Al-Ahram Weekly Online   9 - 15 October 2008
Issue No. 917
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Close up:

Salama A Salama

Tragic ending

By Salama A Salama

The murder of the Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim, in which Egyptian business tycoon Hisham Talaat Mustafa and former police officer Mohsen El-Sokkari are the main defendants, has wetted the appetite of the media. Hardly a day passes without more details coming to the attention of the public, as if the whole thing is a real life soap opera.

The crime took place at a time of major transformation in Egyptian society. This made the public more interested in the case. Some took it as confirmation of the corruption that results when power and money are brought together -- a refrain you hear a lot these days.

Dozens of murders take place in Egypt everyday, for greed, revenge, theft or passion. But the murder of the Lebanese singer had all the elements of a thriller -- money, power and politics.

The man accused of putting a contract on the singer is not only rich, he is a pillar of society, a key figure in the ruling party, nothing less than the chairman of the Housing Committee of the Shura Council.

His profile fits many of the public figures who rose to prominence through buying cheap land from the state and turning it into luxury compounds for the privileged few, so they may enjoy their exclusive lifestyle away from the noise, pollution and crowdedness in which the rest of the nation lives.

A new class has emerged, amassing spectacular riches through land speculation, not through agriculture and industrial production, not through hard work in the services sector.

They have also developed a knack for finding legal loopholes and using their money and political clout to climb to the top.

Egypt knew this type during the open-door phase. But things have gotten worse in recent years. It is no surprise therefore that the only way the public connects with the dream of wealth and power is through infatuation with video clip divas, whose constant presence in the media elevates them to role models.

It is no surprise either that a marriage between glamour and wealth would ensue. For years now, wealthy Gulf men have developed a taste for courting famous and not so famous actresses.

Some people say that this phenomenon is becoming widespread in Arab communities because men are sick and tired of looking at women wrapped up from head to toe. The segregation of men and women is only fuelling the sexual possessiveness that marks sexual relations in oriental societies.

You may have noticed how video clip singers and sexy actresses dominate talk shows. In diplomatic and social receptions, too, women stars are likely to outshine their male counterparts.

The Tamim tragedy may have opened the eyes of powerful men to the perils of romantic liaisons that could bring their downfall. It has also revealed to millions of women and wives this secret world in which rich men throw away enormous amounts of money to keep their concubines happy, while keeping up appearances of piety and religiosity in public -- just another sign of the duplicity into which closed Arab societies have stooped.

The scary part is that of the man believed to have carried out the contract killing. The defendant is described by his colleagues as both cunning and brutal. After years of police work, he wanted something more. So he left the service to seek his fortune as a muscleman for tycoons, doing their dirty business. From lawman to outlaw, he had no problem with that.

It is sad that a young woman with artistic talent had to die a victim of infatuation with wealth and by the brutality of greed. For Tamim, fame was but a slippery slope to a tragic ending.

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