Mohammed Assaf has a beautiful voice.
I first heard him sing in April while my friends and I listened to the Arab Idol program on television in Gaza. Wow! He has talent!
Every Friday there is another round of elimination. Every Friday we hold our breath. I think the winner will be declared in two weeks.
This young Palestinian from a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip has been able to do what Egyptian President Morsi, US Secretary of State Kerry and other dignitaries have not —- to unite the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and the diaspora. Why?
Because music transcends politics, prejudices and powerful people.
Unfortunately, Hamas tries to stifle music that officials find offensive, including Mohammed Assaf’s singing.
Hamas, he said last year, discouraged artists and musicians, and he had been arrested more than 20 times by Hamas security officials. “Once I was arrested for a week. They kept asking me to sign a pledge not to sing. But my message as a Palestinian is that we not only speak or fight or shoot, but we also sing.”
I don’t know if Hamas has changed its opinion since Assaf rose to international fame, but other musicians in Gaza also feel the heavy hammer of censorship and rebuke.
The lesson here? No one can silence a songbird.