J Lo’s performance in Rabat provokes furore
RABAT - A sexually charged performance by pop diva Jennifer Lopez at the Mawazine music festival in Rabat prompted members of the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) to call for the resignation of Communications Minister Mustapha el-Khalfi.
Lopez, 45 and a popular American performer, opened the 14th Mawazine festival on May 30th, performing a nearly two-hour long concert for a record crowd of 160,000 while millions watched on state-owned television channel 2M.
The glamorous New York-born singer showcased scanty costumes and provocative poses as she donned seven different outfits, including a white leotard, during her performance, which was slammed by many Moroccan media outlets, politicians and TV viewers.
Rather than issuing a public statement like the government made about filmmaker Nabil Ayouch’s banned film on prostitution Much Loved, Khalfi took to social networks to condemn the broadcast.
He wrote on his Twitter account that broadcasting the concert on 2M was “unacceptable” and “against the law”.
But some PJD members called on Khalfi to resign unless he comes up with convincing arguments distancing himself from what they called an “outrageous and despicable” TV broadcast.
MP Abdelaziz Aftati said Khalfi must step down if he cannot clarify the limits of his responsibility.
“Public media has turned into merchandise to dumb-down and distract people. This is why the minister has to bear responsibility,” said Aftati. Another PJD member, Khalid Rahmouni, expressed disgust at what he watched on 2M and called on Khalfi, as the one responsible for media policy, to resign.
However, PJD MP Abdeslam Ballaji told The Arab Weekly that Khalfi does not have authority over public TV channels.
“It is the responsibility of the High Authority of Audiovisual Communication (HACA) to investigate the matter following the minister’s request,” said Ballaji who was the first MP from PJD’s parliamentary team to ask Khalfi for an explanation for the concert.
In a message posted on his Facebook page, Khalfi, who is also the government spokesman, announced that HACA and the ethics committee of 2M would be investigated. Ballaji stressed that broadcasting the US singer’s suggestive dance routine on a public TV channel was against Morocco’s constitution, values and media ethics.
“We are not against music festivals that are ethically and morally acceptable,” Ballaji said, although he admitted that he only saw what he called the “shocking” pictures he received from infuriated citizens.
The opening ceremony’s concert was broadcast a few hours after Moroccan King Mohammed VI donated 10,000 copies of the Quran to authorities in charge of managing religious affairs in Guinea-Bissau.
“This TV show is only feeding extremism in Morocco,” Ballaji said, urging the king to intervene.
An online petition calling for the Moroccan monarch to withdraw his patronage from the Mawazine festival quickly gathered more than 730 of the 750 signatures needed.
The petition, which was posted June 1st on Avaaz Website, also urges public institutions to end support for the festival, and calls on political groups, trade union organisations or associations that serve the public interest to file a lawsuit against HACA, in accordance with Article 4 of the Law on Audiovisual Communications.
The concert by Lopez triggered a furious backlash, with viewers calling on HACA to punish 2M officials for airing it. Thousands of viewers took to social networks to vent their fury, with some branding the US singer a “prostitute”.
Soukaina Ouafdi, a 25-year-old social worker, told The Arab Weekly that she could not believe the way Lopez and her dancers were dressed even though they knew they were performing in a conservative Muslim country. Angela Arigoni-Mesfioui denounced the American singer’s performance as irresponsible.
“J Lo was horrible. Scantily clad … the ‘F word’ coming out of her mouth … not once but several times,” said the American teacher who lives in Casablanca. “The US Federal Communications Commission would have never let this concert be broadcast in the United States.
The language that was allowed isn’t even allowed in the U.S … You don’t have to be Muslim or in a Muslim country to not want to see or hear that crap on TV,” she added.
However Emad Loudiyi, a British Moroccan concert producer disagreed.
“It’s not J Lo’s performance you scream about. It’s her style in dress and dancing. She had far more clothes on than a belly dancer you watch on TV flaunting her assets on many Arab films,” Loudiyi said.
Rachid RG, a computer science engineer, said people “are free not to watch the show.”