Egyptian singer cum preacher gets coveted invite

Yasmin al-Khayam gets US embassy invite to hear Obama


An Egyptian singer turned preacher whose father knew American President Barack Obama’s father has been invited by the American embassy to attend the president's much anticipated speech at Cairo University Thursday and she plans to attend.

Yasmin al-Khayam, Egypt's singer turned preacher who stirred controversy in the 1980s for joining the singing industry despite being daughter of a famous Quranic reciter, said she received an invite to attend Obama's speech.

The daughter of Quranic reciter Mahmud Khalil al-Husary told Al Arabiya her late father knew Obama's father Hussein Obama, and had given him a tape recording of his recitation when they met on one of the reciter's trips to Africa.

"I think Obama is still influenced by his father's heritage," the singer, who went by the name Ifrag al-Husary before her vocational change, told Al Arabiya.

Al-Khayam sees in Obama's speech to the Muslim world a "respectful gesture that I hope will be the beginning of better relations between Muslims and the west," she said, urging Americans to take the opportunity to put Sept. 11, 2001 behind them and Muslim preachers to likewise reach out and explain Islam's tolerant message.

Al-Khayam rose to fame after Umm Kulthum's death in 1975 when Egypt's great composers like Abdel Wahab and Riyadh al-Sumbati began to write music for her.

Her journey to music raised considerable controversy before abruptly ending in 1990 when she quit singing, donned the hijab and began preaching to provide spiritual guidance to women.

Upon quitting singing, al-Khayam built a mosque in her father's name, from which the famous preacher Amr Khaled used to give his lectures. Both al-Khayam and Khaled headed interfaith dialogues in Denmark following the Prophet cartoons controversy.

(Translated from the Arabic by Marwa Awad)

I think Obama is still influenced by his father's heritage

Yasmin al-Khayam