Middle East Features
"Emus" terrorize Cairo (Feature)
By Elijah Zarwan Apr 24, 2009, 15:19 GMT
Cairo - Few places would seem more immune to the Western teen-music craze of 'Emo' - with its pale, gothic, self-absorbed and depressed disciples - than Cairo, with its heat, sunlight and permanent haze of noise and pollution.
But the phenomena of 'Emo' - which stands for 'emotional' or 'emotional hardcore' - music, has now even reached Egypt, albeit with a slight change in translation, to 'emu.'
'They loiter in the streets of western cities at night, alone or accompanied by other emos,' explains an Alexandria-based Egyptian website.
'They are often dismal and in tears. It is difficult to distinguish between emo boys and emo girls ... They wear eyeliner, wear their hair swept forward like Asians ... and wear tight jeans and tight t-shirts emblazoned with rock-band logos or black-and-white checker patterns.'
'Social scientists say they are descended from the extinct punks,' the site jokes.
Indeed, they have lurked on street corners and cafes in Cairo's fancy neighbourhoods for years, but it was only after a group of Egyptian journalists launched a campaign against them that most of Cairo's 20 million less faddish citizens - who, as a rule, look askance at effeminate hairstyles for men - heard of them.
Veteran journalist Wael al-Ibrashi, editor of a Cairo newspaper and host of a TV talk-show, has been among the leaders of this crusade.
In a recent episode of his show, the journalist subjected a group of Egyptian emos to intense questioning about why emos around the world dress as they do and about the contents of the group's 'constitution.'
Callers even asked if it was true if all the members of the group were homosexual.
A university student, identified only as Sharif, who started a group for Egyptian emos on the social networking site Facebook, responded they were not an organised group, and that no, they were not gay.
'The idea is that there is nothing wrong with admitting that you are emotional,' he said.
Sharif, who repeatedly tried to correct al-Ibrashi and callers when they referred to emos as an organised movement, said he learned about emos from the web during a recent bout of depression. He identified with them, and started the Facebook group so that Egyptian emos could get to know each other.
The Facebook group soon attracted around 150 members, he said, and about a dozen of them from Cairo and the Mediterranean city of Alexandria recently decided to meet for the first time at the glitzy City Stars mall, in a wealthy suburb of Cairo.
'Emo is a way of thinking and living, not a style,' Sharif said. 'Most of the time, when I go to university I wear my hair back, off my face.'
'Look, no one can tell you how to wear your hair,' al-Ibrashi told Sharif. 'But when it becomes a group philosophy, it's worrying.'
The media campaign has led to real troubles for emos on the streets of Cairo.
This week it was reported that police had arrested three young emos after a stenciled graffiti of a headless man holding a broom appeared around Cairo.
Egyptian journalists seemingly obsessed with emos have drawn comparisons to another media-fuelled moral panic about another supposed teen craze in the 1990s, the so-called 'Disciples of Satan'.
These were Cairene heavy metal fans, whose dress sense and behaviour led to a media campaign against them, and, eventually, an opinion from the mufti, the state's highest authority on religious law, calling them apostates.
In 1997, police briefly held dozens of Egyptian heavy metal fans on charges of belonging to a satanic cult and engaging in immoral behaviour.
While the recent campaign against Egyptian emos has raised alarms among more conservative adults, many young Egyptians shrug it off.
'The campaign is absurd,' said one young Cairene who asked to be identified only as Sarah. 'I guess nobody likes emos anywhere in the world.'