Sunday, September 24, 2023 | Rabi' al-awwal 8, 1445 H
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Salmonella Song


After leaving Mani’s still feeling hungry (what’s with the new Barbie portions of pancakes and French toast for breakfast?

My unsatisfaction is best described by grandma’s words ‘the fox who went in hungry and came out hungry’ plus: and paid for it!) my friend Dalia decided to go for a ride.

Dalia’s rides are always educational as she keeps updating me with weird songs that she comes across when browsing social media. Almost a month back, she played a song called “Low Life” by Lebanese singer Reem El-Sawass.

It had a catchy beat, funny and supposedly empowering lyrics that made us laugh and text about it for a week. However, the song this time wasn’t funny at all.

It was called Salmonella by Tameem Younis, an Egyptian singer that I’d never heard of. The lyrics of the song starts with an innocent description of a scene of him meeting a girl he likes while she’s sipping cappuccino.

He sings about asking for her number and if she refuses him — that’s where the tone changes and ill wishes start — may she be afflicted with Salmonella infection, fails in her life and gets rejected by him every-time. As my shocked brain was still trying to process these threats, it was hit by the second part. Now he’s promising her a good life that includes a fun wedding and cooking for her, but if she dares to reject him then he’ll besmear her reputation so that she’d end up being a spinster. Obviously, the song was promoting violence against women if they reject men’s approach. It took me back to last summer’s femicide cases that occurred in Egypt and Jordan, where young women in their early twenties were killed publicly by men whom they rejected. This started in August when Nayera Ashraf, a 20-year-old Egyptian student was stabbed to death by her male colleague at their college’s gate after an argument.

This sent a wave of shock and polarity in the Arab world — the crime was premeditated with indifferent bystanders taking videos of the cold-blooded homicide instead of defending the victim- before being hit again with other femicides in less than a month.

I decided to find out more about this song. The music video is of Tameem Younis singing, before the screen gets filled with young men breaking into a fight. The next scene shows the singer continuing his song with a bleeding nose. The dance is even worse being very sexually suggestive.

The repetitive chorus of the song is “dare to say no!” and this is what people started calling it instead of its original title. It was produced on January 2020 and caused a great controversy on social media, even with the singer claiming that his song was a ‘joke’ adding that ‘it’s a parody of men who consider themselves romantic but when things don’t go their way, they show their true colours’. However, Egyptian National Council of Women called for the song to be banned as it was very demeaning, encouraged bullying and physical abuse.

Many female activists described it as a ‘the unfeigned reality of what women usually go through if they break off an abusive relationship.’ Yet some people considered banning the song as censorship that if applied, should include other songs that degrade women especially a few of Tamer Hosni’s. Sadly, these songs reflect male-dominated societies that many Arab women live under where chauvinism is accepted. And the solution? A radical cultural change where gender equality and laws protecting women from any form of abuse are implemented. It would be slow, hard to enforce though achievable.

Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja.

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