Lookout Russia and Mexico, there’s another country that’s got emo in the public’s depress-ed eye. Egypt was recently over-run with anti-emo fervor, and as The Guardian‘s Jack Shenker tells it, the authorities and media took things way out of proportion. Go figure.
As Shenker tells it, Cairo recently saw a bloom of graffiti in the streets. And even while spray-painted scrawlings are heralded as street art in many places, it’s still seen as a nuisance. According to Shenker, the “authorities did what any sensible, level-headed authority would do â€“ they panicked, called in state security agents, and began rounding up suspects.” And all over this:
I’d seen these photos on a blogÂ (perhaps not the one I’ve linked to, but one similar in that I couldn’t understand what it said and it contained many similar photos) a few weeks ago, but considering I don’t know Arabic, I merely continued to bumble about the Internet, unbeknownst the connection to the city’s emo scene.
But, it seems as though the entire scene was unrelated to the country’s emo community. As the Egyptian ChroniclesÂ blog noted about the coverage of the “emo graffiti” in Youm 7:
Yesterday Monday at 11 :08 Am the newspaper published an exclusive news :The Egyptian Emos were behind the drawings downtownÂ and that this drawingÂ â€œwhich depicts a man with a broom , of course I did not know thatâ€means unlimited feelings !!!!!!!!!!
According to a member from Egyptâ€™s underground dangerous Emo group it is a message to the state security that they are not affected byÂ these arrests that followed â€œAl-Hakika showâ€Â and these drawings mean that the group is too big that we think. This news was published by Ahmed Mustafa who seems to know an insider in the Emos !!
I did not believe the story and I wanted to comment on it as soon as I read it but I got engaged in Sham El-Nassim. I felt that it was an attempt by the interior ministry to hunt down the Emos again.Â
Thank goodness that I waited because in 15:47 PM Youm 7 published another news , this time by Gamal Al-Shanawy , the news is saying thatÂ the interior ministry succeeded in arresting those who drew those drawingsÂ and guess what they are not Emos and may be they have not heard about them in their entire life !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
They are two artists fromÂ the town house galleryÂ were trying to promote a new logo they invented to become the new logo of the state cleanliness campaign !!Â A car technician was helping them by holding their tools.Â
Now what bring the Emos in to the issue in the first place ?? Is not this a fabrication !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Â
I do not know why we do not put the Emos phenomena in its right size.Â
In which case, it seems as if all of this was a big misunderstanding, but at the expense of the country’s emo followers. It certainly isn’t the first time an underground culture has been misinterpreted by the Egyptian government. As Mark Levine notes inÂ Heavy Metal Islam‘s chapter on Egypt, the city’s metal scene was under siege by authorities in the 90s under suspect of Satanism. Of course, these calls for concern were untrue, but it certainly set the city’s scene back.
The same looks to be said of emo, ever since there was a program on Dream TV back in March “exploring” the culture. Though according to Shenker, it wasn’t much of an expose as it was a beating ground:The “backlash”Â against emo-culture actually began before the street-art controversy, when the host of El-Hakika (The Truth), a top-rated talk-show on Dream TV,Â devoted an entire episodeÂ back in March to the alarming phenomenon of emos in Egypt. In it he grilled a number of self-identified emos, including one gutsy student named only as Sherif who persistently interrupted the presenter and callers to insist that the emos were not an organised movement and were not all gay. “The idea is that there is nothing wrong with admitting that you are emotional,” he said defensively. The host, Wael El-Ibrashi, disagreed. “Look, no one can tell you how to wear your hair,” the presenter conceded generously, “But when that becomes a group philosophy, it’s worrying.”
Considering the negative approach to emo taken by the program, it’s not unthinkable to see the mainstream cower in fear of a culture they don’t quite understand. After all, the same thing happened in Mexico after emo was dissed on a popular music TV program, and that was just last year. More pieces continue to crop up railing against emo, even though it appears to be just as harmless as any other subculture or (dare I say it in the guise of this blog, but it’s still a relevant word) fad. Check out the slightly-racist ramblings in the hilariously-titled “‘Emus’ Terrorize Cairo” piece originally found in Middle East Features:
wear their hair swept forward like Asians…
Granted, that does come from a translation of another website, but the information continues to be distributed as a piece of news instead of observing it under the microscope. And then there are the anti-emo Facebook groups, which doesn’t exactly feature some emo-friendly fare:
True, it is Facebook, and rarely anything of cultural relevance actually is driven by the website except for Facebook itself (how many profile pictures or status updates spurn real-world action?) but the sentiment declared by Bassem displays a strong sense of hated that seems undeserved (though who can say what any “emo” had personally done to him, but I don’t want to make excuses…)
As Shenker wisely notes, it’s the youth of Egypt that ultimately suffer the consequences, having to bear the brunt of a confused society and, in the case of Egypt, police inquisition. None of these are pleasant consequences, and in a country that, according to Shenker, has a large youth unemployment rate, it’s not unthinkable that the Egypt’s youngsters want to find some way to rebel… It’s just a shame that wearing a bit too much eyeliner could land someone in jail.