The Power of Culture


Music during war time

The American pop musician Lenny Kravitz sings We Want Peace. Kravitz performs his new song together with Kazem Al Sahir, a well-known Iraqi pop musician. Different pop musicians have released songs protesting the war in Iraq, including George Michael and The Beastie Boys. The question is who will air these songs.
Songs about the war are forbidden on British radio. Not only protest songs, but anything that evokes associations with war and conflict is taboo. Bandages by Hot Hot Heat, a love song, is sufficiently objectionable to be forbidden.
Music broadcaster MTV Europe rejects video clips with images of war, soldiers and bombs. Texts and band names that refer to the war are also forbidden. For example, all the numbers by the American B-52s are forbidden because this band has the same name as the bomber. One of the forbidden videos is Boom! by System of a Down. The anti-war video, with images of world-wide peace demonstrations, was made in collaboration with Oscar-winner Michael Moore. Moore used the Oscar Awards as an opportunity to express his abhorrence of the war. Megastar Madonna has changed the images in her violent video clip for American Life. She doesn’t think this is the right time for these images.
In the Middle East the Egyptian Singer Sjaban Abdel-Rahim scored a hit with Attack on Iraq. Abdel-Rahim became famous two years ago for his number I hate Israel.
More information:
The songs of Lenny Kravitz, George Michael, The Beastie Boys
The song of Sjaban Abdel-Rahim

Digging for a Hindu temple at the site of a mosque

The archaeological excavations in the North Indian city of Ayodhya are almost complete. This excavation is supposed to provide a solution to the conflict that centres around Ayodhya, according to the ruling by an Indian court at the beginning of March. In 1992 extremist Hindus destroyed a sixteenth century mosque at this site, which is the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram. The court’s decision is controversial because in many places in India mosques are built on top of temples and temples on top of mosques. The Indian Supreme Court refused to hear a request to forbid the excavation. It has, however, issued a temporary injunction against prayer services by Hindus at the site of the mosque.
According to the Hindus, the centuries-old Bhojshala monument in the state of Madhya Pradesh is a temple, but according to the Muslims it is a mosque. The monument is opened every Friday for Moslems and once a year for Hindus. The state government has now proposed opening the complex every Tuesday for Hindus. This proposal has led to a great deal of unrest. Voices are being heard that suggest settling this dispute through excavation.

Protests against arrest of Moroccan hard rockers

There is a great deal of protest in Morocco against the arrest of hard rock musicians and hard rock fans. Fourteen young people were imprisoned on February 16th. The court in Casablanca sentenced them to from a month to a year in prison. The complaint was that these young people believe in Satanism and that this undermines Islamic belief. The accused are supposed to have listened to too much hard rock music and not enough to authentic Moroccan music. In addition they visited a rock café that is set up like a cave. CDs and black T-shirts were introduced as evidence.
After the arrest over four hundred people signed a petition requesting the release of the people arrested. In the week of 10 March the press union organised a demonstration and a hard rock concert was organised in protest. Four thousand young people, clad in black T-shirts, held a sit-in in front of the court in Casablana. In the same week eleven prisoners were released temporarily.
The last three prisoners are also accused of promulgating ideological ideas that are incompatible with Islamic belief. The appeal submitted by their attorneys was rejected.

Niqab can be forbidden at school

According to a ruling by the Commission for Equal Treatment (CGB) issued at the end of March, the Amsterdam Regional Training Centre (ROC) has the right to exclude girls who wear a veil over their faces. The Commission ruled in 2000 that refusing admission to girls who wear a chador, a similar veil, was against the Equal Treatment Act. At that time the Commission ruled that forbidding a veil that covers the face leads to indirect discrimination based on religion. But the arguments of the ROC weighed heavier than the arguments that were the deciding factor in 2000. The two students involved, say that 'real Muslim girls' must always keep their faces covered in the presence of men. They want to wear such a veil at school, except in the classroom and during exams. "The niqab obstructs communication and makes it difficult to identify students", says the ROC. This stands in the way of their education.

