Iskandar’s Republic of Concubines

“We have no girls here that work with their degrees. Our girls are pampered. Everything she wants is at her service.”

“Assuming I agree that you work, what would we do about your beauty? Your job is taking care of my heart …isn’t it enough that you’re the president of the republic of my heart?”

Activists protest Iskandar’s song in Beirut. Image via Alexandra Sandels/Los Angeles Times.

These words are from Lebanese singer Mohammed Iskandar’s latest single Jomhouriyet Albi (“The republic of my heart”). Released about a month ago, he proudly describes what he expects from his lover. France 24 translated the whole song to English.

Soon after its release, different Lebanese groups objected. A Facebook group (called, “No, I’m not working for him!”) was created to counter attack the song. A street protest organized by different Lebanese feminist groups took place in Beirut’s Hamra district earlier this month, where both men and women held banners saying, “My degree is not for the kitchen” and “I want a woman, not a commodity!”

Weedah Hamzah interviewed some of the outraged women. Lara Dou, a 20-year-old Lebanese student, said:

“For God’s sake, someone should tell him we don’t live in the Stone Age. Women can protect themselves, be independent and reach the top.”

Alarmingly, a CD vendor in Beirut has said that the song is a best-seller among taxi drivers and men, and that some women had come and bought it just out of curiosity.

Layal Haddad wrote for the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar an article titled, “No Mohammed Iskandar … we reject the republic of concubines:”

At a time when women are still struggling for equality with men in both legal and political life, and in the labor market, radio stations are competing to broadcast a song whose key words revolve around the importance of a woman which is to devote her live in the service of the man she loves.

Mohammad Iskandar continues his career on the road itself, but with additional doses of male patriarchy this time.

Haddad refers to Iskandar’s previous song, “Say You Love Me,” in which he expressed his love for his sweetheart by preventing her from dealing with young colleagues and threatening to kill them.

“Your boss might fall in love and his feelings be aroused, and naturally I would go to the office and destroy it right in front of him.”

“I respect women’s rights, but I wish you’d consider my feelings. What is this job that would separate us? Damn the money, I’ll burn it!”

Haddad also highlighted the fact that Fares Iskandar, the singer’s son, wrote these songs. He believes the only women who would be offended at his words are prostitutes, because an honorable woman would never be offended at “Arab culture:”

Iskandar the son does not stop here, but goes far beyond that when he says, “The ones who are harmed the most from the song are prostitutes. Women who earn a lot of money for what they do (i.e. prostitution). In the end, these are our traditions, we are Orientals and Arabs, who value our names and honor!”

And it was not only women who rejected the song. Other than the men who participated in the protest, Lebanese blogger Ali Draghmeh commented on the song:

Women’s work and education are sacred rights that should not be touched if we want a healthy society and balanced families that are not threatened by divorce, poverty and ignorance!

As for the rest of the Arab region, a totally different reaction was in Jordan according to Al-Arabiya, which described Jordan to be a “more conservative society than Lebanon,” and mentioned that some women in Jordan use parts from the song as a tone on their mobile phones.

In Syria, a women rights organization addressed all women and men “with normal relationship with their manhood,” asking them to send letters of protest to the Syrian radio stations that broadcast the song demanding to scrap this song.

One can only wonder when and how will such demeaning messages disappear from the Middle Eastern art. There’s a big difference between a woman who doesn’t work because this is what she really wants and a woman who is just following an expected ideal of the “good wife.”

Mohammed Iskandar, stop telling women what they are supposed to do and how are they supposed to live their lives. And let them lead their lives, guided by their own priorities and impressions!

  • John

    This song is hilarious. You all should have a laugh and consider it a joke. I’m a Muslim man and married. My wife is still studying and chances are that she’ll work after she graduates. So we both are having a riot with this song. It’s so funny.

  • Zara

    John, if you and your wife are educated/informed enough to be able to hear this song and not take it seriously, kudos to you both. However, as Eman mentioned, the the target demographic seems to be men who will probably find their views of women validated when listening to these songs. It may seem frivolous to you, but I see the popularity of Iskandar’s songs as yet another step backwards in the pursuit of women’s rights.

  • Torrie

    This is not a Muslim problem. American R&B, country and rap songs from both male and female performers promote the same mindset: A man should provide for a woman and her main duty is to please him.

    Shame on you for repeating the orientalist sterotype that this is a Muslim/Arab attitude only.

    • Fatemeh

      @ Torrie: No one said it was just a Muslim problem. No one is arguing that American music isn’t just as misogynist. This is a website that looks at Muslim women’s media representation and that which affects it–that’s why we focused on music about women coming from a Muslim-majority country. You can put away your righteous indignation now.

  • http://worstdaughter.wordpress.com worstdaughter

    Although, you have to admit, it’s better than, “Bitches ain’t nothin’ but tricks and hos,” and all the other sexist drivel that counts for music in the West.

  • Aliyah

    @ worstdaughter,

    No it’s not better it is as degrading (be my bitch or be my servant). That’s disgusting, to portray women as “whores or submissive”. Their both advocating male superiority and dominance over women. And then to we are called prostitutes for not submitting to his views which is a tactic to discredit us or to send out a message that we are fair game for abuse.

    Like misgonist rappers who encounter various resistance like poverity and racisim in their community they compensate their fury and inferiority complexs with misgony and violence over those who are physically and socially weaker. The singer’s son who wrote the song is also doing the same thing with his inferiory complex and is compensating by reducing others to be his servants.

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  • Dina

    I have never heard an R&B song telling women not to work at all – telling the woman her degree should be used at home. Telling a woman out of jealousy he would kill her co-workers and burn the money she earns.

    I have never heard an R&B singer who were to sing SUCH offensive machismo lyrics say “this is our culture” (which goes to show, by the way, that some of this is more highly rooted in traditional societies unlike the West). One can probably hear R&B singers call their feminist critics “bit**es”, but “prostitutes” is still on another level. Calling everyone who does not agree with your machismo statements a “prostitute” is a highly interesting statement to highlicht, thank you Muslimah Media Watch for it.