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Egyptian heavy metal fans tread in deep water

Wright, J. (1996). Egyptian heavy metal fans tread in deep water. Reuters/Variety.

OVERVIEW

It is well known that there are youth subcultures worldwide. Global youth culture comes in mainstream pop, dance, house or rave, punk, skinhead, Goths (gothic, black or death), New Age varieties, and more. Still, it is surprising to find in Egypt or other Muslim societies teenage heavy metal fans with tattoos, dressed in black leather, sporting skulls and flirting with the Satanic.

Many wealthy Egyptians have moved from heavy metal rock concerts into the subculture itself. The weekly magazine Rose el-Youssef, has disclosed conversations between security officers and the young fans held in custody. Some of the fans said they just liked the music; for others it was the latest fad. Consider these youthful responses:

 

‘I just like the music, and I am imitating the foreigners.’

‘I don’t have anything to do with Satanism. I joined because their parties were exciting. I used to go to feel up the girls when they were dancing.’

‘We use the inverted cross, not to worship it, but because it’s cool. We were just fooling around.’

 

But for a few, there does seem to be some commitment to the occult. One heavy metal fan is reported to have told the prosecutors, " ‘Satan permits quick pleasure, he permits things forbidden by other religions. The other reason (for joining) is to be unconventional, to be individual and look different.’ "

There are reports in government newspapers that "Satanists" have called upon the devil on ouija boards, performed Satanic rituals in Cairo cemeteries, sacrificed cats, and taken part in group sex. But according to the interrogators it seems generally true that many are into heavy metal just for the sex, drugs, and rock and roll, or—at the most—to shock their elders. What they have found these youth to possess are Megadeth, Metallica, and Black Sabbath albums, posters, and T-shirts with Gothic symbols like skulls and inverted crosses. They seem to have gotten these "from mysterious foreigners bent on spreading the devil cult" or by "smuggling" them in.

The religious Mufti have been quick and strong in their denunciations of such youthful deviance. According to Mufti Nasr Farid Wassil, as quoted in the newspaper al-Akhbar:

 

‘These "Satanists" are apostates from Islam but the right approach, in view of their youth, is to ask them to repent. If they renounce their beliefs, they can be pardoned. But if they persist in their error, we should carry out the penalty prescribed by Islamic law.’ (The penalty for apostasy is death.)

 

Government leaders have spoken out strongly against this whole phenomenon. Parliamentary member, Tharwat Abaza, and the speaker of Shoura (the consultative chamber of parliament), Mustafa Kamal Hilmi, respectively show their shock and appreciation of the police: " ‘We must deal decisively with this errant group, which has gone beyond the pale of society.’ "

Is it possible that such deviance should exist in Egypt—the country of faith and monotheism since the dawn of history? Rose el-Youssef adds further adult analysis of the heavy metal subculture:

 

It indicates there are thousands of youngsters looking for fulfillment, to prove their identity, to declare they are rebels...even if that means addiction to Satanic rock. It is a generation that feels alienated, that has formed a cultural ghetto and joined a counter-culture.

 

The charge against these young people, some of whom have been in custody for as long as three years, is contempt for religion. Such an offense carries, under Egyptian law, a maximum of three years imprisonment.

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION OR DISCUSSION

  1. What impresses you most about this article, and what questions or issues does it raise in your mind?
  2. What can be learned from this about world cultures and subcultures? What do some young people in Cairo and your town have in common?
  3. Do you tend to join with those who mock religious leaders concerned about the moral of young people? Or do you agree with their concern and disagree with their methods?
  4. How do you think countries like Egypt can guard themselves against negative imports from the U.S. and U.K.?
  5. What responsibility do countries like the U.S. and U.K. have for what they export around the world? Do you think the U.S. should have been held responsible for the baby formula it exported to Africa which contributed to the malnutrition of many infants? Is there a valid analogy in the exportation of drugs, sub-standard foods, music that borders on the occult, violence, sex and pornography?

 

IMPLICATIONS

  1. There is a growing global youth culture and within that culture are common subcultures.
  2. Whenever working with young people, whether in education, economic development, evangelization or discipleship—it is vital to be keenly aware of cultural issues.
  3. Youth work expect leaders to enter the subcultures of young people.
  4. Irresponsible global exploitation by the entertainment industries may contribute to the power of fundamentalism of all varieties—Muslim, Jewish, and Christian.

Dean Borgman cCYS