The contemporary Islamic fundamentalist battle against art and entertainment is based on strict religious discourse outlawing many forms of art and entertainment. Nightclubs are corrupt places where vice reigns and should be closed. Weddings should be celebrated segregately. Only male singers should perform accompanied by few musical instruments. All female performances should be banned from stage and screen. Singing in an all-female context at weddings is allowed. Yet, singing in front of men, even if modestly dressed and without making accompanying movements, is a tricky business.
The permissibility of female performances depends on the extent in which it arouses the male audience. The female voice has already the power to excite, but the female body tantalizes the male audience even more. The crux of the issue is the perception of the female body as highly erotic, as quintessentially sexual. This construction makes female performances inescapably a sexual business. Sex outside the legal context of marriage is a grave sin.
The religious discourse concerning entertainment is powerful and female performers largely internalise it. They are glad when the circumstances allow them to stop performing, and, like Ibtisam, they can "repent to God." They are ambivalent in their attitudes towards the entertainment trade. On the one hand, they share the views on the seductive nature of the female body and the sinfulness of their activities. On the other hand, they present themselves as respectable people and deny the shamefulness of their profession. They agree with most Egyptians that in daily life there should be "an hour for God and an hour for the heart."
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