Could Egypt’s heavy metal days be numbered?


A band performs at the Heavy Tune Metal Festival at Nile Country Club in Cairo, Egypt, in July 2011. Photo by Flickr user lokha/Lorenz Khazaleh.

In January of 1997, roughly 100 Egyptian heavy-metal fans were rounded up, arrested, and accused of Satanism. Now, almost 16 years later, it looks like it could happen again.

Over the weekend, Ismail El-Weshahy, a lawyer for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), filed a complaint to the Egyptian interior ministry against El-Sawy Culturewheel. He claims that the venue, a regular home for rock and metal shows, was hosting “Satanic” rock bands and events. El-Weshahy even claimed that his clients, members of an independent anti-corruption group called “We’re Watching You,” filmed “satanic rituals” at Culturewheel.

The news comes just as the Muslim Brotherhood is gaining power and legitimacy in Egypt. After the 1997 arrests, most were freed because the charges against them were unprovable. However, the metal scene in Egypt was essentially silenced; too many bands were afraid to play, and clubs were afraid to host them. But slowly the scene re-emerged. Today, it’s a healthy scene, but it remains underground for the most part — it hasn’t achieved pop-culture status. Most Egyptian metal bands aren’t known outside the country. That leaves them relatively to these kinds of political and cultural attacks.

Some metal musicians in the scene saw this latest move coming.

Wael Osama, founder and manager of heavy metal band Enraged, said:

“I was expecting that something like this could happen in the future, but I did not think it would be this soon. No matter how absurd the accusations are, the fact they are brought by a well known lawyer from the FJP will generate a big amount of bad publicity with possible serious repercussions.”

What those repercussions could be remains to be seen. Metal musicians in the country are gathering this week to discuss what to do and how to respond to the attacks.

Heba Ahmed, who works at Culturewheel, said the venue will continue hosting events, including heavy metal shows. In addition, a statement on its Web site denies the allegations: “In our ten years of activity, the Culturewheel has not hosted any kind of practice that could be called Satanic,” the statement asserted, going on to express doubt that Satanism in Egypt existed at all.

Certainly, heavy metal is not Satanism.

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