As Egypt gears for pop diva Beyonce Knowles’ first performance in North Africa, Islamic conservatives are branding her show an “insolent sex party” that threatens the Muslim nation’s “social peace and stability.”
On giant posters plastered across the Egyptian capital advertising the Friday evening concert, Beyonce sports a revealing, flame-covered outfit and grips a set of motorcycle handlebars extending from her hips — a sharp contrast to Cairo streets, where most women wear the traditional Muslim headscarves.
TV ads promoting the show, part of Beyonce’s “I Am …” world tour, have run on Egyptian and Arab satellite stations. The tour, which also took Beyonce to the United Arab Emirates last week, had grossed $53.5 million as of October, according to Billboard magazine.
But in Egypt, Islamic lawmakers and their supporters have waged campaigns on social networking Web sites, accusing the government of encouraging debauchery and calling for the concert’s cancellation.
“Why are you encouraging this insolent sex party?” lawmaker Hamdi Hassan from the opposition Muslim Brotherhood wrote in a letter to the government. “You are accused of disturbing social peace and stability, encouraging vice and debauchery.”
Another Islamic lawmaker, Ali Laban, called for banning the “nudity concert.” A Facebook campaign against Beyonce’s concert collected nearly 10,000 supporters.
But the war of words has not derailed the glitzy concert, due hundreds of miles south of Cairo in the luxury Red Sea resort of Port Ghalib. Organizers said “ultra” security will be deployed to protect the thousands of concertgoers.
Beyonce canceled her stop in Malaysia last month following opposition from a conservative Islamic party. Malaysia requires female artists to cover up from the shoulders to the knees and bans any showing of cleavage.
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, is torn between a growing secular and economically prosperous class and a large mainly conservative, poor population. The government has been squeezing Islamic conservatives with security crackdowns and administrative measures aimed at curbing outward manifestations of conservatism.
Beyonce’s event organizer Ahmed Beltagi said tourism and police officials cooperated to make the concert happen because they believe it’s a way to promote Egypt as a center of culture, entertainment and art.
“We are Muslims too … this will not stop Egypt from hosting an award-winning, first class artist,” Beltagi said.
“We should salute her instead of criticizing her,” he said of the diva.