Arab pop stars raise funds for Darfur

Arab pop stars raise funds for Darfur

Taken from REUTERS:

KHARTOUM, Sudan (Reuters) – Arab pop stars descended on Khartoum this week to perform concerts to aid war-torn Darfur, in a rare show of solidarity with the millions of Muslims caught in the conflict in western Sudan.

Most of the billions of dollars in aid to fund the world’s largest humanitarian operation in Darfur has come from the West. And Arab leaders have been politically more sympathetic with Khartoum, sparking criticism from U.N. officials.

While Hollywood stars have been lobbying for years on Darfur, this was the most high-profile attempt by Arab artists to help those suffering more than four years of conflict between Darfuri rebels and the central government, which has forced 2.5 people million from their homes.

Sudan, under a strict version of Islamic sharia law, rarely enjoys visits from pop artists, and some Islamic scholars protested the week-long set of concerts by stars like Sherine, Hani Shakir, Mounira Hamdi and Mohammad Mounir.

The concerts, organized by the Moroccan-based National Council for Arab Culture (NCAC), hope to raise enough funds to build 10 schools, 10 hospitals and 50 wells in Darfur.

“We want to send the message that we Arabs and Africans can help ourselves,” organizer Bushra Mahdi told Reuters.

The idea, he explained, was to “encourage Arabs and Africans to contribute in alleviating the suffering of the people of Darfur.”


Egyptian artist Hani Shakir apologized for not having done more earlier. “We have been very late as Arab artists. Forgive us,” he told reporters before his show.

But despite the charity’s good intentions, some Islamic scholars in Sudan said the concerts were sinful.

“We view this as a way to corrupt this country, its people, its values and morals,” the Sudanese Islamic Scholar’s Society said in a statement posted on an Islamist Web site.

“We urge … the president of the republic, to intervene, stop this and protect this society and its religion and values.”

This opposition was enough to persuade Sudanese telecoms company Sudani to withdraw as the main sponsor of the event, the organizers said.

The same Islamist Web site carried a statement from Sudani’s mother company saying it was never a sponsor, despite posters plastered throughout the city naming Sudani as the main sponsor.

“We will proceed with our initiative, with or without Sudani,” Mahdi said.

The campaign, which will continue in other Arab and African countries, kicked off on June 3 with Mohammed Mounir.

The final performance in Khartoum is on Friday with Egyptian songstress Sherine, whose tight clothes may be of concern to Khartoum’s Islamists.

Tunisian Hamdi opted for the more conservative traditional Sudanese “toub” for her performance — the first time she’d worn the long cloth which loosely covers the whole body, she said.

Hundreds of people turned up for Mounir’s concert, despite the price for the tickets: 100 Sudanese pounds ($50). The artists agreed to be paid a lower rate for the concerts.

“Let us consider it a contribution; part of our zakat (alms-giving) as Arabs and Muslims,” Shakir said.

Nearly 1,000 showed up for Shakir’s show and even more crowds were expected for Sherine’s appearance.