by Charlie Crooijmans
Since June 2007 the people of Gaza are being confronted with strict morality rules of the Hamas, a fundamental Islamic movement, who governs the Gaza portion of the Palestinian Territories. For example, it is forbidden to participate in the New Star, a talent show broadcast on Palestinian television. This is annoying for pop singers who wants to be heard outside of Gaza. But the situation of the female singers is more than annoying. A female singer is being seen as equal to a prostitute. If they want to sing, they can do it quietly at home in front of the family but not publicly. As we already saw in Afghan Star, the documentary, it can be quite problematic for women to sing in public in Afghanistan, but it doesn’t seem to be any better in Gaza, Iran or orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
Unfortunately I cannot find a video clip of Mariam Abuamer from the Gaza Strip who appeared on television singing a romantic song of Celine Dion (NRC Next, 3/1/2012). Her father doesn’t allow her to sing in public anymore, being afraid to lose face. Instead, here is a video of a part of an episode of New Star, to show that the boys and girls from the West Bank are free to participate unlike their peers in Gaza.
Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, music has been the subject of political and religious debate. Women singers are practically banned from presenting their voice to the general public without the accompaniment of another singer. The documentary Not an Illusion (2009) of Torang Abedian, is about the personal battle of 21 year old Sara who is determined to sing solo. To keep on going she joins a band as a backing singer. But even then, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has to give permission if they want to perform.
Israel is known for being modern and in general there is little gender inequality. Except at the Mea Shearim, one of the oldest Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, where things are different due to the ultra orthodox Haredi Jews. Their women have to be dressed decently, no trousers or tight clothes. Travelling in public transportation has to be separate from men. Female chant, also, is out of the question. Even Israel’s military are boycotting ceremonial events where female soldiers might be singing (Sky News HD).
These examples (and they are but a few) raise the question: why is the female voice a taboo when religion is involved? The general answer seems to be because men get sexually aroused by hearing a woman singing, even in prayer. Without doubt female singing has been used (and still is) in the context to seduce men on purpose. Yet it is strange that ancient religious laws where made to protect the men from temptation, and woman from being unwillingly seductive.
By protecting one, is it really necessary to exclude the other?