Elissa: From Supporting Rapists to Attacking Refugees
Lebanese singer Elissa insists on her anti-refugee stance whenever the opportunity arises. A position she justifies by nationalism at times, and love for refugees at other times. While stubbornly standing in the face of any criticism of her racist positions, Elissa claims she is “protecting” her country and its economy through positions that amount to incitement.
In early April, the Lebanese artist made racist statements against Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. This was after the violent acts carried out by the Zionist army against protesters in Jerusalem.
Elissa considered herself in a position to launch a barrage of accusations against the most vulnerable groups in Lebanon, namely the refugees. Resolutely, she continues to follow the path of the racist right, which threatens the stability of the region and conspires against its people.
The artist herself previously challenged the women of the region with a duet song with the Moroccan singer accused in several cases of rape, Saad Lmajrred. Elissa disregarded all criticism and appeals made by women, who considered her cooperation with him a threat to women’s safety.
Elissa uses her privilege as a famous and wealthy artist not only to attack refugees, but also to empathize, and even collaborate with sexual predators. This constitutes a dangerous class and social authority against groups that are already prone to discrimination and violence.
This same discourse had spread widely in the Arabic-speaking countries after the coercive displacements following the Palestinian Nakba.
To Elissa’s knowledge, supporting rapists is a pride. And hostility to refugees is patriotism!
Elissa has played the role of an artist who sings sensitively for women and has a feeling for women’s pain due to gender-based violence. Yet, she failed at playing that “women’s advocate” that she promoted by some of her songs and tweets. Contrarily, she has shown that she works by trend and not by principle when monetizing these pains into a product that generates profits. She did not hesitate to overturn this role, by collaborating with an artist accused of rape.
Elissa was aware of the public scene, the news, and campaigns led by many women, especially those active in the political and feminist fields. These appeals and advocacy campaigns aimed to boycott Saad Lmjarred, and not to allow him to polish his image or to accumulate wealth through misogyny. In fact, Lmjarred was known for his misogynistic art, his incitement to violence, and the rape case in which he was charged.
Despite everything, Elissa still worked with him and even posted photos of them together on her accounts. She also participated in many concerts with him, and took pride in his “accomplishments”. This determination is a reminder that privileged individuals pay attention to women, only if they can take advantages from those women’s struggles.
The feminist agenda’s political stance involves addressing the concerns of all marginalized groups and incorporating them into the feminist movement.
When we examine Elissa’s attitude towards refugees, her tendency to publicly threaten them, and her involvement in violent campaigns against them, it becomes clear that her actions are motivated by well-known reasons.
Inviting refugees to leave their host country is a form of symbolic violence that leaves them in a constant state of fear and threat. Artistic, political, and sports figures who contribute to the discourse of anti-refugee sentiments are normalizing this official stance. When governments use violence to deport refugees and deprive them of their basic rights, such as identity papers, the right to work, education, and healthcare, it only adds to their struggles and suffering.
Elissa’s contribution to hate speech against refugees and its justification by patriotism is a drift into the right-wing agendas adopted by states, parties, and wealthy classes. This is done to distract the public from corruption and deteriorating local economic conditions.
Using right-wing discourse, Elissa has demonstrated her class bias and ability to influence public opinion, based on a discourse that claims concern over the interests of citizens.
Hate speech against refugees is widespread in many parts of the world. However, what has given it prominence and media momentum, and contributed to its spread as a transnational discourse, is the European and American right wing. The trend of hostility towards refugees has been fueled by the economic and media influence it possesses. This propaganda is spread through major media channels to normalize xenophobia. It is rooted in racism and the belief that the movement of people across borders poses a security and economic threat to host countries.
This discourse has spread widely in Arab countries, after the coercive displacements following the Palestinian Nakba. Added to that is wars and armed conflicts that have forced many people of the region to emigrate and seek refuge in neighboring countries.
Paradoxically, discourses calling for border protection from the imagined threat of refugees emerged within places where freedom of movement was the most successful means of survival and trade. These geo-political discourses have also appeared in ethnically and socially connected areas.
Many countries in the region have adopted a populist trend of using anti-refugee rhetoric, which is not limited to right-wing groups. This rhetoric links refugees to national security and economic crises. It creates a collective consciousness that allows regimes to absolve themselves of responsibility for repression, economic corruption, and the spread of class-based gaps and violence. The rhetoric also redirects blame to vulnerable groups under the guise of patriotism.
This kind of patriotism is often associated with racism and animosity toward those who are different, or “othered”. It is driven by external threats rather than internal issues and aims to enhance the well-being of all citizens and residents within a given country, treating all as fellow human beings not enemies.
Elissa’s feminism doesn’t represent us
Refugee rights are of great importance to radical feminism. The overall political picture of the feminist agenda is concerned with intersectionality, incorporating the struggles of marginalized groups into one feminist commitment for social justice.
Radical feminism doesn’t care about women just because they’re women. Rather, it looks at how their lives and attachments to wider groups intersect with different factors.
Therefore, feminists oppose hate speech against refugees, as most of them are women or descendants of contexts that push for migration. Feminists refuse policies that are hostile to human beings and marginalized groups. Such policies consider some people legitimate, and others illegitimate.
Right-wing discourse stems from clear patriarchal foundations, which claim land ownership according to certain hierarchies, for example, men versus women, heterosexuality versus queerness, citizenship versus asylum, and rich versus poor. Thus, more racist-states-hierarchies are being built, using refugees and migrants as a “cheap” workforce. However, it refuses to give them identity papers, or to treat them as individuals with the right to life and to express their political opinions.
Therefore, feminism radically works against hate speech. It is also keen to dismantle it by highlighting the causes and threats to all marginalized groups, including refugee women.