A Joke About the Nile Lands an Egyptian Pop Queen in Court

A Joke About the Nile Lands an Egyptian Pop Queen in Court


The pro-government musicians’ union said it was banning the singer from performing in Egypt, and prosecutors summoned her to court on Dec. 23 to face an array of charges, including incitement and harming the public interest.

Ms. Abdel-Wahab, who has sold millions of albums in Egypt, is a judge on the Arab version of the TV talent show “The Voice,” and is not usually a critic of the government. But the Nile has become a politically sensitive issue in recent years over fears that a giant upriver dam, nearing completion in Ethiopia, will cut Egypt’s share of the river waters.

The case was the latest example of how Egypt’s courts have been used for displays of strident nationalism since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power in 2013, often in cases involving innocuous or lighthearted forms of entertainment.

An Armenian belly dancer was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment in 2015 for dancing in a costume fashioned after the Egyptian flag. The verdict was overturned on appeal. In 2016, comedy pranksters were accused of “insulting state institutions” for distributing balloons made from inflated condoms to policemen in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

An actor, Amir Karara, is currently under investigation for “insulting lawyers” for his portrayal of one in the television drama series “Handcuffs.”

In her apology, Ms. Abdel-Wahab said the video in question was made over a year ago at a concert in the United Arab Emirates. “God knows the extent of my love and loyalty for Egypt,” she said. The patriotic outburst didn’t impress the musicians’ union, however, which accused the singer of “unjustified mockery of our dear Egypt”.

The musicians union has a growing reputation as Egypt’s enforcer of public morals.

In September it denounced Mashrou’ Leila, a popular Lebanese band whose lead singer is openly gay, after audience members waved rainbow-colored flags at a concert in Cairo. Pictures of the flags spread on social media, triggering dozens of arrests, according to rights activists.

The musicians’ union drew sharp criticism in 2016 for its effort to stop a heavy metal concert in Cairo that it claimed had been organized by “devil worshipers.”



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