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Metal, Women and Militants - Ideologies of the People Living Under an Oppressive Regime

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Metal, Women and Militants;

Ideologies of the people living under an oppressive regime

Monica Vogel (mmrv93)


Heavy metal provides a release for young Muslims facing political and social persecution for their taste in music. The harshness of metal allows them to express their issues with social and political forces acting against them without harsh retaliation. The lyrics, which are generally a cultural critique, spread a message  to the rest of the Metal-listening Muslim world.  Levine visits multiple countries in the Middle East and North Africa, like Egypt, Morocco, Isreal, Lebanon, Iran and Pakistan, most of whom have a similar story. The metalheads face religious and political persecution purely because of the harsh nature of the music and how they chose to dress or portray themselves.  Because of this constant harassment the metal scene in most of these countries has remained underground, keeping to private venues and largely to themselves. Similar government persecution occurs in almost all of the countries that Levine explored and interviewed artists in. One of the most interesting occurrences was from the chapter on Morocco, which states that, "fourteen heavy-metal musicians and fans were arrested in February 2003, tried, and convicted of the absurd crime of being 'Satanists who recruited for an international cult of devil-worship,' and of 'shaking the foundations of Islam,' 'infringing upon public morals,' 'undermining the faith of a Muslim,' and 'attempting to convert a Muslim to another faith'" LeVine then goes on to explain that, "Similar raids have occurred against heavy-metal-listening 'devil worshippers' in Lebanon, Egypt and Iran” (LeVine 2008 Pg. 32) In the chapter on Egypt we were told the story of the band who was arrested while taking pictures near the pyramids because one of the members did not have ID, and many others that are all too similar, which are perfect examples of how the government is intolerant.  This is not the first literature questioning the impositions the government feels right to place on its citizens, whether it is against groups or against sexes the nationalism observed coming from the leaders of many countries in the Middle East is oppressive.  Women’s rights were greatly affected by the revolution in the 1970’s, nearly all of the progress that had been made was reversed after the new regime revised most of the laws to comply more with the ideals of Islam. Nowadays there are many groups warring for political control with different ideologies that they believe to be the only possible ideologies that the Muslim world could embrace. The liberal groups call for freedom from oppression and more basic human rights. Militant political groups call for  reform of the corrupt governments, these groups general believe that it is possible to be modern, and that it doesn’t necessarily have to mirror the modernity of the west. Though these two sides disagree on what kind of government should be in place they can agree that the current government is not working for the citizens and is the contributing factor of the failure to thrive of the Middle East. Between the political unrest and civilian uprisings for rights the Middle East has been in a state of radical change throughout the past 50 years, such unrest has caused many of the youngest generation to feel the need to reform the government, but there is no general consensus on the changes that need to be made.  There are multiple groups within the Middle East that have been warring with the government and amongst each other to make their ideologies heard and possibly make a change in the political and social environment in which they have found themselves. The groups all call for more liberal social reform, the women and musicians seek a change in government and a decrease in the government interferences in their social life, and the islamists call for heir own type of government that is divinely approved and puts a modern interpretation on the ideals of the faith.  Though there are slight disagreements between the groups they all call for the corrupt regimes in the Middle East to be discarded and a new school of politicians to uphold the ideals of Islam and usher them into a modern era free of oppression of the people.

        Those calling for more freedoms tend to be women who have very few rights under the stricter Islamic ideologies, or people of the younger generation that have become frustrated with the corruption and inadequacy of the government and see it as one of the fundamental problems facing the Middle East, both groups call for a less restrictive government and more social justices. Women’s rights have been a huge topic in the Middle East since the political reformations in the 1970s that forced women to resume wearing their headscarves and return to the traditional role of the woman in the household.  As is stated by Arzoo Osanloo in “Doing the Rights Thing”  “Discussions of rights tend to draw on liberal enlightenment values, including that of the self-possessed individual endowed with free will. In Iran, the revolution was an explicit attempt to purge things "Western," including the foundational notion of the individual.” (Osanloo, 2004 Pg. 2).  During the revolution women were seen to be ”intoxicated” by the west and the freedom of the women that resided there, and thus were demanded to willingly step back into their traditional roles. This resumption of the intensely gender-biased means of governance caused a great leap backwards for the women, especially the women who were raised in the pre-1979 society, which even outlawed headscarves in public and was a progressive political environment interest. This abrupt switch in the direction of the country came at a cost to the women who were restored to their traditional roles in the household and were virtually banned from political and social proceedings. As Osanloo continued her ethnographic studies of the rights of women in the Middle East she discovered the new nature of Koranic meetings, which had, “became an example of the interconnected fields of religious life and civil society, to which I have elsewhere referred as the Islamico-civil arena” (Osaloo 2004 Pg. 9).  Instead of the male controlled studies of the past this was an all-female event that also had educated speakers in to talk about the intricacies of filing for divorce or raising children without putting on emphasis on their gender differences. These indirect pushes against the regime they live under is similar but somewhat more subdued than the outcry heard from the musicians in the heavy metal scene. Though a bit more extreme, the musicians are asking for the same increase in freedoms, as in an area where they have rights as a human being and are not constantly being constrained by an oppressive government. The metal heads face other types of persecution as well, as they have been labeled as sacrilegious and degenerates by the religious community and the government.  In the Egypt chapter of his book, Mark Levine writes of the persecution faced by the musicians, “Living on the political and cultural margins of Egyptian society, refusing to conform to its norms, metal heads—or “metaliens,” as they often refer to themselves—have long been the object of ridicule and attacks in newspapers, on television, in live comedy, and in conservative religious discourse” (Levine 2008 Pg. 64). Social attacks like these are the norm for those brave enough to be openly in the metal scene, and the government rather encourages this criticism because of the metal heads somewhat open criticism of the government in their song lyrics. The metal community is still very cautious of openly antagonizing the government because of previous attacks, like the one in 1997 where hundreds of musicians were imprisoned because of their menacing look and because they challenged the governments morality.  



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