Lebanon's witch hunt for Satanists — authorities arrest heavy metal musicians and fans
By JohnThomas Didymus
On September 26, 2011 At 4:35 am
Responses : One Comment
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The authorities in Lebanon have renewed hunt for "Satanists" in the country, "Satanism" being a term the Lebanese authorities take as largely synonymous with involvement in the heavy metal music industry. According to 34-year-old Bassem Deaibess, a member of the Lebanese metal band Blaakyum, the current spate of arrests of long-haired and tattooed heavy metal musicians and fans in Lebanon is the third wave of arrests since 1996. Bassem Deaibess, who says he has been arrested twice by the Lebanese law enforcement because of his preferences in music and dressing says that,
In the 80s metal was big in Lebanon. We had radio stations and TV shows broadcasting Metallica, Iron Maiden, even Morbid Angel, which is very heavy.
Recently, Elisa Mssawir, a Beirut-based rock concert organizer and agent for several Lebanese heavy metal bands, recently had his home besieged by 15 heavily armed soldiers while he was away on vacation in Istanbul.
My parents thought it was an act of terrorism at first…I was shocked and worried. My mother fainted when she saw all those armed forces at her door. She asked why they were looking for me, and one of the soldiers told her I had got into a fight with a military officer, which is hilarious, because this had never happened…I finally realized why they were looking for me when a friend of mine sent me a link to a news story last Friday called ‘8 Satanists Arrested’.
Mssawir finally got the charges of "Satanism" brought against him dropped, but the military police arrested another group of heavy metal musicians on Friday whom they described as "a group of Satanists" and accused of performing "insulting religious rites." They were charged with blasphemy and drug use. According to Judge Saqr Saqr, Government Commissioner to the Military Court, in an interview with Now Lebanon:
They belong to an organization that promotes insulting religious rites, which is against the law, and of course there are rituals which they practice….All are in their 20s; among them are two girls and two soldiers. There is evidence, but it is part of the investigation, so we cannot discuss it, but there are even confessions.
Nizar Saghieh, Lebanese lawyer and human rights activist, says "devil worship" or "Satanism" is not a crime in Lebanon, but blasphemy, insulting of religious symbols and rites in public is punishable by up to three years in prison. Nazir Saghieh explains:
If you worship Satan in private, it cannot be considered a crime…It is[too] early to say—only eight people have been arrested—but when the authorities hunt for ‘Satanists,’ they are usually trying to either divert attention away from something or are trying to show that they are enforcing the law and keeping society safe.
The hunt for Satanists in Lebanon, according Bassem Deaibess, began in 1996 when the son of a high-ranking military officer who was into heavy metal music shot himself. The incidence led to allegations that hard rock and metal music bands were involved in "Satanism." According to Deaibess:
[Hard rock and metal music] were depicted as an epidemic, as the new pest. ‘If this music gets to your child’s ears, he/she will commit suicide.’ This was the message…The government benefited at the time, because Lebanon was under Syrian occupation, and by creating this ‘Satanism’ scare they diverted people’s attention from the real, important problems.
A second wave of hunts for "Satanists" began in 2002 and according to Deaibess:
This time it was definitely political…Nobody noticed that the gas prices went up because they were all so scared of ‘Satanists’ and ‘devil worshipers’ to the extent that if they saw you with long hair and wearing black on the street, they would move away from you.
Deaibess and Mssawir insist that "Satanism" really does not exist in Lebanon though young people seeking attention by rebellious behavior sometimes invent strange rituals which the authorities label "Satanism."
Seek and you shall find …
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