Saad Lamjarred: Art and politics

Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred has made headlines these days not due to his sensational pop songs, but rather because of his recent problem with the French judiciary. The artist is facing sexual assault charges against a French girl of Algerian origins.

He’s accused of sexually assaulting her in France where he was scheduled to perform in a concert on Saturday. So far, the news is suitable for entertainment sections. But a statement by Lamjarred’s lawyer has said there is a “regional conspiracy” as he hinted that an Arab country is behind what happened to Lamjarred.

We don’t know who stands behind this conspiracy - according to the lawyer’s comment - although the fact that he did hint is actually clear. It’s up to the judiciary to decide whether Lamjarred is innocent or guilty. However, the question is: When do we draw a separating line between art and employing the artist’s value and symbolism in the market of politics to promote certain ideas or orientations? What’s the relation between art and politics?

A thorough look into this question shows the relation between artists and politics is old and renewed in the entire world and not just in the Arab world. There’s a beautiful American movie about the life of famous screenwriter and author Dalton Trumbo who was a Marxist and a leftist.

The question is when do we draw a line between art and employing the artist’s value and symbolism in the market of politics to promote certain ideas or orientations? What’s the relation between art and politics?

Mshari al-Thaydi

The movie is set during the peak of American McCarthyism campaigns against communism. During that time, Trumbo and a number of other screenwriters were prohibited from performing their work after some artists and Hollywood society, such as actor John Wayne who’s well-known for his Western roles, conspired against them.

The Egypt example

Let’s take Egypt as an example from the Arab world. Egypt has been an arena for political disputes among artists following the January revolution which brought the Muslim Brotherhood into power. Disputes escalated when the other revolution erupted to remove the Brotherhood from power. The details are clear and it’s well-known who is with whom in Egypt, from among Egypt’s artists.

Speaking of Egypt, perhaps we must note that the involvement artists in politics dates back to the period of black-and-white movies. Actor Hussein Sedky, who passed away in February 1976, sympathized with the Brotherhood and had relations with Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb. Hamdy Ahmed, who died in January 2016, was an active leftist and he became a member of parliament during the presidential term of Anwar al-Sadat.

In Lebanon, almost everyone knows who’s with Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, or with Christian leader Michel Aoun or with Christian leader Samir Geagea or with Future Movement leader Saad Hariri. Some artists openly and frankly state whom they support. In Syria, artists are categorized as “revolution” or regime artists.

It’s a present phenomenon. Some artists are consciously biased because they are politicized. Others are biased out of fear or temptation while others are naive and just want to improve their presence in the art scene by taking a stance and think this will help them gain publicity. Some are forced by a political or a social authority to take a certain stance.

It’s the politics of art.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Nov. 02, 2016.
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Saudi journalist Mshari Al Thaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Al Thaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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