The Musicians Syndicate attempted to shut down two “Satanist parties” held in Cairo on Saturday night, according to syndicate head Hany Shaker, citing a Western conspiracy to corrupt young Egyptians.
Speaking to TV presenter Sayed Ali on Saturday evening on Al-Assema TV, Shaker said that Alaa Salama, head of the syndicate’s resources committee, brought to his attention a “Satanist concert” being held in the downtown Cairo cabaret Sherezade. Salama told him that “devil-worshipping” attendees were wearing strange clothes, including black T-shirts with the “Masonic Star of David” on them, and makeup.
The syndicate head said he ordered the authorities to immediately shut it down, but added that security forces arrived at the scene after the event had finished.
Shaker added that the syndicate managed to foil another “Satanist party” at the Amoun Hotel in the Giza district of Mohandiseen, which was also scheduled for Saturday night. Party organizers cancelled the event after hearing about the intentions of authorities, he told Ali.
A metal enthusiast who preferred to remain anonymous, however, told Mada Masr the two events were actually one heavy metal concert, a Friday event that was advertised as a decoy for Saturday’s event — rock music festival Masters of the Middle East 1, which reportedly went ahead successfully. Mada reached out to the organizers for comment, but received no response.
The concert included performances by organizer Nader Sadek’s band, a Dubai-based band Perversion and Colombian-American band Inquisition. Two other bands, Al-Azif (Egypt) and Smouldering in the Forgotten (Bahrain), withdrew from the gig.
There have been heated debates online since January within the metal scene regarding Inquisition, who classify their music as “black metal.”
Several metal musicians made statements against this band performing in Egypt, saying it could hurt the reputation of the whole community and attract the attention of authorities. One called for a boycott of the concert on the Egyptian Metal Archive Facebook page. “We draw a clear line between persistence and claiming our space and between random and unjustified collision with our cultural and political context [in Egypt],” another statement read.
Shaker told Ali that the American, Bahraini and Qatari “Satanists” are part of a Western conspiracy aiming to spread “chaos and immorality” among young Egyptians. He incorrectly referred to the bands as “DJs” and to one group as being Qatari, when they are in fact from the UAE. He added that two similar events, scheduled for February 24 and 26, have also been prevented from taking place.
In another interview with Wael al-Ebrashy on DreamTV on Saturday night, Shaker also claimed these events were not licensed. “Their general appearance forced the syndicate to take a stance,” he said, referencing the way the bands and fans were dressed and the makeup they use.
Shaker, himself a singer, recently obtained approval to have powers of judicial arrest for designated Musicians Syndicate officials, a move which has been widely criticized by independent musicians.
The incident represents a resurgence of accusations of “Satanism” and “devil-worshipping,” that have plagued Egypt’s underground metal scene since the 1990s. The controversy dates back to a fallout between festival organizers in Alexandria, when one organizer filed an official complaint against the other for incorporating Satanic rituals into their event.
State-owned newspaper Rose al-Youssef published an article in 1996, referenced within an archive on the topic put together by independent writing platform Al-Manassa, linking metal music to Satanism. This sparked an intense media backlash on the misrepresented genre, caused public panic, prompted the arrest of several metal fans and musicians and provoked a ban on heavy metal concerts that troubled Egypt’s metal scene for years afterward.
Shaker, in his interview with Al-Assema, referenced the most well-known case, in which 86 young people were arrested for allegedly worshipping Satan at the derelict Baron Palace in Heliopolis in 1997.
The metal scene has made a comeback since the 2011 uprisings, but the issue resurfaced in 2012, when Ismail Wishahi, a member of Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, alleged that a metal concert for Satanists was held at Cairo’s El Sawy Culture Wheel. The case was dismissed following an investigation and the Musicians Syndicate testified on behalf of the band in question at the time.
Many fans argue security bodies have fanned the flames of this outcry in an effort to distract the public from more pressing issues.