Rockin' In The Islamic World

The music was loud and the tattooed fans were wild, dancing and swaying in flashing strobe lights to the crashing sounds of heavy metal songs. Suddenly, the music stopped. The band leader grasped the mike and announced: "It's prayer time."

No one left to pray. Everyone stood by the stage and waited, as the band paused its music while a nearby mosque began the call to prayer from a loudspeaker. Then the music resumed.

Welcome to Egypt's heavy metal scene, making a tentative comeback in a conservative Muslim society nine years after a government crackdown amid allegations of satanic worship, drug use and group sex among the upper-crust youthful fans.

"We are Arab Muslims. We respect our religion. But we only love this music," said Noor, a 23-year-old part-time German language teacher and guitarist for Dark Philosophy, a pioneering Egyptian heavy metal band.

Noor has no illusions that the raucous music is likely to catch on big-time in a society where many young adults still date with a chaperone.

"The first step is always the hard one," he said. "People are not used to our music and songs yet. People cannot get over all the negativities that happened in the past."

In January 1997, about 100 heavy metal and rock music fans were arrested in Cairo by state security officers on suspicious of satanic worship—a serious allegation in a country where respect for organized religion runs deep.

Egypt's state-controlled media carried stories of clandestine parties with drugs, group sex and bizarre satanic rituals including exhuming corpses and killing cats to drain their blood. Fans were ridiculed as spoiled rich kids seeking to fill empty lives with loud music, sex and drugs.

Egyptian authorities have banned heavy metal concerts. But as police controls eased over time, fans organized discreet gatherings, usually in remote areas around Cairo and Alexandria.

Several hundred fans—guys with goatees and Zodiac tattoos, girls with spiked hair and nose rings—turned out on a recent Friday afternoon in a rented house on the outskirts of Cairo. In shaggy raven black hair and T-shirts with gothic symbols, they came to proclaim "Egypt metal's second wave."
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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.

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