. Every day I try to stop myself, even if it's mid-conversation, from saying phrases like such because every little step is another one towards a society that doesn't need to demean one gender in order to be "funny" or "relatable."

I don't expect there to be a magical day in the future where none of these phrases are spoken, but the less they're heard, the better.

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