A tale of two singers: Elissa and Fadel Shaker – the ambivalence of the Arabic culture


Fadel Shaker holding a gun

Fadel Shaker holding a gun

Elissa winning two Murex D'or Award 2013

Elissa winning two Murex D’or Awards 2013

A few years ago, Elissa and Fadel Shaker came together into a duet song called “Gowwa Al Ro7” (inside the soul); a romantic song of two lovers conversing how much they love each other. At that time, it was a perfect match for two of the most popular Arab singers who excelled in these types of songs. Fadel was no less romantic than Elissa, and his songs carried no less love.

Fast forward to the 23th of Jun, 2013 (yesterday), Elissa is on stage in one of the biggest celebrations of the TV industry in the Arab World, The Murex D’or, celebrating her success with two awards: Best Lebanese Singer, and Best Arabic Song “As3ad Wahdah” (the happiest). On the other hand, Fadel Shaker is sieged in a Mosque in the Lebanese town Seida, and fighting with a terrorist Salafi group against the official Lebanese army. On stage, Elissa appears in an extravagant white dress, she talks about how she doesn’t feel being the happiest tonight for one can’t help it not to be affected by the killings happening on the ground, but yet what makes her happy is the fact that this event is actually taking place and that people are still celebrating music and life. In a video that came out early in the same day, Fadel Shaker appears with a long beard, cursing Hezb Allah and his leader Hassan Nasrullah and threatening – actually promising that he will – to kill the mayor of Seida.

Seeing Fadel Shaker in video talking like that is mind boggling. I can never understand how a man who has an angelic voice and who has been singing for love for many years drops everything and becomes an agent of hatred and murder. I don’t want to play the devil advocate here, but watching other videos for him, he comes across to be sincere in terms of believing in the cause he is fighting for. One can’t deny the horrors happening in Syria, and the urges of wanting to stop the killings is totally natural, still the means of defending those innocent people are questionable. I would rather see him fighting with his voice, singing for that nation, singing for peace and harmony, that would be much more effective than joining the devilish game. That’s what Elissa is doing. She has never shied of speaking up her political stand. She probably hates Hassan Nasrullah and Bashar Al Asad even more than Fadel, but she expresses that in words, not bullets.

But looking at the photos of both singers above, I can’t help myself thinking about the gender divide in the Arab world. We regularly talk about the injustice women face in the Arab world, and that is totally true and I am an avid advocate for the fight against that injustice, but taking a closer look, one would wonder if men are in no less horrible situation. In fact, Arab men are on the track of a death discourse. The value of life has taken a backseat next to distorted values of honor and pride.

If one looks at the most Arab followed tweeps online, one would see the list is divided between the female lebanese singers and the religious Saudi leaders! In fact Elissa herself enjoyed more than 1,375,000 follower and is ranked at number 4 in terms of online influence in the MENA region according to Klout. In comparison, Fadel Shaker’s twitter account shows 147,830 follower. That is a huge indication of the polarisation taking place in the Arab world between religious and non-religious people and how men and women fit into that.

While no body can deny Elissa’s popularity, one can not also deny that there is a big side of the Arabic culture that looks down at her and what she represents. In her fist video clip she appears with no clothes, only a blanket that covers her body and moves along with the wind. The song, “Baddi Doub” was a big hit, but Elissa had to fight for years to prove herself and break out of the accusations of her using her body to overcome her weak voice. The “blanket singer” is still how many sees her today after more than 15 years of her career.  It is also true that her appearance in that clip opened the door for a new wave of singers that flaunted their sexuality and femininity to gain popularity, something that is rejected by many men and women in the Arab world.

If you look at Fadel Shaker’s singing career, he had to face nothing of that. After all, he is a man. He has been pretty much respected for his voice and his songs. Sadly, he asked people not to listen to his music for he believes it is forbidden (haram!). What is interesting is the reaction of people to that change. While many people have been cursing and insulting him for appearing like a terrorist and fighting the Lebanese Army, others on twitter have been applauding him for “repenting” and choosing Allah’s path. They see him as a hero who is fighting to protect his fellow Sunneh.

For me, I would vote for Elissa heroism all the way. We had a history of looking down upon female artists especially those who escapes the boundaries of the culture and celebrates their femininity. For some, it may be an over exposer of women sexuality and objectifying of the subject of women, yet it may very well be what were are missing these days; more women celebrating their gender expressions in whatever way they see fit.

I really wish Fadel Shaker was there yesterday next to Elissa on stage, receiving an award for celebrating life.

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Damn me! demanding my child right for my citizenship!


