Elton John’s performance at the Mawazine music festival in Rabat, Morocco, went ahead last night despite fury from Islamists about his welcome into the kingdom.
Several politicians had complained that they feared Sir Elton’s appearance would “spread un-Islamic values” and increase the spread of homosexuality in Morocco. However, the 63-year-old rock singer’s visit was backed by the royal palace, the government and his fans there.
One fan, 43-year-old Leila Hassan, said: “He’s a great artist. And his private life is nobody’s business.” The several thousand fans who attended last night’s performance by Sir Elton sang along to the lyrics in unison, despite most of them knowing little or no English.
However, Mustapa Ramid of the Islamic Justice and Development Party (PJD) told reporters before the concert: “This singer is famous for his homosexual behavior and advocating it. We’re a rather open party, but promoting homosexuality is completely unacceptable.” But a straight concert-goer, quoted by the Egyptian website, Bikya Masr, said: “We have seen what these conservatives have tried to do, here and elsewhere across the Arab world. We have our own parents already. We don’t need more.”
Until the middle of the last century, Morocco was famously tolerant of gay men, its libertine culture attracting names including Joe Orton, Paul Bowles, Kenneth Williams and William Burroughs. Orton famously dubbed the place “Costa del Sodomy” in the early 1960s. However, in the last few decades, more conservative attitudes have prevailed and now the subject is fraught with issues, not least the ongoing battle between those that wish to modernise and those who cleave to traditional Islamic values.