Rolling Stones in China for the first time

The Rolling Stones’ music has always been viewed by Chinese authorities as mental contamination. And even though the Stones have attempted to organise a tour in China ever since the end of the Cultural Revolution, such a tour has always been forbidden. Thus it is extraordinary that the Ministry of Culture has decided to grant permission for two concerts now. The Chinese want to demonstrate that they are ready to receive the world because in 2008 the country will host the Olympic Games and Shanghai wants to host the World Expo in 2010. The Stones will only play numbers from the 40 Lick compilation CD in Shanghai and Beijing, which is the only Stones CD to be released in China. The warm-up act will be Cui Jian, the idol of the democratic movement in 1989. It is his first performance since the suppression of protest at the Square of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen Square).
The Stones’ scheduled performance in Hong Kong has been cancelled out of fear of spreading the lung disease, SARS.

Afghanistan receives radio station for women

Since 8 March, International Women’s Day, Afghanistan has had a radio station especially for women. The Voice of Afghan Women broadcasts news, education, entertainment and social issues. Jamila Mujahed, chairman of the women’s union that set up the radio station, is also the editor in chief of the Women’s Magazine Malalai. The recently founded Malalai is the first women’s’ magazine in Afghanistan since the end of the war in 2001. Under the Taliban regime, the Afghan women were forbidden to work and to go to school. Since the overthrow of the Taliban the position of Afghan women has improved. But obviously their representation on the radio is still quite small.
The radio station is sponsored by the UN cultural organisation UNESCO and by the French aid organisation AÏNA.
More information:
Human Rights Watch, about the position of women in Afghanistan

Americans book 'terror vacation' in Israel

For 5,500 dollars you can have a 'terror vacation' in the Israeli occupied territories. The deal is being offered by two Americans who immigrated to Israel. The tourists can expect simulated terrorist attacks, receive firearm training and anti-terrorist lessons and fly over Hebron and the Gaza strip in a helicopter. "They will then experience first hand what it is to live in a hostile area and to have their lives in jeopardy", according to Jay Greenblatt and Joshua Mizrachi, who came up with the idea. According to some this unjustly portrays the West Bank and the Gaza strip as areas that are too dangerous to live in. But the head of the Tourist Association for the region, Yehezkel Klein, has no objection. He compares the holiday with the excitement that bungee jumpers are seeking. The first 'terror tourists' from America arrive this month, provided the war in Iraq does not prevent them from travelling to Israel.

Pro-government pop hits popular in the Ivory Coast

Different musicians in the Ivory Coast are using their lyrics to speak out against the rebels that have been fighting against the government army and have occupied part of the country since September.
The music is rap, reggae, or "zuglu" (Ivory Coast pop music). The artists tell the rebels that they don’t have a chance and that they must stop fighting.
The biggest hit is Liberez Mon Pays, produced by ex-soccer player Joel Tiehi. The text is more than a call to peace. The patriotic hit tells about the immigrants in the Ivory Coast, who are the cause of the rebellion and have abused the country’s hospitality. The number is being played in every bar, and 200,000 copies of the CD containing the number have already been sold.

SMS language provokes discussion

A thirteen-year-old Scottish student wrote a paper in SMS language and in so doing provoked a discussion about the effects of such a new language. Many teenagers in particular use this language that was created to enable people to send short text messages via mobile telephones. SMS language usually does not use vowels, and contains many symbols and contractions. There is also a Dutch version. The thirteen-year-old said that the SMS language is 'easier than standard English'. Her teacher could not decipher the code. British education experts warn that SMS language can have a negative effect on the development of teenagers’ talents and say that it should be forbidden in education. Others believe that students’ freedom of expression should not be suppressed or that children learn to discover a new language in this way

Sources: Algemeen Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad, het Parool, Trouw, de Volkskrant, Het belang van Limburg, Gazet van Antwerpen, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Sunday Herald, The Scotsman, The New York Times, The Straits Times, Cnews, Indian Express, Outlook India, The Tribune, India, BBC News, BBC Online, Associated Press, Reuters, Reuters Alertnet, United Press International,,, Ananova,, Pakistan News Service, Islam Online,, MTV, Chartattack, AÏNA, Commissie Gelijke Behandeling, Human Rights Watch, UNESCO,


International dance festival

Springdance 2003

The Springdance festival will present performances by twenty artists from thirteen countries, including India, Brazil, South Africa, Romania, Bulgaria, Germany and Great Britain from 17 – 27 April. The festival presents critical new works that focus on a study of the practice of dance. In addition a program about spatial sounds with music, experimental film, lectures and video art. All of this presented under the theme: scratch first, itch later. The festival will be held at different locations in Utrecht.
More information can be found on the festival’s web site,

You can find more exhibitions, cultural events and gatherings in 'World in action', the schedule on the International Collaboration web site.



april 2003