Page 3 Profile: Mayam Mahmoud, rapper


A hijab-wearing rapper you say?

That’s right. The 18-year-old Mayam Mahmoud, from Egypt, made it into the semi-finals of Arabs Got Talent last month, where she sang about female sexual harassment in the Middle East. Now, she is continuing to voice her views about the rights of veiled women.

But she raps them?

You still can’t get your head  around it then? Mahmoud, an economics undergraduate from Cairo, started writing poetry at the age of 12, before progressing into the world of hip hop.

However, she’s not following in the footsteps of rappers like Eminem or Jay-Z – the teenager avoids listening to western influences and instead focuses on challenging oppressive gender norms in Egyptian society.

She sounds brave. Tell me more.

Mahmoud is protesting against the normalisation of sexual harassment in Egypt (99.3 per cent of Egyptian women reported having been sexually harassed in a UN survey published in April) and the culture of victim-blaming. In one of her raps, she says: “I won’t be the shamed one. You flirt, you harass and you see nothing wrong with it. But even if it’s just words, these are not flirts, these are stones.”

So what do people on the ground think?

The reaction has been mixed. Mahmoud receives up to 50 messages of support on Facebook every day and has played five concerts to audiences at universities since her appearance on the popular television programme. But there has been a darker side to being in the public eye too.

“Some say I’m creating a bad name for Islam,” she says. “Or even that I’m an infidel.”

She’s breaking boundaries on all fronts then.

Exactly. Not only is Mahmoud daring to speak out, but she’s doing it in an artistic form that is mostly associated with men, even in the western world.

“It’s got a lot of people talking about whether it’s possible for a veiled girl, or even a girl, to do this,” she says. “The girls in this field are thought to have bad morals. So it’s hard to find someone to work with her, to create a beat, to master the track.”

This is one girl who’s not put off by hard work.