Middle East Features
Sexist song outrages Lebanese women (Feature)
By Weedah Hamzah May 8, 2010, 3:06 GMT
Beirut - When Lebanese singer Mohammed Iskandar sang his song 'Jumhoriyet Albi,' (The Republic of my Heart) he may not have realized the offence his lyrics would cause among his female listeners.
But the song, written by his son Fares and a hit since it was released last month in Arabic music charts, has unleashed a storm of protest from women who think it undermines women's rights and intelligence.
'My heart beats for you,' sings Iskander, 'But we have no girls here that work with their degrees, our girls are pampered and everything she wants is at her service.'
'Take the idea of working with your brains,' he continues, 'Why cause yourself problems? Assuming I agree that you work, what would we do about your beauty?'
Iskandar, in his mid-30s, is a renowned Lebanese Dabke singer. Dabke is the national folkoric dance of Lebanon and Syria, variations of which can be seen across the Middle East.
'The boss might fall in love and his feelings be aroused, and naturally I would go to the office and destroy it right in front of him,' Iskandar sings lustily.
'I respect women's rights, but I wish you'd consider my feelings. What is this job that would separate us? Damn the money, I'll burn it.'
Lara Dou, a 20-year-old Lebanese student, was outraged by Iskander's lyrics. 'For God's sake, someone should tell him we don't live in the Stone Age. Women can protect themselves, be independent and reach the top,' she said.
'All women in the Arab world should sue this singer because in a way he is saying women should be confined to their homes and not work because their beauty might attract other men,' Randa Attaya, a 47- year-old Lebanese painter, told the German News Agency, dpa.
But despite Lebanese women's dismay, the song has been a hit.
A CD seller in Beirut's Hamra street, who would not give his name, told dpa that the song was 'a best seller these days among taxi drivers and men.'
'Some women have come and bought it just out of curiosity,' he added.
Effat Zeidan, a member of the Progressive Women's Union in Lebanon, said the song reflected 'how some men still think in the Middle East.'
'Of course there are men who don't think women should be confined to their homes, but the percentage isn't very high in this region,' Zeidan said. 'Arab women should unite and fight such ideas.'
She stressed that Lebanese women, like other women across the Middle East, were still battling a male-dominated culture.
A women's rights group in Syria, Mrsaad Nisaa Syria (Syrian Women's Monitor) also condemned the song, deeming it 'an open call to abolish education for women and a flagrant invitation for violence against women.'
The group has called on Syrian radio stations to ban the song.
Although Lebanon is considered a liberal country in the region, and its constitution guarantees equality to all citizens, the country's laws are multifaceted and tend to discriminate against women in practice.
General patriarchal attitudes in Lebanese society make it difficult for women to obtain upper-level positions in the public and private sectors.
The Lebanese government has also made little, if any, effort to assist rural women who suffer disproportionately from poverty and have little awareness of their rights due to a high rate of illiteracy.