x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Arab Idol judge Ahlam's opinion on identity stirs controversy

On the latest episode of Arab Idol, the Emirati singer Ahlam has spoken up for a contestant being referred to as someone 'from Kurdistan', rather than from Iraq.

Emirati singer and Idol judge Ahlam. Courtesy Arab Idol
Emirati singer and Idol judge Ahlam. Courtesy Arab Idol

Season two of Arab Idol has not been without its share of controversy. The popular talent show, which premiered in March, has 27 contestants from across the Middle East - whittled down from the thousands who auditioned - showcasing their singing skills in a battle for the number one spot. And for the first time, one of the contestants does not speak Arabic.

Parwas Hussain, described by the show's hosts during the live episode as a contestant "from Kurdistan" rather than from Iraq, was singled out by the Emirati singer and Idol judge Ahlam during last week's episode to drive home the message that Idol, though a platform that embraces a variety of nationalities, is really about unification.

"I'm against when they always say we support Morocco, we support Iraq, we support Syria, we support the Khaleej ... But today, really, I want to send a message of love to Iraq ... I'm against when Parwas's name is written saying she is from Kurdistan, because Kurdistan is part of Iraq and from today, I want your [pointing at Parwas] name to be Parwas from Iraq and not from Kurdistan," said Ahlam on the show, further cementing her reputation as outspoken, opinionated and not averse to controversy.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been heating up about the topic of Parwas's nationality, with some supporting "unity" and others angry at Ahlam's comments. And although she made her point of view clear about not differentiating Iraqis from each other, it seemed her fellow judge and Lebanese superstar Ragheb Alameh thought the entire commentary awkward - judging by the expression on his face. No surprises there; the two have become notorious for picking on each other in the show and engaging in verbal spats.

Arab Idol is broadcast on MBC1 on Fridays at 10pm