Oh damn me!

How selfish am I asking for the right to pass my citizenship to my husband and children.

Is it selfishness? or is it insanity?

Insane enough to ask for an equal status with Man
Insane enough to think that the half genetic code that I pass to my kids are not that inferior to the second half provided by my husband

After all, he is the MAN!

His genes comes through his sperm, that comes out of his phallus!

That damn phallus!

Mine are hidden in my vagina, nearly as invisible as myself

Invisible genetic code vs a phallic genetic code, that explains it all, no?
It has all been set from long time ago; children carry the name of their fathers.
That is what religion tells us, what God wants, what our traditions entails, and what our habits are accustomed to.

Simple and easy.

and in a modern, civil country, where a citizen is suppose to be a ‘citizen’, old habits get translated into laws
So yes, the invisibility of my genetic code is naturally transferred into the penal code.. of my country
Children who used to carry the name of their fathers, can only carry the citizenship of their fathers as well

Simple and easy.

Why change that? for women are not really full citizens. You know?

They don’t really pay the same amount of taxes, do they?
They don’t really work as hard as men, do they?
They are less smart, less educated, and less worthy, aren’t they?
and guess what? They get pregnant! and become burdon to their employers and society.
but hey, once they pop their child out, it is no longer theirs

Well, how could it be when the woman herself becomes a property for her husband? when she, herself, abandons her family and claims his family name?
Sorry, forgot that this usually happens ‘out of love’
He loves her too, don’t get me wrong, but a Man’s love is different too.. it comes with privileges..
such as ‘a citizen can be different than another citizen’ (based on sex, country of origin, religion, race, color, sexual orientation, etc)
of course there will always be pigs who are more equal than other pigs.. this is life.. deal with it

and damn me

I opened the pandora box.. and whispered ‘Equality’

woooooww! hold on! Equality? me and Man? is it even possible?

Equality that risks to destroy the ‘Jordanian Identity’?
Equality that risks to destroy the ‘Palestinians Identity’?
Equality that would pull all of the Palestinians and destroy any hope for a Palestinian future (as if that is happening tomorrow).
Equality that would kill Jordan and turn it into a substitute land!

This is what Israel wants, isn’t it? what the devil wants? what the immoral civil world wants? Equality!

I know, I am just being selfish. I am just looking at my own selfish gain without looking at the broader picture and the best for my country.
My country? Can I even say that? while being a woman?
The best for the country is what is best for its men. Remember, I am invisible?

So Jordanian men can marry Palestinian women all they want. They can marry up to 4! They can pull them all out of Palestine, grant them their citizenship and get as many children out of them who would only be Jordanians.

That wouldn’t affect the Palestinian cause… neither the Jordanian identity!
You know, Israel is like us, they don’t count women. Even the UN, they don’t really count women, do they?
They don’t even acknowledge the linkage between a child and a mother..

Remember? Mother genetic code is invisible..

Maybe I am just choosing the wrong time? you know ‘the global conspiracy’ that is after us? I am just a tool, I know it!

It has always been.. my rights are equal to human disasters! alien invasions! armageddons!

That what happens when I step up.. when I stop being that invisible!

Isn’t it?

Sincerely,

Haya

Men empowerment!


SEVEN

It was an honor taking part of SEVEN yesterday, an international play that highlights that stories of seven women activists around the world. During the reading, I came across this story of a Nigerian woman whose family wanted to marry her off to an old Saudi man and whom escaped before her wedding dishonouring her family. The script goes on to describe how this Nigerian woman wanted to reconcile with her family and how after two years she seized the chance of a holy day and went back, apologising for her father, who welcomed her back into the family with open arms.

That is when it hit me how similar this story to the ending of Rana’s story in Aroos Amman. How Rana’s father forgave her after two years of her escaping the country and stood up for her against his family and social mandates.

Many have claimed that the ending of Rana’s story in the book is far fetched, they claimed that such fathers’ reaction doesn’t exist. In reality, I believe that it exists more often than we realize. Both of those stories are a reflection of real stories. Those men, who we fail to highlight their courageous stand in championing the love of their daughters and their freedom of choice against strong social values, are real. Men are not strong as we believe they are. We tend to tie manhood with strength and then translate that into giving men the role of imposing inherited social values that hurt our beloved ones. Men flexes their muscles to apply the social laws that they can’t stand up to. That’s not a real strength for me, that is not noble, and not manly. Real strength is standing up for the ones you love, respect their freedom of choice, and protect it.

Continue reading →

Haya: Hey Judge, give me some of my rights!


