A leading female Palestinian DJ has been taken into custody by the Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces for performing her music at a historic religious site. Named ‘The Palestinian Techno Queen’ by her fans as well as the Israeli Daily Haaretz, DJ Sama Abdul Hadi is one of the first Palestinian women to become a disc jockey.
After being arrested, Ammar Dweik, director of the Independent Palestinian Commission for Human Rights made a statement that she was remanded in custody for an additional 15 days. This arrest took place because the concert which she was performing at was a Muslim holy site. Believed to be the place where prophet Moses was buried, Nabi Musa, is a religious heritage site which lies in the West Bank between Jerusalem and Jericho.
Several videos about the event that were posted on social media sparked anger and “accusations of desecration of the site” from local Palestinians. The footage showed the partygoers consuming alcohol and drugs at the religious site which then prompted hundreds of religious people to reach the party event to break it up. Among the reported 40 young Palestinians who attended the event, many were attacked and even beaten up. In fact, even the PA was under scrutiny for ‘allowing’ such a party to take place in the first place.
Following these events, Palestinian Prime Minister announced that a commission of inquiry would be set up to further investigate around the events that took place at Nebbi Mussa.
Hadi Mashal, Abdul Hadi's lawyer told CNN that she is being charged under the ‘article 275 of the Palestinian penal code, which criminalizes the "desecration" of holy sites or symbols done with the intent to insult a religion or particular group’. She was also facing prosecution because ‘techno music is not part of Palestinian heritage’.
However, Ammar Dweik had also said that Abdulhadi did have official permission to perform an event at Nebi Musa. “We asked today for her release because her arrest is not logical. She had received authorisation from the ministry of tourism. Nebi Mussa is not only a religious site but also a tourist site, If electronic music was not appropriate for it, the ministry should not have given its authorisation.” he stated.
Even the DJ’s father stated “It's not true that people were drunk or taking drugs. It is also not true that she was playing techno music at the mosque -- in fact, no one entered the mosque. It was all held in the bazaar, where visitors come to shop and to stay at the guesthouse."
Her father also commented that since Sama had already been authorised to perform at this site, the PA made her the ‘scapegoat’ to escape the public’s anger. “It seems the Palestinian Authority didn't know how to control the anger of the street, so they used Sama as a scapegoat for something the street saw as a mistake”.
Abdul Hadi has, in fact, been commissioned by the production company to perform at numerous Palestinian Historical sites. She had also received permission by Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities before the event took place. The letter states clear guidelines about the event stating that it should “adhere to the necessary safety measures" and "respect the site's religious and cultural significance and privacy."
While an enquiry is still underway regarding this fiasco, various prominent religious leaders took to Twitter to quickly express their dissatisfaction with this whole event. Mahmoud Al-Habbash, the PA's supreme judge and adviser to its president on religious affairs and Islamic relations, said: “I feel disgusted and angry about what happened in the Nabi Musa Mosque ... and I still don't know who is responsible for this sin, but whoever is responsible must receive a deterrent penalty commensurate with the atrocity of what happened, because the Mosque is the House of God, and its sanctity is the sanctity of our religion."
While some may argue that holding a techno party at a Muslim holy site is insensitive and distasteful, the event was granted official permission from the authorities. Detaining the female DJ over these charges seem uncalled for and have sparked outrage all over social media. A petition to call for her release has already been circulated and has gained over 90,000 signatures till date.
Even her supporters on social media have garnered support for her citing that this is a way that oppressive governments curb artistic freedom.