Gulf | Kuwait

Kuwaiti singer sparks furore for singing in Hebrew

Emma, 28, said that she was shocked by the negative reaction

  • By Habib Toumi, Bahrain Bureau Chief
  • Published: 14:31 April 5, 2010

  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • "I have written in Russian and performed in Arabic, English, Spanish, Japanese and French. Does that make me a spy for France or Britain?" asks Emma.

Manama: A Kuwaiti singer and composer has sparked furore in Kuwait after she sang a song in Hebrew at a local club.

Performing at the Alumni Club in Kuwait City, Emma Shah sang "Come … Let us rejoice, be happy, enjoy" as part of a recital of anthropologist songs.

However, she was immediately accused of promoting Zionist ideas and of being used to push for normalisation of relations with Israel.

Emma, 28, said that she was shocked by the negative reaction to a song that called for peace and co-existence.

"The same song had been performed by Dalilda in French and in Hebrew. I just followed her example, and in fact, I knew the exact meaning of the words only after the negative reaction," she was quoted as saying in media reports.

The singer insisted that the song, unlike claims by her detractors, did not include any insults of Arabs.

"Unfortunately, our media focuses on wars and problems, and not on meaningful work. I have written in Russian and performed in Arabic, English, Spanish, Japanese and French. Does that make me a spy for France or Britain?" she asks.

Her explanations were rejected mainly by religious figures, ostensibly upset by her use of Hebrew in the predominantly Muslim northern Arabian Gulf country.

Writing for Al Rai daily, Shaikh Mohammad Al Awadhi, a religious scholar, condemned "alien attitudes that clash with the spirit, culture and values of the Kuwaiti society."

"Some people are abusing freedom to explain their behaviour even if it is irrational. Unfortunately, there are those who are being exploited to disseminate certain ideas that promote Zionism," he wrote. 

However, Emma rejected his criticism, saying that he is pushing people to attack her.

"He had criticised me in the past for a song about Jesus, and I see no motive for his attacks on me," she said. "I am well versed in all religions, sects and creeds and I do not have a problem with anyone. I love all people and there are Christians and people with various religious beliefs in my audience," she said.

The singer born to an Iranian-Kuwaiti couple, according to media reports, said that she behaved like a human being who loved and respected others.

"Arabs unfortunately tend to eliminate the others and refuse co-existence with them," she said.

Emma is a singer, composer, pianist, guitarist, actress, writer, dancer and director. She launched the Troupe Anthropology team in 2006.

Is the issue being blown out of proportion? Or do artists have a duty to consider cultural and political sensitivities? Tell us.

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