So.. the observer is back
and I am back too! (Haya :P)
woohooooooo!
missed me?
I am sure you did!
or maybe not?
I mean, if you are a new reader of this blog, you have probably never heard about me before
I don’t blame you!
well, to be honest, you are most probably a new reader.. this blog lost most of its readers on its two years time down and the migration to wordpress..

So, let me introduce myself
I am Haya.. duh!
A fictional character that the observer uses when he wants to talk about women issues from a woman’s perspective
Simply put, he uses me!
or it is the other way around, I use him to speak out about my gender issues
oh boy… they are MANY!
and nothing really changed in the past two years!
Continue reading →

Horror films make women less feminine! A jordanian newspaper claims!


While it is hard for a lot people to imagine a genderless human being – which exist -, it is as hard for Arabs to imagine a genderless objects due to the nature of the Arabic language that genderlizes objects. There is no “it” in Arabic, we only have a he and a she. Nearly everything can be defined as either to be masculine or feminine depending usually on the ending of the word: those with ‘ah’ at the end are defaulted to be feminine, and those without it tend to be masculine!

With such a language heritage, it comes to no surprise the strong emphasize on gender roles in the Arab societies, and while it is impossible to attach every single object to females or males based on its own gender, sometimes people subconsciously do the attachmenet and build on it. For instance a spoon in arabic (mel3akah) is feminine but it cannot be explicit for females usage only! In the other hand, a flower (wardah) which has other feminine attributes such as being delicate and soft is strongly attached to females.

The rigid apply of gender roles on both sexes where masculinity and femininity come as a based for classification usually triggers some awkward situations that limit the behaviour of both men and women in our society. The other day, and while reading the daily Al Ra’ee newspaper, an article about horror movies caught my attention.

The article highlights how Jordanian women are getting more interested in horror movies. It is written in a way that shows the issue as a strange phenomena in Jordan where women are behaving in a way that should be limited to men! The writer comes with a mentality that can’t see how *fragile delicate feminine* creatures like women can betray their own gender and watch films that are full of violence and horror. Ofcourse different absurd reasons came up in the article such as that Jordanian women are forced to watch these movies because it is usually their brothers who take control of the remote control and they are who decide upon what to watch and what not! and so helpless Jordanian girls just sit down and watch their brothers choices of violent horror films!

To make it worse, it follows the guidlines of researched articles we are used to from such a newspaer, it goes further into consulting a social professional in the matter whom with his so called expertise condemn the phenomena and warns Jordanian women of losing their femininity by watching such films! (bullshit!)

The article even shows statistics! It claims that 14% of women who watch horror films on a regular basis suffer from lack of femininity! I wonder who is the genious behind those numbers! Really? How do *science* people conduct their research in this country?

It is not uncommon to read such articles who claim a scientific credibility by caughting a so called professional in our newspapers. I wonder whether the problem lies in the writers of those articles or in the professionals in this country who seem to be detached from what real science has achieved around the globe.

Isn’t it time for people to come up and complain when they catch a lie in a newspaper? We have an arabic saying: El saket 3an el 7a2 shitan akhras (The one who doesn’t stand up for justice is a silent devil). Newspaper writers should start hold accountability for what they write and take responsiblity for it.

Break up because of their wedding card


I am sure most of us have heard of many hilarious stories about people breaking up few days before their wedding day for the stupidest reasons.
One of the weirdest stories I have heard is about a couple breaking up because one of the fathers, being a doctor, wanted to write “The Doctor flan flan” (his title before his name) on the wedding card while the other father didn’t approve it because people would think of him of being of a lower social status.

What we gloat about the strength of family relations that we enjoy in the Arab world compared to the western countries can be problematic at times when families extend their natural role of support into dictating the lives of their members.

It is not enough that some fathers have to approve their son’s future wife and her family, but they also are entitled to write their titles and their names on their son’s wedding invitation card building on the stupidity of a society that worships superficiality.

The couple mentioned above would have prevented such problem from arising and may be happily married by now if they dared to stand up to themselves and drop off their fathers’ names. But that would be a huge disrespect to the fathers that would make hell break loose and leave them ostracized by their whole families. It is funny because writing down their mothers’ names would be perceived as disrespect for their families as well due to the social status of women in our society.

We may be proud of the achievements of the Jordanian women so far, but sometimes it is the tiny details in a unanimous behavior that we call tradition, and in which it seems impossible to break for we assign a sacred – almost – status to, that wakes us up and states that gender equality has a long way to go.

Individual freedoms suffer the same way.