What’s good for the goose is not good for the gander: the political double standards of Arab celebrities

Tuesday 22 October 201912:51 pm
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"جميلة هنا وكُخة هناك"… مقياس المشاهير يترنح حين يتعلق الأمر بالتظاهرات

The relationship between entertainment and politics and artists’ endorsement of politicians is not a new phenomenon, but the current Lebanese uprising has forced many to drop the masks they had worn to promote their interests. From primping a "dictatorial regime" in an Arab country and standing against popular demonstrations these same artists gave tremendous support for the popular demonstrations in Lebanon. Does the “legitimacy” of peoples' demands change from country to country or are double standards the rule?

Ragheb Allama

With the onset of the Lebanese uprising, pop star Ragheb Alama declared his solidarity with the demonstrators in his country stating "in short this a failed state, a failed regime with failed rulers."

He tweeted: "The primary responsibility for what happened should be borne by the Parliament with all its. The House of Representatives has not been held accountable, nor the ministers nor any corrupt person. Why do MPs earn all this money and have all these privileges, and what have they done for us? They have covered up pillaging and theft for decades, they are responsible for the destruction of the economy and the country. "

That was not enough for Allama, he took to the street to express his anger alongside his compatriots and then went to meet with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whom demonstrators are demanding should step down, calling for the resignation of his government though Allama considers “a resignation will not be in the country’s best interests.”.

"Nancy Ajram says she supports the right of the people of Lebanon to live with dignity. Wonderful. However, Nancy Ajram is among those who colluded & stripped the right of Egyptians to live with dignity, leaving Lebanon to sing to MBS"
Majida al- Roumi confirmed in a press interview that she likes President Sisi and often prays for him and has also talked about how impressed she is with “achievements of the current Saudi government.”

Ragheb Allama defended joining the sit-in saying he would like Hariri to “hold his people accountable so that he would open the door for other leaders to do the same and remove those responsible for corruption,” he said, calling for a reduction in taxes, customs, property and car registration fees and passport renewal fees.

This stance supportive of the uprising would have been highly appreciated by many was it not for Allama’s support for a dictator in another country. Activists on social media have highlighted Ragheb's stance in support of the Egyptian regime headed by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, expressing their admiration for his “double standards" when dealing with "the right of people to live freely with dignity."

Ragheb appeared in a video at the end of September, saying: "I am Ragheb Alama, a Lebanese Arab citizen, I consider Egypt my country, I support Egypt’s president, government and people."

The video is a clear message of support to Sisi and the army after contractor Mohamed Ali came out to accuse the regime of corruption and embezzlement of public funds.

Nancy Ajram

Singer Nancy Ajram also faced accusations of “hypocrisy” by Egyptians for her support of the movement in Lebanon. She is known for “singing and promoting” the Sisi regime which is accused of cracking down on dissidents and violating human rights. Ajram expressed her support for the Lebanese uprising with a tweet on the 18th of October: “Every moment and with every heartbeat, I am with my country- we are a people that deserves to live and it is our right to live with dignity.”

Egyptian lawyer and human rights activist Gamal Eid, the executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, attacked Ajram’s position in a tweet on October 20, saying: "Nancy Hanem Ajram says she supports the right of the people of Lebanon to live with dignity. Wonderful. However, Nancy Ajram Hanem is among those who colluded & stripped the right of the people of Egypt to live with dignity and supported tyranny. Nancy Hanem Ajram left a blazing Lebanon and went to Saudi Arabia to sing to the killer of Jamal Khashoggi. Nancy Ajram has outdone even the good man Mustafa Bakri.” the latter part of the tweet being a reference to the Egyptian MP who is known for toadying to oppressive regimes

Ajram released the song "The man, a son of a man ", which is explicit support for Sisi, in conjunction with the referendum on constitutional amendments that enabled the Egyptian president to remain in power until 2030.

Ajram had a concert on in Riyadh season (an awards ceremony in Saudi Arabia) expressed her happiness for being there while there were human rights reports being released about the torture of both prisoners inside Saudi Arabia.

Vaya Yunan

The Syrian artist, known for her loyalty to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Vaya Younan, faced stinging criticism when she wrote a post supporting the Lebanese uprising by saying: “I am far but I can’t take my phone out of my hand as I watch the news. The faces of my friends whom I love in the streets of Beirut that are full of stories and memories, all the debates and great conversations with a people that know what’s right to that extent. It is now time, Lebanon is bigger than all its sects and longs to live, we love you so much Lebanon.”

But the response came quickly from a Lebanese girl named Sarah Sheikh Ali, "We are not honoured by your solidarity with us when you stood against your countrymen by supporting and being a thug for the criminal Bashar al-Assad. And in Martyrs Square, we saluted the Syrian people and their martyrs because the Lebanese revolution today is an extension of the Syrian revolution and the revolution of all the people of the Arab world and because this man that is killing Syrians, occupied Lebanon for years and killed us and humiliated us at checkpoints. I mean your criminal regime Vaya. Long live the Syrian people and the Lebanese people and may Bashar al-Assad and all his thugs fall."

In their turn, many Syrians opposed to the Syrian regime mocked Vaya Yunnan's position.

Majida Al Roumi

A Lebanese channel broadcast “patriotic” songs by the artist Majida Al Roumi in the background of some of the Lebanese demonstrations which elicited criticism and shock since the singer has a long history of supporting oppressive regimes and singing their praises.

Roumi confirmed in a press interview, last February that she likes President Sisi a great deal and often prays for him and has also talked about how impressed she is with “achievements of the current Saudi government.”

She considered that the Arab Spring uprisings “have no relation to the spring” and are "conspiracies against our Arab homelands" a newspaper quoted her as saying.

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