Young musicians of Egypt protest in a peaceful way.
Egypt’s self-appointed guardians of culture continue to block the advance of young liberal artists, yearning to bring about greater tolerance in the country’s bitterly contested art space.
Recently, storm-troopers of an extremist Salafi lineage reportedly blocked people from entering a theatre, where a concert — staged by amateur musicians — to promote harmony between Coptic Christians and Muslims was under way. The event in the city of Minya, around 245 km south of Cairo, was being staged to coincide with the festivities of Eid al-Adha.
Outraged by the crude demonstration of muscle power to intimidate audiences, the youthful musicians have decided to protest. A Facebook page has been opened to exhort practitioners of “alternative music” and their fans to assemble at El Sawy Culturewheel.
The venue is no ordinary place. It has been reclaimed in 2003 by Mohamed El-Sawy — a cultural entrepreneur and a politician — from a garbage dump and a shelter for the homeless under the 15 May Bridge in Cairo’s upscale Zamalek district. Al Jazeera estimates that, every month, Culturewheel draws around 20,000 visitors and 150,000 clicks on its web site.
Help has arrived from an influential quarter. The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has condemned the Minya incident, describing it as “an assault on freedom of expression”. It has urged “civil society organisations and political forces to adopt a clear position on this and similar incidents.”