‘Indecent’ ballet? Egyptian Islamist lawmaker angers dancers

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An Islamist member of Egypt’s Shura Council has stirred controversy for describing ballet dancing as “the art of nudity,” prompting objections from a number of dancers.

Council member Gamal Hamed, of the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party, said ballet dancing promotes “indecency” in society.

“[Ballet] is the art of nudity, spreading immorality and obscenity among people,” Hamed said during a council session this week discussing the country’s budget.

The member also called for banning the dance because it is prohibited in Islam, according to him.

Angry artists took to the social media to criticize the Islamist lawmaker. Some warned of legal action against him.

Amir Ramses, a filmmaker, sought to highlight contradictions of the country’s Islamist lawmakers. “Egypt’s Brotherhood government extends [night] clubs’ licenses from 2 to 3 years to boost tourism, and a Shura Council [Islamist] member calls for banning ballet because it is nudity dancing.”

Egypt’s Actors Syndicate chief Ashraf Abdel Ghafour told Al Arabiya English that a lawsuit will be brought against the Islamist MP.

“Ballet is one of many arts around the world that measure a country’s civilization,” Abdel Ghafour said. “The council member is ignorant of the importance and beauty behind it.”

Abdel Ghafour, who is also an actor, said: “The member has to see beyond what a ballet dancer wears.”

“Art in Egypt cannot be suppressed by anyone,” Abdel Ghafour said. “Even under the toughest dictatorships, art managed to convey people’s failures.”

“Artists in Egypt should focus on their work, present what they want and put their fears aside,” he said, adding that he does not listen to claims of restricting arts in Egypt, because he believes this “will never happen.”

“Until now, there are no restrictions imposed on arts in Egypt, only statements every now and then.”
“There are no official decisions and there will never be,” he said.

May Mosaad, a water ballet female dancer, dismissed the Islamist MP’s remarks, saying: “Ballet dancing does not mean revealing one’s body or practicing immorality,” al-Watan newspaper reported.

“Everyone has their own beliefs,” said Mosaad, who wears the Islamic headscarf. “I love Ballet and will keep doing so till the end. It is all between me and God, no one has to get involved.”

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