Earlier in March, the Egyptian parliament started discussing a draft amendment to the Penal Code that aims to provide harsher penalties including imprisonment for using lewd or offensive words, especially in artworks. The suggested amendment may send
the offender to prison for three years for offending public sensibilities through lewd language, instead of a fine of 500 Egyptian pounds ($32) currently determined by law.
The draft law needs to go through parliamentary subcommittees, but no date has
yet been set.
The bill comes in the wake of a major controversy over mahraganat , a hybrid music genre that combines folk with electronic music and uses colloquialism in its lyrics. This genre of music, whose name literally means festivals
in Arabic, originated in the Cairo slums in the early 2000s. Its beat resembles that of American rap and, like rap, its lyrics contain sexual innuendos, racy words and obscenities.
These songs have entered every household in Egypt through the
internet and smartphones, Amer told Al-Monitor. A mother, a sister, a wife or daughter should never be exposed to such words because they are offensive and often sexist.
The lyrics of one of these songs -- Bent el-Geran (The Neighbor's Daughter)
by Hassan Shakosh and Omar Kamal -- ignited on Feb. 14 the debate on mahraganat. The song's lyrics suggest alcohol and hashish -- both of which are forbidden in Islam -- to get over a heartbreak.
The suggestion of alcohol and hashish angered many
critics, the powerful Egyptian Musicians Syndicate and parliamentarians, including Amer. They argued that the song was an attack on the public taste and encouragement of immorality.