by Charlie Crooijmans
The winner of the pan-Arabic talent show ‘Arab Idol’ (held in Beirut, Lebanon) is Mohammed Assaf from Gaza. Even though the people in Gaza are being confronted with strict morality rules of Hamas, the fundamental Islamic movement – on News and Noise! we had an article about this before – this student of 23-years old was determined to participate Arab Idol. He already got arrested a twenty times by the Hamas, because he was singing at weddings and family parties. The only way to get out of Gaza was bribing an Egyptian guard. Unfortunately he got stuck at the frontier for two days. When he got at the auditions, the doors were already closed. He climbed over a wall, and inside he started to sing in an extremely passionate way. That’s how he was allowed to join the show. Three months later, shortly before midnight on Saturday, he was the declared winner!
Famous Arabian singers praise his voice for being classic, ‘a diamante voice’, and compare him to Abdel Halim Hafez. The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas even called Assaf to support him. The Palestinian telecom companies lowered the rates of the texts, so the people could vote on him. Only the fundamentalists weren’t too pleased because there can be only one idol, Allah.
The Palestinian audience do not only appreciate Assaf’s voice and looks, but also his preference for patriotic songs about the old Palestine. He is giving hope. A boy from Gaza escaped to become a world star! He even won the show and has a contract with a reputable record label.
The Palestinians are very proud and happy.
Some Hamas leaders, belatedly realizing the faction’s disapproval could backfire in the face of overwhelming popular support, congratulated Assaf. The Hamas legislator Yahia Mussa posted on Facebook: “Greetings from the heart to the talented artist Mohammed Assaf”, adding that his victory was a gift to “the seized people in Gaza and West Bank, and raised the name of Palestine”. In Ramallah, Mohammed Omar, 50, said: “People think Palestine is all rockets and bombs and stones. Now everyone will know about us in a different way.” Echoing his view, Imad Rabee, 27, said: “The image of Gaza has changed from war to singing.” (Guardian)
There is no indication when Assaf is going to return to Gaza. Will the Hamas give permission to perform in public? If he wants to perform in the West Bank he needs to have permission of the Israelian authorities. But till now it is an amazing achievement!
This article is partly based on the Dutch newspaper NRC Weekend 22/23 June