I woke up last Monday to read a piece of news in the paper about a case filed against “Al-Sakya” demanding the authorities to shut it down after it hosted a Heavy Metal concert. The lawyer who filed the case claimed that “Al-Sakya” which has been a cultural stage for many Egyptian artists in the last 5 or 6 years (despite all the controversies concerning its owner) hosted a concert for Satan worshippers. I was automatically taken down a bitter memory lane to the late 1990’s, precisely to the year 1997 where the infamous “Satanists” case took place.
The 90’s were a very healthy decade for the “Rock” scene in Egypt. “Rock” and “Metal” concerts took place 3 or 4 times a year, and gigs with one or two bands were to be found on almost weekly basis. It was a time where a new generation of Egyptian musicians started to materialize. In those times, starting a band was a project that attracted many from my generation. Even those who later realized that they are not musicians and never will be, gave music an honest shot because they found a scene that allowed their dreams some room. I know hundreds of people who saved to buy guitars, shared to rent rehearsal studios, wore their minds out to write lyrics and joined hands in true efforts to achieve creativity; a generation’s search for its own social space.
But all of a sudden things became very different. Musicians were accused of being Satan worshippers, the audience was seen as misguided and immoral youth, places where the concerts were hosted were closed down, and a Spanish Inquisition was launched on those who dared to be different. Artist had to hide their guitars, people stood before public prosecutors accused of owning black t-shirts with “Slayer” and “Megadeth” logos and what was once a scene for creativity and individuality became a scene for godlessness and deviance. The media got a kick out of what was going on. The “Satan Worshippers” case became front-page news and a model for how moral decay is closing its grip on a new generation.
No one bothered to understand what was going on, these people looked different and that was enough for the media to make up a million lies like blood-drinking, slaying cats, group sex, and burning pages of the Quran. I remember an article written in the weekly magazine “Rose-AL Youssef” saying (and I quote) “among the music Satan worshippers listen to is the famous Satanist singer Elton John”!!! The whole case was a perfect example of how society can crush those who do not adhere to its norms.
Unfortunately, the problem of the 90’s remains the same until today. The real issue was never “Heavy Metal” or black clothes and make-up or distorted guitars and vocals; the real issue remains to be difference and rejecting conformity. The room for individuality in Egyptian society shrinks day by day, and with the rise of a dominant Islamist stream, this room is withering away. What is now limited to an attack on “Heavy Metal” will soon expand to reach hip-hop, love scenes in films, intimate situations in novels, long-haired men, people with tattoos and eventually, unveiled women and Copts. It indeed sounds grim and pessimistic, and the government denies that such measures can ever take place, but in the absence of a document that guarantees the rights of individuality, what guarantees do we have?
The battle that must be fought is not an easy one, and it is not a political battle. The real threat comes from a society that refuses to accept individuals who reject its norms and values. If people had to change their morals, their values and their likes and dislikes in search for society’s approval, then fascism is upon is. In the name of the people’s right to be individuals, the music should not die and the show must go on.