Le­banese rock singer urges men to cham­pion women's rights in Mid­dle East

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

The lead singer of a Le­banese rock band, which has courted con­tro­versy for its songs deal­ing with ho­mo­pho­bia and sex­ism, has urged more men to cham­pion women's rights in the Mid­dle East. Hamed Sinno, the openly gay front­man of Mashrou' Leila, also called for more women in pol­i­tics and for dis­crim­i­na­tory laws to be re­pealed. "No one is say­ing that we should ar­bi­trar­ily just get rid of all men in power and sub­sti­tute them with women, but there is a ques­tion about ... why it is that we still have this many is­sues with women's rep­re­sen­ta­tion, with women in govern­ment and other rights," he said.

Mashrou' Leila, which is on a world tour, has made head­lines for singing about sub­jects that are largely taboo in the Ara­bic pop scene, in­clud­ing pol­i­tics, religion, so­cial jus­tice, and sex­ual free­dom. The group has gar­nered a loyal fol­low­ing in the Mid­dle East, but has also re­ceived death threats on so­cial me­dia and was banned from play­ing in Jor­dan last month.

Jor­da­nian par­lia­men­tar­ian Dima Tah­boub sug­gested in me­dia in­ter­views that the ban was linked to Sinno's ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. In a state­ment on Face­book, Mashrou' Leila said the ban was symp­to­matic of "the fa­nat­i­cal con­ser­vatism that has con­trib­uted in mak­ing the re­gion in­creas­ingly toxic over the last decade". Speak­ing by phone from New York, Sinno told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion there was a lot of work to be done in the strug­gle for gen­der equal­ity in the Mid­dle East.

He crit­i­cized the lack of fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion in govern­ment in the re­gion, wage in­equal­ity, women's right to gov­ern their own bod­ies, and Le­banon's rape laws, which in­clude a pro­vi­sion that al­lows a rapist to avoid pun­ish­ment by mar­ry­ing his vic­tim. The 29-year-old Amer­i­can-Le­banese singer said men should cel­e­brate the achieve­ments of lead­ing women in the Mid­dle East and he praised Mus­lim fem­i­nists, in­clud­ing the writ­ers Mona El­ta­hawy and Maya Mik­dashi, for "dis­turb­ing pa­tri­ar­chal codes". Sinno, who has de­scribed his all­male band as "ex­tremely vo­cal fem­i­nists", also said he was fed up of west­ern stereo­typ­ing of Mid­dle East­ern women as "pas­sive".

The band's new mu­sic video by fe­male Le­banese di­rec­tor Jessy Mous­sallem - re­leased last week with their song "Ro­man" - is in­tended to chal­lenge the way Mus­lim and Arab women are por­trayed, he said. The video shows dozens of women wear­ing tra­di­tional Is­lamic dress unit­ing around a pow­er­ful cen­tral fig­ure who per­forms a strik­ing con­tem­po­rary dance wear­ing an abaya (loose-fit­ting robe) and hi­jab. Sinno said the video was a cel­e­bra­tion of Mus­lim women's abil­ity to em­power each other. The male mem­bers of the band take a back­seat in the video. "Hav­ing men there not do­ing any­thing was ba­si­cally what the point was," Sinno added. — Reuters

Photo shows Le­banese Rock band Mashrou’ Leila.

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