KUWAIT: Diva blasted by Islamic clerics for singing in Hebrew at club

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The 28-year old Iranian-Kuwaiti composer and singer Emma Shah has written and performed in many languages, including Arabic, Russian, French and Japanese.

But her latest choice of language did not go over so well in Kuwait. After singing in Hebrew at a recent gathering in Kuwait City’s Alumni Club, she’s now being accused of promoting Zionism and normalization of ties with Israel, reports the UAE-based English newspaper Gulf News.


Her performance upset Kuwaiti religious figures, including the religious scholar Sheikh Mohammad Awadhi. In an article published in the Kuwaiti daily Al Rai newspaper, he condemned the singer for ‘alien attitudes that clash with the spirit, culture and values of the Kuwaiti society.’

Some people are ‘abusing freedom to explain their behavior even if it is irrational. Unfortunately, there are those who are being exploited to disseminate certain ideas that promote Zionism,’ Gulf News quoted the Sheikh as writing.

Shah, meanwhile, says she is shocked over the accusations and negative feedback for singing a song that calls for peace and harmony. The singer also said the same song has been performed by the Egyptian-Italian diva Dalida in both Hebrew and French and that she was only following her example.

Shah reportedly sang ‘Come … Let us rejoice, be happy, enjoy’ in Hebrew before the crowd at the club. She shrugs off allegations that she insulted Arabs with her performance.

‘Unfortunately, our media focuses on wars and problems, and not on meaningful work. I have written in Russian and performed in Arabic, English, Spanish, Japanese and French. Does that make me a spy for France or Britain?’ she said acidly according to local media reports.

It is not the first time Shah’s singing has angered Sheikh Awadhi. She claims he chided her on a previous occasion for singing about Jesus.


‘He had criticized me in the past for a song about Jesus, and I see no motive for his attacks on me,’ she said. ‘I am well versed in all religions, sects and creeds and I do not have a problem with anyone. I love all people and there are Christians and people with various religious beliefs in my audience,’ she concluded.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut