from Al Hayat,
7 November, 2004, p.21, with permission.
Ramadan brings in its train, as usual, hundreds of serialized
dramas, talk shows, and other standard format programs of the
sort that increase year after year as a result of the burgeoning
number of Arab satellite channels. What is new this year is
represented in two controversial items, each of which links
art and religion, and which have served to divide their audiences
into supporters and opponents.
is the outlet provided for British-born Azerbaijani singer Sami
Yusif (24 years), who has become a guest in Egyptian homes this
month via the satellite music channels, which have made strenuous
efforts to reduce the airing of songs not in keeping with the
spirit of this holy period.
religious songs have found wide acceptance and popularity among
"hip" youth who are also religiously committed, especially
since the songs, such as "The Teacher," "The
Cave of Harra'," and "O Chosen One," mix English
and Arabic, the latter pronounced by Yusif with a "broken"
accent similar to that sometimes affected by members of the
On the other
hand, Yusif and his songs have met with fierce resistance within
a number of media circles. Some of these object to a foreigner's
daring to sing in Arabic when he does not have full command
of the language, while others object merely for the sake of
interest is the fact that the works of Yusif, who studied at
London's Royal Academy of Music, are distributed in Egypt by
a media production and distribution company well known for marketing
religious audiotapes of the sort sometimes characterized as
item that has stirred interest is the Ramadan almanac broadcast
by religious satellite channel Iqra' the under the title Ihna
f- Ramadan (We're in Ramadan).
focus of the program is on the cartoons and drawings of artist
Mohammad Sami, who introduces his work by saying, "Our
art and media are a basic part of our culture and civilization,
and were it not for a few mistakes in certain media and arts
fields it wouldn't have occurred to anyone to ask the question,
'Is art right or wrong?'"
Khairy is a journalist attached to Al Hayat's Cairo
Translated by Humphrey Davies, TBS managing