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Elton John banned from performing in Egypt

British pop star Elton John has been banned from performing at a private concert in Egypt, sponsored by UAE telecommunications firm Etisalat, which had been scheduled for 18 May.

The head of the Egyptian Musicians Union barred the 63-year-old, openly homosexual singer because of his “anti-religious sentiments,” according to independent daily Al-Shorouq.

“How do we allow a homosexual who wants to ban religions, claims the prophet Eissa [Jesus] was homosexual and calls for Middle Eastern countries to allow gays to have sexual freedom?” union head Mounir el-Wasimi was quoted as saying by the German Press Agency.

In the past, John has complained about the lack of tolerance for homosexuals in the Middle East.

“I don’t know what makes people so cruel,” he recently told US news magazine Parade. “Try being a gay woman in the Middle East–you’re as good as dead.”

John also outraged many observers–both Christian and Muslim alike–when he described Jesus as a “super-intelligent gay man.”

Egyptian reactions to the decision to ban him have varied.

“We should respect our traditions so that the other respects us,” said Iman Salah, 48-year-old music composer and member of the musicians’ union.

She pointed to a Michael Jackson concert in Egypt as an illustration of how Egyptians “have no dignity.” While Jackson spoke badly of Egyptians, his concert was nevertheless packed with Egyptian fans, according to Salah.

Some Egyptians express fear that homosexual performers like John will be viewed by young people as role models.

“I have no problem with Elton John’s religious views–he can think what he wants,” said 43-year-old lawyer Amir Tadros. “But I don’t recommend publicly foisting homosexuals on Egypt’s next generation.”

For many, however, religion remains the deciding factor.

“At the end of the day, Egypt is a Muslim country,” said 35-year-old human resources manager Soha Fahmy. “We don’t want stars like Shakira and the like.”

Others, however, say that “artists” should be evaluated solely on the basis of their art.

“Most artists are morally corrupt. But we don’t have the right to judge their personal lives, but rather their art,” said Dina Samir, a 29-year-old communications manager at the American University in Cairo.

Some Egyptians say the ban constitutes a violation of the freedom of expression.

“There are many people who have more strident religious views, but don’t articulate them,” said Amal Farah, a 42-year-old writer of children’s books. “Is that all we need to accept dealing with them?”

Other observers, meanwhile, say such bans are enacted for personal or political reasons.

“People are taking political stands merely for propaganda reasons and for personal benefit,” said Farah.

Elton John is a multimillionaire English singer/songwriter, composer and pianist. He was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on 25 March, 1947.

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